Opinion

IMPORTANCE OF PERSONAL PROTECTIVE EQUIPMENT IN FACILITY MANAGEMENT

By Tunde Obileye

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is often the last line of defence to protect employees against injuries and health hazards when they are working in any built environment particularly high risk ones. However, this is an area that facilities management companies and others operating in the industry still need to pay more attention. My observation as a FM practitioner actively involved in the business of facilities maintenance is that the general attitude to taking preventive measures against risk of accident in the work place is low.  Often times, maintenance personnel are either not completely protected or not protected at all. For example, an electrician is expected to wear appropriate safety boots and hand gloves but this is rarely the case. I concluded therefore that most personnel are reckless considering the hazard associated with the nature of their work. The result is that most injuries that occur could have been avoided if appropriate PPE was worn.

Personal protective equipment reduces, but does not completely eliminate, the risk of getting injured or being infected by a virus or bacteria. The important point is that it is used effectively, correctly and at all times where there’s potential danger or possible contact with body fluids of other people around the workplace.

I am not sure if there are current and relevant regulations or legislation in South Sudan that makes it mandatory for maintenance staff to wear PPE as it is in countries such as the UK but I know that there are many organizations and indeed some FM companies that have robust policies on health and safety matters and ensure adherence to it. Such a policy must state that it is the responsibility of employees to use appropriate PPE and as instructed by the employer. It must also state that employees who store and handle dangerous substances are properly trained, using appropriate precautions when handling such substances.

As stated earlier, PPE is regarded as a ‘last line of defence’ to protect against risks to safety and health. This is because safe systems of work and engineering controls must always be considered first and put in place. It may be possible to do a job using methods that will not necessarily require the use of PPE. For example, fixed screens could be provided rather than the individual eye protection. There are a number of reasons why PPE is considered a ‘last line of defence’:

PPE only protects the person wearing it, whereas measures controlling the risk at source protect everyone in the workplace.

Theoretically, the actual level of protection is difficult to assess. Effective protection is only achieved by selecting suitable PPE and if it is correctly fitted, maintained and used.

To be able to choose the right type of PPE, the hazards involved in the task or work environment must be considered carefully. The point is that PPE must meet the needs of those that are required to wear the protective clothing and/or equipment.

The following factors should be considered when assessing the suitability of PPE amongst others:

Is the PPE appropriate for the risk involved and conditions at the place where exposure may occur? e.g. goggles are not suitable when full-face protection is required

Does the PPE prevent or adequately control the risks involved without increasing the overall risk? e.g. gloves should not be worn when using a pillar drill, due to the increased risk of entanglement

Has the state of health of those using it been taken into account?

In concluding, it will improve service delivery of facility managers if more attention is given to the use of PPE. The benefits of using PPE must not be underestimated. It should also be seen as industry standard and applying best practice

 

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