Being responsible for ensuring that your work force has the correct and sufficient protection when it comes to PPE, can carry some serious weight, the reason being that you have your employee’s safety on one hand and the company's bottom line and PPE spend on the other.
Balancing these two important factors has huge implications, especially in our current economic climate.
PPE is generally categorized as a “grudge purchase”. The cost of PPE can and often does contribute a substantial portion of health and safety expenses. So while looking at the large amounts of money that goes out for PPE to protect the employees, many search for discounted deals on PPE items to decrease these costs. The only problem with this is that you often (and usually do) get what you pay for regarding quality.
The question to ask yourself if you are cutting costs on your PPE spend is whether you're cutting back on your protection.
Most people responsible for a business's PPE, and who have purchased a cheaper alternative to their normal buy, would think that once they've done their risk assessments, have identified what PPE needs to be selected according to the level and type of risk identified in that specific area, and that the necessary PPE has been bought accordingly, have done their job. This is especially so if they have checked that it is so-called “CE certified” and that the specifications are so-called met and they have ultimately saved their company money because they got a great deal from their regular distributor/supplier.
However, the million dollar question remains: What are the real cost implications of purchasing cheap PPE?
Purchasing a fake pair of Ray Ban specs may be illegal, but it is unlikely that this would be life threatening.
However, buying safety specs that are not tested for impact resistance could be the difference between an employee not being injured in an incident versus an employee having severe eye damage or possibly even losing an eye.
Similarly, purchasing a cheap pair of cut level gloves versus a tested cut level 5 pair of gloves poses the risk of someone losing a finger or fingers due to a severe cut on the job
Unfortunately, to the unsuspecting or untrained eye, non-conforming PPE is sometimes difficult to identify and in many instances goes unnoticed until an incident occurs, with irreversible consequences.
So in this instance why is that particular glove or safety spec more expensive than its cheaper counterpart?
A compliant PPE product includes the costs of quality control assurance factors such as standards, product testing, inspections and audits and product training to name but a few.
A large portion is spent on intense research and development as well as the latest technologies and using the best raw materials available.
There are also indirect costs which often go unaccounted for when the cutting of PPE costs come into play:
1. Loss of productivity: when employees have incurred an injury, whether they have been booked off completely or they are on limited duty – productivity is affected and is generally lower than normal.
2. Medical costs: if it comes out that the injury could have been prevented if the proper PPE was issued, or if the PPE that was worn was inadequate, then the company may be required to pay for all the medical bills for the employee
3. Community responsibility: If there has been injury, and inadequate PPE was a contributory factor, it may lead to the employee being resentful toward the company - not just the affected employee, but other members of staff as well, leading to industrial action
There are often far more intense challenges that walk the path with purchasing of cheap PPE products. Before buying any PPE, you need to ensure that it has passed all the necessary tests for that product specification, and that it has the necessary certification. The next important factor to take into account, is after the correct product has been spec’ed and ordered, and that the correct product been delivered and is in your PPE warehouse, because this is often where things come out of the woodwork: When the physical product that has been delivered, and it is a cheaper and non-compliant product, not what was actually ordered.
Price isn’t everything, what other factors should I consider when buying PPE?
Do I know what PPE category this item falls under?
Category I, Category II and Category III
Category I = Simple PPE
PPE in this category is designed to protect users against minimal risks
Category II = Intermediate PPE
Category II includes risks other than those listed in Categories I and III.
Category III = Complex PPE
PPE falling under this category ‘includes exclusively the risks that may cause very serious consequences such as death or irreversible damage to health
- Is there a compulsory standard which is homologated under the NRCS? (Currently, this applies to respiratory protection and safety footwear)
- Do I know what the current safety standard that PPE item falls under? (For example EN388: 2016 for mechanical risks for gloves)
- Is there a local standard (SABS) for this PPE item? (For example SANS 20345 for safety footwear)
Ensuring that you are using the best possible compliant PPE that you can afford is key, as this will keep injuries and accidents to a minimum.
Maintaining a safe working environment is unlikely to be a cheap affair if done properly. Don’t try to cut corners by purchasing cheap non-compliant PPE, as this will cost you more in the long run.