ERIKS explain how a well specified supply of personal protective equipment (PPE) can minimise the risk of injuries in the workplace that can damage health and plant performance.
The protection of employees is the primary role of any safety procedure. However, it should be noted that effective safety practice also takes into account profitability and profit as well.
Clearly injury, or work related illness, has a knock-on affect on productivity as work days are lost. This is why a growing number of engineers are using PPE to minimise the risk.
The role of legislation
Legislative pressure has also played its part. Regulation 4 of the Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992 states that, ‘every employer shall ensure that suitable personal protective equipment is provided to his employees who may be exposed to a risk to their health or safety while at work.’
Of course, many engineering industries include some particularly aggressive environments, which in turn present a number of risks such as chemicals, molten metals, high pressure fluids, dust, gas and extreme temperatures, to name but a few. Therefore, PPE covers a wide range of product areas from the more complex, such as breathing apparatus, to the more common such as eye, foot and hand protection products.
Even for these more simple PPE products, it is still crucial that time is taken to ensure correct specification – which will significantly enhance safety. For example, gloves must be flexible enough to allow the engineer to manipulate tools with dexterity while still offering adequate protection against hazardous substances. This can prove vital in hydraulic engineering, where leaks from hydraulic hoses present a serious danger to safety, while also offering protection against the perhaps less obvious threat of dermatitis.
Repeated contact with oils and greases from poorly assembled equipment can cause serious cases of contact dermatitis – indeed, the condition has recently become a common risk in quarrying and mining, and according the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), is the cause of 70% of skin conditions reported.
Specifying the correct PPE for any given application is only one step on the road to ensuring safety. Another important element to consider is whether the PPE that has been specified is compatible with any other that must be worn. For example, goggles, ear defenders and respiratory protection may be uncomfortable or ineffective if one item prevents the correct fit of another.
In addition to protective clothing and accessories, safety in the engineering workplace can be strongly supported by condition monitoring tools. For example, ultrasonic equipment offers an effective level of defence against any malfunction that could pose a threat to safety. Steam and gas leaks, worn bearings and discharges in faulty high voltage systems can be a threat to engineers as well as productivity. However, the detection of sound at frequencies between 20-100kHz, which is outside the range of normal human hearing, can be achieved using fixed or handheld sensors that represent readings on a graphical display.
Yet another key element to establishing a robust safety regime is the sharing of knowledge, and this can come in the form of training. For example, ERIKS, in conjunction with the British Fluid Power Association (BFPA), has launched a course to instruct engineers in the safe installation and maintenance of hydraulic hose assemblies in the hope to minimise the risk of injuries such as those that can be caused by high pressure fluid.
Courses such as these can help protect the users of hydraulic equipment by embedding safety as part of company culture within each engineering industry concerned, and as such, are becoming increasingly popular.
Understanding risks in order to create the most effective safety practices is a complex task, so using a PPE supplier who can provide advice on risk assessment as well as equipment can be highly beneficial. Assessing the protection requirements of staff members can enhance safety and peace of mind in the workplace. An example of this can be seen with Sperian – ERIKS’ hearing protection partner. Sperian can assess the current level of protection and specify any necessary enhancements. This might include, for example, the Quiet Dose in-ear microphone system, which measures noise levels experienced by employees and enables employers to amend ear protection and shift patterns to comply with safety legislation.
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