Tree surgery is considered a highly hazardous industry with the use of potentially dangerous tools and equipment such as chainsaws, brush cutters, wood chippers and MEWPs (Mobile Elevated Work Platforms). Therefore, it is critical that we always wear the appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for the task that we are carrying out. This can aid in minimising the hazard, therefore reducing the risk to the operator.
Acquiring all the relevant PPE for our industry can be expensive, leading to some people failing to invest in proper PPE due to cost or even because they see the chances of something bad happening to them as being so low that it is worth the risk. However, mistakes can happen very quickly in this industry. For this reason, it is extremely important to ensure that you always wear the correct PPE.
Employers must, by law, provide the correct workwear for their employees to carry out their work. Employees also have a legal duty to care for and maintain this PPE. In addition, their duty of care stretches to ensuring the workwear is used they must inform the employer when they need replacements or new items.
As a self-employed person, it is worth remembering that if you are employing other self-employed people, you are effectively acting as the employer. In this instance, while you may not have to provide PPE yourself, you do need to make sure that it is available to others and properly utilised.
Maintaining your PPE
It is a requirement by law that all personal protective equipment is monitored for condition and replaced when required. Information should be available upon the purchase of items of PPE regarding the storage, care and maintenance requirements of that item. Unclean PPE – such as a sweaty, unwashed hardhat – can lead to illness or infections, such as blepharitis (an eye inflammation).
Most manufacturers will have guidelines when PPE is purchased on the best way to maintain it, along with suitable cleaning cleaning products to use. It’s important to remember some plastics are oil-based, so certain detergents will degrade the product and make it weaker or unsuitable for its intended purpose.
Daily Checks of PPE
It is important for items of PPE to be checked daily in case any damage has occurred in transit (or for another reason) and to ensure that the PPE is fit for purpose as it could save yours or your workmate’s life. Undertaking daily checks and documenting them is beneficial to both employee and employer as it is a record that both parties are vigilant and will document whether either party is not meeting their obligations.
Damaged Items of PPE
Any damaged or defective items of PPE must be reported to your employer straightaway and arrangements made for the repair, replacement or withdrawal of the equipment. For more information on personal protective equipment, please visit the Health and Safety Executive website.
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