We are all used to checking our food for “best-before” and “use-by” dates, but are we as conscientious when it comes to checking our PPE and equipment?
Hard-hats, for example, have a date-of-manufacture stamp moulded into the underside. Under perfect storage conditions, with the helmet kept boxed and at a temperature of between 5°C -50°C, and at a humidity of less than 75%, the life of the helmet would be unlikely to be limited. However, under normal conditions, with the scuffs and scrapes, drops and dents associated with everyday usage, it would be improbable that a helmet would be offering adequate protection five years after production. Helmets should regularly be inspected for wear and tear to the shell and the harness. Deep abrasions and scuff marks to the shell, and cracks and damage to the harness all require the helmet to be replaced. Paint, non-approved stickers and other industrial liquids can all compromise the integrity of the shell, as can leaving the helmet to roast in the sun on the back shelf of a vehicle.
How about that dusk mask lurking at the bottom of your PPE bag, or stored away in the PPE supplies cupboard? Dust masks too have an expiry date, even when unused, after which the material that they are made of may deteriorate and become less effective in filtering harmful particles. Depending on its age, the material itself may begin to shed fibres, and become another source of unwanted particles in the air. Something to think about the next time you are tempted by a special offer to buy a bulk pack of masks!
Finally onto harnesses. Whilst a harness requires regular inspection by a competent person, and removal from service if there is any doubt about its safety, or if there are evident defects or identification labels are missing, most manufacturers will only grant a textile product lifespan of 10 years. So even if your harness is in excellent condition, and passes all its safety checks at inspection, or even if it is kept unused, in mint condition, once it reaches the 10 year anniversary of date of manufacture, as shown on the sewn-in safety tag, it’s time for it to be retired and disposed of.
Next time you reach for your PPE or safety equipment, take a moment to check it over, and if in doubt, perhaps it’s time to throw it out!