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Protective equipment can put workers at greater risk

PRIZE LETTER

Sir, As a health and safety adviser I am alarmed at the number of occasions where the client or principal contractor demands that certain types of personal protective equipment should be worn on site, even though it is unnecessary.

It is clear that in certain cases this could actually expose the worker to injury rather than protection.

I have investigated workplace accidents where the use of inappropriate PPE has been a contributing factor to the injury.

So-called 'blanket rules' and company policies concerning the use of PPE are occurring at an ever increasing and dangerous rate, leaving employees and contracted staff dressed in a manner more appropriate for extreme levels of hazard, rather than for day-to-day working practices on a construction site.

I have heard managers brag about how they have not only written the use of PPE into their risk assessments but are also monitoring its implementation. They therefore consider that they have done their job.

But what can they demonstrate to prove that they have tried to eliminate its use, rather than implement it?

Usually nothing.

I sometimes find myself trying to defend and justify these often silly, thoughtless and sometimes reckless demands, which also cause much animosity between management and staff.

While PPE cannot be disregarded and has a well-earned reputation, some managers consistently overlook the hazards it presents and consider its use the first line of defence against injury, as opposed to the last.

Perhaps it should be written into the HSE guidance that one of the first rules when writing a risk assessment is to make the assumption that no PPE is available, which would encourage people to engineer out the hazards. PPE is all too often the quick, thoughtless and cheap option.

But it has far-reaching implications, with heavy management and supervisory input and can be far more expensive in the long term.

This is especially true when explaining its use in a court of law and then having to readjust the work method afterwards ? which should have been done in the first place.

Let's make these so-called 'professionals' think again ? before somebody gets seriously hurt or killed.

Steve Layzell St Albans Her tfordshire