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Interoperable Identification of PPE

Identification and access to information for compliant use of PPE are common challenges within a company. Everyone must have received the correct instructions and apply them, regardless of their profile (temporary worker, new hire, experienced individual). This becomes an additional difficulty when carriers work outside at client sites or on construction sites.

For PPE manufacturers/distributors, the obligation to inform lies in providing the CE manual found in the packaging of each piece of PPE. This information is sometimes accessible online via a QR Code attached to the equipment, but it’s not a requirement for the manufacturer.

The critical information in these manuals needs to be integrated by the QHSE department and then communicated to the users. This is particularly important as this information is often poorly recorded by users, with manuals frequently ending up in the trash after the PPE is unboxed. Let’s see what can be done to maximize the retention of this information in the field.

Information from PPE Manufacturers

Behind a product’s technical sheet in a catalog, there are very different levels of protection for identical standards, usage conditions, maintenance, control, specific reforms for each piece of equipment. Therefore, it’s important to make information available to wearers through PPE identification in a format that’s understandable to everyone.

As you may have noticed, the content of manufacturers’ CE Notices is often incomprehensible. It mentions usage limits, the validity of the PPE regarding an expiration date, commissioning, manufacturing, a storage or usage period, or a maximum number of maintenance operations. Sometimes, there are no specific management rules for the PPE, leaving it up to the wearer to assess the equipment’s level of wear.

When a new PPE reference is delivered, it’s necessary to review the new CE Notice. Even if the PPE seems identical to the previous model, each equipment reference has a unique CE Notice. It’s necessary to check if the current management rules are affected.

Good Practices from the QHSE Department

Training and PPE Information The DUER (Unique Document for Risk Assessment) has formalized the choice of personal protective equipment adapted from identified residual risks. The next step is to provide usage instructions for each piece of PPE for each job position. Note that when changing equipment references, the new CE Notice must be reviewed and, if necessary, the information intended for wearers updated in case of changes in management rules.

All means are good for communicating these best practices; the welcome booklet, safety training, workplace postings, experience feedback, supplier information supports… In all cases, it’s the result of an analysis of CE information notices in connection with the planned usage conditions in the company.

Startups offer innovative solutions to raise awareness about prevention and safety (Safety Management System). The company can then tailor its communication to the context of its activity. For more information, you can visit the website of CIBAKA, for example.

Proper Identification of PPE

Currently, there’s no obligation for manufacturers to use a standardized identifier for PPE (a code recognized by the customer regardless of the supplier). Different identifiers for the customer to manage are the first barrier to tracking protective equipment and accessing PPE information. This is especially important for category 3 PPE, particularly those subject to an annual regulatory check.

In practice, these PPE are identified by the client upon receipt to follow up on regulatory controls with accredited bodies. But it’s also important to identify other PPE, if you want to ensure good management over time. Since the implementation of the European Regulation 2016/425 (applicable since April 21, 2019), PPE must have a Market Authorization of no more than 5 years. This necessary tracking thus encompasses all PPE used by the company.

The parallel with the communication of information on the proper use of PPE by the QHSE department reinforces the necessity of having identification and tracking for all PPE. Having a marking with a uniform identifier on each piece of equipment makes sense, especially if it allows access to the CE Notice and your usage recommendations. It’s possible to use QR Code technology to access these details using a smartphone’s camera.

For more information on best practices for identifying your PPE, you can consult the ID SAFETY guide developed by GS1.

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