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Staying Safe from Head to Toe: A Guide to Choosing the Right Protective Clothing

March 1, 2024

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is responsible for shielding the wearer from different kinds of hazards:

  • Physical
  • Chemical
  • Biological
  • Thermal
  • Electrical
  • And Radiation…

Coverage of the body can be a full body (suit) or many specific parts; for most industries that require or mandate PPE to be worn whilst working, you would want to cover the following:

  • Head
  • Torso
  • Arms
  • Legs
  • Hands
  • And Feet…

Protective clothing may prevent, reduce, or even totally eliminate the risk of injury, illness, or even death of workers and so improve their safety and health at work.

In this article, we’ll take a look at the food industry and the role that PPE plays in it.  Take a look at some of the laws Australia has and overall do’s and don’ts when it comes to PPE. 

PPE In Food Processing

The food processing industry is one of the industries that require protective clothing, as workers are exposed to more hazards than most industries; let’s take a look at what you encounter:

  • Sharp, heavy, or bulky objects, machine parts, and also tools are among the physical hazards that can lead to cuts, abrasions, punctures, or falls.
  • Chemical risks comprise many splashes, spills or vapours of corrosive, hazardous, flammable materials such as sanitisers, soaps, additives and so on.
  • Biological risks include contracting diseases from contact with infectious agents, bloodborne pathogens, or allergens from uncooked or processed food, mainly pets and also people.
  • Thermal hazards constitute the risk of involvement in either extreme heat or cold, fire or boiling, or material from cooking, freezing, or sterilising a stove.
  • Electrical hazards include potential electrical shock, arc, or sparks from faulty wiring, appliances, or tools.

Choosing the Right Equipment – A Guide

Deciding on suitable protective gear for the facilities of the food processing area can be complicated since there are many factors to take into consideration.

The type and also the degree of hazard, working conditions and environment, the quality and performance of the PPE, and the comfort and fit of the wearer are all considerations. 

To help workers and employers choose the right protective clothing, here is a guide that covers the following steps: 

Check the potential hazards and the risks

The initial stage is to recognise and assess the dangers and hazards that workers can be exposed to. 

This can be carried out through a process of defining the hazard and risk analysis (HARA), a systematic means of identifying, assessing, and judging possibilities that may cause harm to workers before taking any action to either eliminate or mitigate them. 

PPE would be put on BEFORE carrying out any type of job and be checked regularly or as soon as the work processes, equipment, or personnel are changed.

Have a choice of clothing

Secondly, the objective is to select an appropriate attire that supplies sufficient protection against all the recognised risks and hazards that HARA found and ensure they conform to industrial standards and requirements. 

Some factors to consider when selecting the clothing are: 

  • The type and the material of the garment. The clothing will be of type and material suitable for risk and also have a level of hazard protection that serves as resistance or insulation according to the assessment. 

Manual Labour

For instance, for manual or physical labour, such materials as leathers and canvases or chain mesh/metals are commonly used.

Chemical

For chemical hazards, the PPE would consist of water-resistant and resistant materials, like rubber, plastic and also polyethylene. 

Pathogens

To deal with pathogens, the PPE should be made from disposable sterilisable materials, such as paper, cotton, and polyester. The clothing design should involve the use of such materials as wool, cotton or aramid, which are flame retardants and thermal hazard insulators. 

Fabrication

Fabrication factory workers must wear non-conductive and arc-rated clothing, such as cotton, nylon, or modacrylic, to protect themselves from any electrical hazards.

Rules and Regulations

When it comes to the apparel for the food processing facility, the apparel should meet the needs of the food safety standard 3.2.2, which says that the food handlers must take precautions against food contamination. 

Some of the Australian Standards for PPE that apply to the food processing industry are: 

  • AS/NZS 2210.1:2010 Occupational protective footwear 
  • AS/NZS 2161.1:2000 Occupational protective gloves 
  • AS/NZS 1715:2009 Selection, use and maintenance of respiratory protective equipment
  • AS/NZS 1337.1:2010 Personal eye protection 
  • AS/NZS 4399:2017 Sun protective clothing 
  • AS/NZS 4602.1:2011 High visibility safety garments 

The clothing must also conform to strict Australian standards for PPE and set the minimum guidelines for design, manufacturing, testing and certification.

Training

The next step is to get the workforce fully trained and in the know of what the rules and regulations are and also how to wear the PPE effectively. 

Part of the training will also include how the clothing should be:

  • Used
  • Maintained
  • And Disposed of… 

This must be done safely without jeopardising their own health. Some topics to cover in the training and education are: 

  • The workers have to be aware of the dangers to their health and the working environment that the protective clothing is being used for. And also the advantages and disadvantages of the outfit.
  • Getting the correct size and the arrangement of PPE. A worker has to be supplied with but also learn to pick the right kit for each job.  It should neither be tight and uncomfortable or slack and potentially get caught in machinery.
  • Employee training also involves knowing how to treat the PPE after the shift has finished this includes washing, storage, inspection and repairs.
  • Also, each company has their own recycling or eco-friendly ways of doing things, so in-house training on how to get rid of the protective clothes in safe and eco-friendly ways and how to replace them when they are damaged, worn out or expired is essential. 

SUMMARY

In recent years PPE worldwide has really become more diverse.  New technologies coming into many industries bring changes and different dynamics for workers and what protects them.  If you are a business owner and looking to kit out your workforce with PPE it is important to get the right advice from people in the industry.  Health and safety are taken with utmost seriousness in Australia, so be sure you and your team are ready. Good luck!