Personal protective equipment
PPE covers very many items – ranging from fall-arrest harnesses to rugby gum-shields. Perhaps the most common items used at work are safety boots, hi-vis clothing, other protective clothing (e.g. chemical protective clothing and gloves), respiratory protective equipment (RPE), and hearing defenders.
Wearing PPE can:
- create additional physical strains on the wearer (including heat strain);
- impair a wearer’s ability to carry out their work;
- create significant levels of discomfort.
Any of these can discourage wearers from using PPE correctly, therefore placing them at risk of injury, ill-health or, under extreme circumstances, death. Good ergonomic design can help to minimise these barriers and can, therefore, help to ensure safe and healthy working conditions through the correct use of PPE.
Any item of PPE imposes a barrier between the wearer/user and the working environment. From our research and consultancy experience we can:
- Help manufacturers develop more acceptable PPE;
- Assist employers in selecting PPE which, as well as being technically appropriate is as wearable and acceptable as possible.
- Assist employees in ensuring PPE provided is as fit for purpose as possible – not just technically correct (which is vital).
Our work in ergonomics of PPE has ranged from fundamental research into issues such as respiratory resistance and the thermal impact of protective clothing, to the application of ergonomics principles to the design, evaluation and selection of PPE, including helping to develop standards.
Our ergonomists have helped to promote the requirement for PPE manufacturers to consider ergonomics issues in designing PPE and to encourage employers also to consider ergonomics issues in evaluating or selecting PPE. As a result, many thousands of workers throughout the UK and Europe benefit from PPE which is less intrusive, more comfortable and better fitting.