Table of Contents
How Often Should PPE Be Replaced?
PPE needs to be replaced as often as instructed by the manufacturer, or whenever it is damaged and not suitable for use. PPE comes in many different forms and will have different procedures on how to inspect and use them, so it is important that you become familiar with the PPE you use in your workplace.
How Often Do I Need to Replace My PPE?
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) needs to be replaced any time it shows signs of wear, damage, or discoloration. There are many different forms of PPE that change from workplace to workplace though, making it nearly impossible to distinguish how often it needs to be replaced.
Each PPE will be unique and have its own signs and timetables for when it needs to be replaced. For example, some PPE will need to be disposed of immediately after use, and others are sure to last as long as they remain undamaged.
The way to discover how often your PPE needs to be replaced is by reading the instructions provided by the manufacturer and checking the expiration date.
Does PPE Have an Expiration Date?
PPE does have an expiration date, but this date will change from one piece of PPE to another. Some PPE, such as hard hats, are good for five years until they need to be replaced (provided they have not sustained an impact since the first day of their use).
Some PPE has a “best before” date, meaning that anytime after a certain date, it will not be sufficient enough to use. This type of PPE, also called Critical PPE, is good for one-time use and then will need to be disposed of immediately afterward. An example of this is latex gloves used by medical employees.
Can PPE Be Reused?
The CDC provides guidelines that state PPE should not be reused, but this applies mostly to PPE used by healthcare workers. In construction and general industry, there are different guidelines. PPE can be reused only if it:
- Has not sustained any damage
- Has not passed its expiration date
- Is properly cleaned and maintained
Some PPE once it actually fulfills its function, cannot be used anymore. Fall protection lanyards, for example, cannot be used a second time after they have sustained a fall.
Can PPE Be Cleaned and Reused?
Some PPE cannot be reused for health concerns, such as medical PPE. But there are certain articles of PPE that can be reused under the condition that they are cleaned properly. There are specific instructions, usually provided by the manufacturer that dictate how this can be done.
PPE that can be cleaned and reused include face shields and N95 respirators. So long as they are cleaned and undamaged, they can be reused. Make sure to check the manufacturers manual before attempting to clean and reuse any article of PPE. Remember though that not all PPE can be cleaned and reused.
What is Personal Protective Equipment?
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is equipment worn on your person to protect you from specific workplace hazards. Sometimes, PPE can only minimize how much you are exposed to a particular hazard, such as headphones meant to protect you from noise exposure.
Why Are Workers Required to Wear PPE?
In the hierarchy of controls, there is elimination, substitution, engineering controls, administrative controls, and then PPE. As the last method of hazard control, PPE is considered to be the last line of defense against workplace hazards. If PPE is being used, it is because there is no other means available to safely handle a particular hazard.
This means that workers are required to wear PPE because it is the only measure available to protect them from workplace hazards. PPE can be the difference between returning home safely at the end of the day and injury, illness, or even death.
How Often Do I Need to Replace Protective Clothing?
Protective clothing is another important type of PPE that is not typically associated with most PPE. Protective clothing can take a lot more punishment and wear before it needs to be replaced. There is no expiration date for protective clothing either, but like any article of clothing, it doesn’t last forever. It will need to be replaced as soon as it can no longer properly serve its purpose.
Any coveralls used in a medical setting are intended to only be used once, and then disposed of immediately after. There are some coveralls, however, that are used in other industries and can be used multiple times. Mechanics and construction workers have coveralls that do not expire and can be used time and time again until they are torn or otherwise show signs of wear.
Electricians and construction workers doing work with or near power lines will be required to wear insulated clothes. These protect them from electrical shocks and burns. Insulated clothes can include jackets, pants, gloves, sleeves, boots, and hard hats.
All of these insulated PPE articles should be replaced every five years, unless they have sustained enough damage to compromise their ability to protect the wearer from shocks and burns.
High-visibility clothing is a type of clothing that uses bright colors and reflective materials to alert the presence of a worker to heavy equipment and vehicle operators in a work area.
Like most protective clothing, high-visibility clothing does not need to be replaced after a certain amount of time or after daily use. It should only be replaced if it loses its ability to function as high-visibility clothing. This could happen if it is significantly dirty or torn.
PPE inspections are extremely important. Always perform a PPE inspection before using it. If your PPE is faulty or damaged, it will not be sufficient to protect you from harm on the job. Consider the following story:
Paul and Fransisco were working on a steel erection project. While finishing some leading-edge work, Paul lost his balance and fell from the building. Fransisco ran over to see Paul lying on the ground with a snapped lanyard. When rescuers arrived, they pronounced Paul dead at the scene. Fransisco told them that Paul always wore his fall protection and that he did not understand why it failed to support Paul when he fell.
The investigation that followed this incident revealed that the lanyard Paul had used had already been involved in a fall. The emergency fabric that held together this particular pack-type lanyard was ripped, meaning it had already deployed previously in a fall. Had Paul taken the time to properly inspect his lanyard and notice that it was ripped, he would have survived that day.
Signs That Your PPE Needs to Be Replaced
Before you use PPE in your workplace, you need to inspect it thoroughly. This means looking for particular signs of damage or heavy use. If any of these signs of wear are ignored, the PPE could fail, and then it would compromise your safety. When inspecting your PPE, be sure to look out for:
- Frayed edges
- Burn marks
- Discoloration (UV damage)
- Stretch marks
- Dirt and stains
Not all signs of wear will be the same for all kinds of PPE, so familiarize yourself with the signs and inspection procedures for your PPE. For example, there is no need to look for frayed edges on hard hats, but this is a serious concern with fall protection harnesses and lanyards.
Who Provides Safety Standards for PPE?
Depending on where the PPE comes from and where it is going, it is important to understand who provides the safety standards for them. Most manufacturers try to make their PPE acceptable to the standards of multiple organizations so that more companies will purchase and use them in their workplaces.
The Occupational Safety & Health Administration
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is a federal organization that provides standards for safety and health in the workplace. Their standards for PPE are enforced all over the United States. Only states that have state plans follow different standards, but even their standards are based on those established by OSHA.
The American National Standards Institute
The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) is a non-profit organization that monitors the development of standards for products, systems, and workers in the United States. Their standards are often adopted by OSHA for certain equipment and PPE. Hard hat standards, for example, were made by ANSI and then adopted and enforced by OSHA.
The International Organization for Standardization
The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) is an international group that provides standards for workplaces across the world. There are also PPE standards made by ISO, although some countries only base their standards on these rather than follow them exactly.
Additional PPE Training
If you need additional training on how to properly use and inspect PPE, consider taking a training course from us here at Hard Hat Training. Our training courses come in multiple formats including online, onsite, and training kits. Our courses that cover PPE include:
- Eye & Face Protection Safety Training
- Hand Safety Training
- Hearing Conservation Safety Training
- P.P.E. (Personal Protective Equipment) Safety Training
- Respiratory Safety Training
For medical related training regarding PPE and safety procedures, we have: