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Safeguarding your safety gear: A short guide to PPE maintenance.

Published: 7th Dec 2023
Author: By Yaseen Francis and Simamnkele Ngxesha; OH&S Consultants

Yaseen Francis.

Simamnkele Ngxesha.

In the realm of household safety, we often take extra care to protect our loved ones from potential hazards – like storing cleaning detergents out of reach of curious toddlers. The workplace is comparable in this regard. Prioritising workplace safety is important, but we also need to be mindful of the importance of maintaining personal protective equipment (PPE).

Consider your PPE as the last form of defence against workplace risks, yet, much like those household cleaning detergents, it requires careful attention to ensure it continues to serve its protective purpose effectively after constant exposure to workplace risks. In the context of South Africa, this responsibility includes strict adherence to the General Safety Regulations outlined in the Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Act. Let's delve into the best practices for maintaining your PPE, ensuring compliance with specific sections of South Africa's regulatory framework, and guaranteeing its longevity.

Safety footwear, along with safety gloves and workwear, is most likely to suffer damage and require frequent inspections.

The categories of PPE which are most often in need of repair or replacement are task dependent. However, in our experience, gloves are replaced most often – frequently daily or weekly – during activities such as demolition or erecting formwork.

Assess, Store Properly, and dispose effectively
Just as you wouldn't leave cleaning detergents accessible to toddlers, your PPE shouldn't be left vulnerable. The GSR 2.7 advise strict caution when safety equipment is to be utilised, and that employers must take steps in ensuring that the removal of safety equipment is for its intended purposes. Therefore, it is much advisable to assess your workplace, identify potential risks, and store your PPE in a secure location while ensuring that it is easily accessible for use but out of reach from unintended access. Once the PPE has been damaged it is advisable to follow safe waste management practices. This may be due to the nature of the hazard that was encountered in the workplace, i.e., chemical hazards such as asbestos or biological hazards such a fungi and bacteria.

Regular Inspection Matters
Much like checking the expiry date on workplace products, routinely inspect your PPE for signs of wear and tear. A damaged pair of safety boots or hardhats might not offer the protection it once did. Stay proactive and replace or repair any compromised equipment promptly. An exhaustive list is provided by the GSR Regulation 2.3. However, employers are encouraged to utilize PPE that aligns with the processes and business functions of their organisations.

Educate and Empower
Just as you educate your workplace on the dangers of accessible cleaning chemicals, ensure that everyone understands the importance of PPE maintenance in compliance with Regulation 2.5 of the GSR under the OHS Act. Empower your team with knowledge on how to care for their gear, fostering a safety culture that aligns with South Africa's regulatory framework.

In essence, this article aims to create awareness among workers and employers alike, emphasizing the importance of proper PPE maintenance in alignment with specific sections of South Africa's OHS Act. By implementing these practices, you not only enhance workplace safety but also contribute to the overall well-being of your team, ensuring compliance with the nuanced regulatory standards.

Remember, just as safeguarding your workplace starts today, ensuring the longevity of your PPE in compliance with the OHS Act begins now, not a moment later. Your commitment to safety is an investment in a secure and healthy future for all. 

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