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The safety pyramid ends with personal protection gear 

By CCIWA Editor 

The requirement for personal protection equipment (PPE) for your employees should be the final safety consideration for your workplace after many other steps have been taken. 

That may seem odd, but CCIWA Senior Consultant for Safety and Risk Assessment Rachael Lincoln said it’s because there are four other important steps that you need to be put in place first, before the training and safety gear options kick in. 

“PPE is the last line of defence. Don’t just rely on your PPE. Don’t just say: ‘it’ll be right, I’ve got my high-vis vest on,” she said. 

Lincoln cited the case of a meatworks company which was fined by Worksafe for failing to ensure the safety of a meat mincer into which an employee placed an arm, causing him to then lose a finger. 

The man had noticed that the mincer was jammed and tried to restart it by inserting his arm into the machine. 

“The employee was not prosecuted over the amputation, the company was,” Lincoln said. 

“The company has since put in place an emergency stop button, a step which when stood upon stops the machine and also a system whereby when the lid is opened the machine stops. 

“All this cost less than $3000 and has taken less than a week to implement.” 

The steps to managing workplace risk 

Here are some steps you can take around risk, before the need for PPE:  

  • Eliminate the risk – mop up a spill quickly, rather than spending 20 minutes searching for a wet floor warning sign. 
  • Substitute the risk – use a less toxic cleaning product, for example. 
  • Isolate the risk from the opportunity for a human to come into contact with it. 
  • Engineer controls included adjusting or fixing plant and equipment to ensure safety. 
  • Ensure staff are trained, signage is clear, policies are in place, followed by the use of PPE. 

“Safety 101 is risk management, no matter how big or small your business,” Lincoln said. 

“We need to work out the things that can go wrong.” 

Lincoln said hazards could be measured across five categories: 

  • Chemical 
  • Biological  
  • Physical 
  • Ergonomic 
  • Psychosocial. 

Risk should be assessed via a matrix, measuring rare and unlikely events against likely and frequent, as well as not particularly dangerous against overtly so.  

The requirement for personal protection equipment (PPE) for your employees should be the final safety consideration for your workplace after many other steps have been taken. 

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