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How safe are your employees on the job?

31-08-2010
by 
in 

SAI Global, a leading standards certifier, is urging employers to evaluate the effectiveness of personal protective equipment for their employees.

The recommendation comes at a time when many suppliers and retailers continue to offer personal protective equipment (PPE) that fails to meet rigorous Australian safety standards.

Employers that offer workers PPE that has not been independently certified may be exposing employees and others to significant illness or injury, SAI Global warns.

Many employers presume all safety products such as hard hats, safety glasses, respirator masks, hearing protectors, fall arrestors and safety footwear meet mandatory requirements.

But SAI Global, the company behind the well-known Five Ticks StandardsMark certification, says this is not always the case. 

Richard Donarski, Team Leader Health and Safety, Product Services at SAI Global, says that despite there being various Australian Standards (sometimes optional) for safety equipment, some manufacturers and suppliers may not comply with them.

Others may be ignorant of them – particularly when a product is developed overseas.

“It’s a common misconception that all personal safety items are subject to and must meet mandatory standards,” Donarski says. “The reality is, as many standards aren’t legislated, manufacturers choose not to apply standards to their processes. The consequence is that the very products designed to keep us safe may not necessarily do their jobs as expected. This is why it’s essential for employers, safety supervisors and managers to look for an approved symbol from a reputable certifier, like the “Five Ticks”, when buying these essential items.”

Manufacturers who choose to have their safety products independently certified against Australian Standards are more likely to have a sound understanding of the hazards their products are designed to protect against.

This is because the manufacturing processes and end products will have been independently tested against safety criteria set by the relevant Australian Standards. 

“By introducing personal protective equipment that has not been independently certified into the workplace, organisations may be exposing employees and others to significant illness or injury,” says Donarski.

Research shows that around 130,000 Australians per year make serious workers’ compensation claims due to work related illness or injury, estimated to cost employers around $60.6 billion collectively.

“Toxic poisoning through inhalation or skin contact, fragments in the eye, cuts and amputations, skull fractures and even loss of hearing can all be a result of incidents that occur while using uncertified personal protection equipment, Donarski says. “A cheap pair of safety glasses may look okay, but are unlikely to withstand the pressure of a fragment of steel that may hurtle through the air at speed. Similarly, a respirator mask may not act as an efficient barrier to any hazardous chemicals or materials you’re working with.”  

As Australia’s leading product certification body, SAI Global works with manufacturers nationally and internationally to ensure employees use equipment and products that comply with Australian and international quality and safety standards.

SAI Global’s Five Ticks StandardsMark is the most recognised certification mark for personal protective equipment. It is applied to many thousands of products each year.

The Five Ticks StandardsMark logo can provide assurance to consumers that the product has met safety and other relevant criteria set by Australian Standards. 

Five need-to-know steps when choosing personal protective equipment

SAI Global offers five tips to assist employers when choosing personal protective equipment in the workplace:

1.     Ask an expert

While all equipment looks the same, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it does the job. For example, a particular respirator mask may only be compatible with certain chemicals or materials. When unsure, ask the supplier and provide them with the exact details of what the equipment will be used for. If ordering online then call or submit an enquiry. Don’t take a gamble with your employees, especially when working with dangerous equipment or chemicals.

2.     Purchase certified safety equipment only

This equipment will be branded with an appropriate certification mark, the Australian Standard reference, and should include the name of the organisation, the date it was certified and a Certification Licence number. Be aware that not all products that claim to be certified are to an Australian standard. To be safe, look out for the Five Ticks ‘Certified Product’ StandardsMark or enter the Certification Licence number online at http://register.saiglobal.com/ to source further details.

3.     Be careful when buying second hand

Do you really know what that piece of equipment has been through? For example, a hard hat may look okay, but if it’s been left out in the sun every day, the chances are that its protection is nowhere near the level it should be due to strong UV rays, weakening its shell. Additionally, second hand DIY equipment may come with zero instructions.

4.     Double check all sizes

A hard hat or safety harness that’s a millimetre too small can be life threatening should an incident occur. Check all sizes with employees before placing orders for products and, once they arrive, test that these fit accordingly. Manufacturers can work to different sizes, so testing the product on an individual is essential to ensuring it fits appropriately.

5.     Renew and evaluate equipment regularly

Setting a calendar reminder to evaluate and renew equipment every few months isn’t enough. Some tasks are larger than others and, if an employee has been working on an intense job, then their protective gear may become ineffective at a quicker rate due to wear and tear. Donarski recommends evaluating equipment before every job rather than per calendar month.

For more information on product certification use the link below to visit SAI Global's website.

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