"Duty-holders in the wake of an incident can no longer take a ‘wait and see’ approach."
Fisher Scoggins Waters.
PPE must be regularly inspected for safety and compliance purposes, but as the amount of equipment grows this can put a strain on administrative resources. At the same time, there is a growing need to be able to demonstrate H&S compliance in the event of an incident.
Against this backdrop, large PPE users are finding that traditional, often paper-based methods of records management are insufficient for their needs.
This paper discusses how management teams and responsible business owners can now take advantage of smart PPE management systems, and outlines some of the characteristics your system should have.
The need for PPE is increasing day by day. In construction, for example, increased urbanisation and a move to taller, metropolitan-area housing and office blocks is increasing the need for working-at-height equipment.
A similar trend is seen in the energy sector with the advent of distributed, high-up generation sources such as wind turbines and rooftop solar plants.
According to the UK Department for Work and Pensions, at the start of 2014 more than a million businesses and 10 million workers in Britain alone were estimated to carry out jobs involving some form of work at height every year. 1
More generally, the global PPE market is expected to see a compound annual growth rate of 6.5% from 2017 to 2022. 2
This means more and more companies are having to deal with larger and larger volumes of PPE and working at height protection.
By its nature, this equipment cannot be left to manage itself. Its use is usually governed by regulatory bodies such as the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) in the UK, which are continuously updating and improving requirements to safeguard workers and the public.
"When used in conjunction with the Papertrail equipment management system, Record creation is simple, quick and accurate for your customers."
Richard Rust - Group Financial Director
There is evidence that such regulatory bodies are increasingly seeking to enforce compliance with safety standards. Last year, for example, the number of directors prosecuted by the HSE trebled over the level in 2015. 3
At the same time, new UK sentencing guidelines were introduced that “mean that duty-holders in the wake of an incident can no longer take a ‘wait and see’ approach,” according to Michael Appleby, partner at Fisher Scoggins Waters. 4
Instead, “they need to be proactive in their investigation and preparation so that if a prosecution ensues they are ready to respond,” he says. 5
Being proactive is rarely easy with the systems that most companies currently use for PPE management, however.
In recent years, however, the efficiency of PPE management has been greatly increased with the advent of specialist software platforms such as Papertrail.
Record keeping on commercially available spreadsheet software, such as Microsoft Excel, is still the norm, and in some cases smaller PPE asset holders may even keep their records on paper. Paper-based records are hard to access and prone to loss and damage, while spreadsheetbased systems entail significant administration effort.
At the same time, there are significant costs involved in having to take PPE items out of circulation while records are updated. Finally, commercial spreadsheet software does not usually time-stamp records, which could raise concerns about their legal validity. 6
Typically, PPE management systems must track several variables per item, including for example:
These systems use automated remote data entry to create a permanent, one-time, cloud-based record of each PPE item, which can then be updated at any time with inspection records posted on site via a mobile device.
Each record is time-stamped and can be accessed instantly, from anywhere, allowing asset owners to call up relevant compliance information whenever and wherever needed. Features of a smart PPE management system include:
Smart PPE systems also usually can be integrated with manufacturer inventory databases so equipment data can be imported seamlessly and easily.
This integration allows equipment owners to create and maintain a ‘digital certificate of ownership’ that registers every significant point in the lifespan of an item, from purchase through to disposal.
Such certificates could be invaluable in quality control, for example in helping prevent the sale of fake items or in giving reassurance to buyers of second-hand material.
"Gwynt y Môr is the world's second largest wind farm and as such we take compliance and risk extremely seriously. Working with Papertrail we are able to improve our health and safety posture by streamlining processes and information and in parallel, speed up the information flow around wind turbine inspection planning."
Justin Grimwade, Business Development Manager
Innogy Renewables UK
Users of the Papertrail smart PPE management system have reported more than a 90% reduction in administration workload , along with reduced human error and increased equipment use.
More generally, companies adopting a smart PPE management system are expected to improve their ability to:
Furthermore, such smart systems are expected to grow in value over time, as they increasingly evolve to receive and manage status data from future generations of connected PPE devices linked to the rise of the Internet of Things.
Indeed, over time these smart PPE systems are expected to become the foundation for much broader platforms that can be used for a wide range of applications, from inventory control through to safety compliance. Now is the time to begin investigating their potential.
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