To mark Love Your Lungs (Week 21 – 27 June 2022), Arco Professional Safety Service’s Respiratory Manager, Kevin Williams, urges businesses to better understand Respiratory Protective Equipment (RPE) regulations to ensure workers are protected
Over the past seven years, hospital admissions for lung disease have risen three times the rate of all general admissions, costing the NHS £11 billion a year in the UK.1 In the workplace, employees can develop these often life-threatening illnesses following exposure to harmful dusts, mists, fumes and vapours. It can take years following exposure before any symptoms of ill-health become apparent, despite being preventable through effective control measures.
RPE is designed to keep workers safe, but research shows that up to 50% of RPE users may still be breathing in harmful substances.2 The main reasons for this are a poor fit, insufficient training, incorrect RPE for the hazard, poor maintenance and inadequate storage.
The Health & Safety Executive (HSE) RPE at Work document states that employers must ensure reusable RPE undergoes thorough examination and, where appropriate, testing on a monthly basis or every three months if used less frequently. However, many employers are unaware of this legislation, resulting in a lack of compliance and safety. Arco Professional Safety Services estimates that over 80% of businesses are not meeting this legal requirement, leaving employees at risk of lung damage and respiratory illnesses. This issue affects any industry where employees are exposed to harmful substances and are therefore at risk.
As the HSE continues to focus on respiratory health inspections, businesses need to better understand the legal requirements to ensure that workers are protected. In addition to training employees on the steps they need to take to protect their safety, such as selection and routes of exposure, employers must understand how to maintain RPE correctly and using toolbox talks alone does not provide the required knowledge.
Thorough maintenance, examination and tests should be carried out at least once a month. Employers must ensure all staff are taught how to use RPE correctly, how to clean it, how to maintain it to industry standards, how to wear it and when it should be replaced.
Employers should record RPE examinations and tests and, where appropriate, any repairs made and retain them for at least five years. The records will help to keep track of the equipment’s maintenance and ensure businesses can demonstrate compliance with the HSE regulations.
With the right fit, training and maintenance, the risk of workers developing deadly respiratory diseases can be reduced or eliminated. The RPE technicians at Arco Professional Safety Services deliver Fit2Fit accredited services and tailor-made learning packages to provide employees with the knowledge needed to meet regulations, ensuring compliance and the protection of worker health.
For Arco’s full guidance, visit: https://www.arcoservices.co.uk/services/respiratory-protection-services