Inspection and Maintenance of Personal Protective Equipment

Published by Justin McCarter on Apr 2nd 2014

Personal protective equipment like hard hats and harnesses aren't made to last forever. So much of this equipment has elastomeric or plastic parts that are particularly susceptible to deterioration over time. Abrasion can weaken stitching, nylon straps can be snagged and torn - even metal pieces corrode. Typically it's recommended by manufacturers that reusable PPE be replaced every 2-5 years even if it hasn't been damaged. But there are ways to extend the life of your PPE. When does PPE need to be replaced? Safety equipment like fall protection or a hard hat must be replaced if it's involved saving an employee from a serious fall or taking the brunt of an impact. If your equipment has saved you once, don't think of it as your lucky hard hat. It has fulfilled its purpose and needs to be retired. If you want to put it someplace, put it on a shelf. Or take a picture and post it to our PK Safety Facebook page. Just don't put it back on your head. Harnesses like the Petzl AVAO BOD and DBI-SALA ExoFit have a 5-year life expectancy. But proper storage, use, and cleaning is needed to make sure they last that long. Harnesses and lanyards require visual inspection prior to every use. We're not saying you're not competent, but you may not meet the standards of an OSHA Competent Person and that's who also needs to be inspecting your PPE on a regular basis. When not in use, your safety products need to be kept at room temperature and away from chemicals, UV light, and moisture. These elements, along with abrasion, snags, and ground-in grime and dirt from work accelerate the aging process for safety equipment. By following these basic rules of ownership, maintenance and inspection can help you extend the life of your fall safety beyond the 2-5 year span. Ultimately it's the responsibility of the person using the gear to keep their eyes open and not take their equipment for granted. One final note on removing PPE from service. Equipment that is past its useful life needs to be disposed of in such a way that it is not found later by unwary workers and used. We all know of equipment sheds with piles of old harnesses in the corner that are 10 years old, and just haven't been thrown out. When a lanyard or harness is finished, get rid of it entirely so nobody uses it accidentally. And on that same note, don't use fall protection that you haven't personally inspected. Because it is your butt that will be on the line. Literally.