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PPE Storage: The do’s, don’ts and everything in between

Ensure optimum safety and longevity of your PPE with correct storage.

You’ve taken the time to purchase the correct PPE to protect your workers, but ensuring its effectiveness doesn’t stop there. Proper storage and maintenance of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is crucial to preserving its integrity and maintaining its lifespan.

To ensure maximum safety it is important you know the best practices for storing and caring for your PPE to maintain it to the highest standard, and ensure it remains in optimal condition. When you properly maintain and store your PPE you can have confidence that your equipment will continue to provide the necessary protection for your workforce.

The importance of correct PPE storage

Preventing damage to equipment

Proper storage of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) helps prevent it from getting damaged. By ensuring PPE is stored securely, you can maintain its condition and effectiveness, reducing the need for frequent replacements. Correct storage keeps the equipment away from any potential hazards that could cause damage and compromise its effectiveness.

Preventing employee accidents

Storing PPE correctly also reduces the risk of it falling from a height or becoming a trip hazard and causing injuries. Secure storage solutions help keep the workplace safe, preventing accidents that could harm employees.

Extending longevity

Correct storage practices prevent damage to PPE, which in turn extends the longevity of the items. PPE items all have lifespans, but these will not be accurate if the equipment is not properly maintained. By keeping PPE in good condition, you can ensure it continues to provide adequate protection and, in return get the most value from your investment.

Preventing contamination

Proper storage is also crucial for items that may have been in contact with hazardous materials. Ensuring these items are stored correctly prevents them from contaminating other equipment or areas, maintaining a safe and healthy environment for all workers.

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The impact of storage on longevity

Proper storage of PPE is essential for the longevity of the items. Incorrect storage or maintenance can significantly reduce the lifespan of PPE, causing it to age well beyond its life expectancy. This not only leads to frequent replacements but also compromises the safety of those wearing the equipment. By ensuring the correct storage and maintenance of your equipment, you can prevent premature wear and tear, extend its usability and ensure it continues to provide reliable protection.

The lifespan of PPE varies depending on the type of equipment and how it is used, stored, and maintained. Ideally, work boots should last 6-12 months on the job, hard hats and ear defenders should last up to 3 years in their original packaging and up to 3 years in the workplace, and high-visibility clothing typically lasts about 6 months with regular use. However, these durations are heavily influenced by proper maintenance and storage practices. Without appropriate care, the actual lifespan of these items can be significantly reduced.

Understanding the expiration dates of PPE is crucial. These dates indicate the maximum lifespan of the equipment under ideal conditions, not necessarily the replacement date. Without proper care and storage, PPE may need to be replaced much sooner and if you're not aware of this, you may be compromising safety. Adhering to correct storage methods ensures that PPE remains effective until its expiration date.

Work with a trusted supplier

Correct PPE storage starts with sourcing quality equipment in the first place. When you work with a trusted supplier such as Tower, you can relax knowing your safety is in good hands.

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Best practices for PPE storage

When it comes to storing PPE there are some general best practices that can be followed. A cool, dry, and clean environment free of contaminants is ideal for practically all types of PPE and is the basis for good storage.

Another good place to start is with specific manufacturer instructions that come with many PPE items. These clearly lay out the instructions for storage that you should adhere to.

Factors such as temperature control, humidity levels, and overall cleanliness play significant roles in maintaining the integrity of the equipment. Organisation is also key - designated storage areas with clear labels help in keeping the PPE orderly and easily accessible.

While these guidelines provide a general framework, it's important to note that storage requirements can vary depending on the type of equipment, so it is important to pay careful attention to each item's unique needs.

Ideal storage by item

  • Hard hats
    Hard hats It is recommended that protective headwear is kept out of direct sunlight and excessive heat to protect the surface of the hat. Hard hats should be kept in a secure area where it cannot be hit, dented or damaged.

    If the surface of the hat begins to chalk or flake it is often a sign the hat has been exposed to sunlight or extreme heat and this may compromise the effectiveness of the equipment.
  • Respirators
    Respirators Respirators should be stored in a clean, dry environment, preferably in a sealed container or bag - where possible, this should be the original packaging. They should be kept away from cartridges and in a cool, dry cabinet designed specifically for their storage.

    They should also be kept in a way that does not compress or deform their natural shape.
  • Safety gloves 2
    Gloves Before storing gloves, you should check that they are clean and dry to prevent any bacterial growth in storage.

    Their storage environment should be cool, dry and well-ventilated and one that protects them from direct sunlight and moisture. Disposable gloves should be kept away from heat and steam sources. When possible, gloves should be kept in their original packaging or a designated storage bag.
  • Goggles
    Goggles/glasses Safety goggles or glasses should be kept in a case in a clean, dry environment to prevent mould or bacteria growth that will obscure vision. It is important that glasses are kept away from anything that could cause them to be scratched or from falling and being stepped on.

    If glasses become scratched, broken or bent they should be replaced.
  • Hi vis storage
    Hi Vis Garments should be clean and completely dry before storing to prevent mould and bacteria growth. Items should be neatly folded or hung to avoid creasing that could damage reflective properties.

    Hi Vis garments should be kept out of direct sunlight to avoid fading and deterioration of reflective materials. They should also be kept away from sharp objects and chemicals that could damage the fabric or reflective strips.
  • Boot storage
    Boots Like many other PPE items, foot protection such as boots should be stored once clean and dry, away from direct sunlight which may cause materials to crack and weaken.

    Boots should be placed upright on a rack to maintain their shape and allow for circulation. Avoid stacking boots or placing them under other items as this may distort their shape and impact the support and protection they provide.
  • Safety harness
    Harnesses Fall protection harnesses should ideally be sorted by hanging up or laying flat in order to prevent unnecessary wear and tangling. If the harness is kept near sunlight or heat, the material may become hard or brittle, impacting its effectiveness.

    Avoid placing the items under heavy objects as this can lead to compression and deformation.

Common PPE storage mistakes to avoid

Mistake 1

Exposure to direct sunlight

UV rays can degrade materials, reducing their effectiveness and lifespan.

Mistake 2

High humidity & temperature

Moisture can cause mold growth and material degradation, while high temperatures can warp or weaken materials.

Mistake 3

Areas with poor ventilation

Lack of airflow can lead to moisture buildup, promoting mold and mildew growth.

Mistake 4

Improper stacking or compression

This can cause permanent creases, deformation, and damage to the protective properties of the materials.

Mistake 5

Not cleaning before storage

Residual chemicals, dirt, and contaminants can degrade materials and reduce the effectiveness of the PPE.

Mistake 6

Mixing different types of PPE

Cross-contamination and physical damage can occur, especially if sharp or heavy items are stored with more delicate ones.

Mistake 7

Storing in contaminated areas

Exposure to contaminants can degrade materials and reduce the protective qualities of the PPE.

Mistake 8

Neglecting regular inspections

Potential damage or degradation may go unnoticed, leading to the use of ineffective PPE.

Mistake 9

Improper storage containers

Lack of proper storage containers can lead to moisture buildup, contamination, and physical damage.

The ideal storage environment

PPE should be kept in a dry, sanitary space that is easily accessible to workers, using shelves, storage cabinets, or lockers. It must be stored away from direct sunlight and UV sources, ideally in temperatures between 15 and 20 °C with humidity levels around 30-50%. Whenever possible, keep PPE in its original packaging to ensure it remains clean and uncontaminated. Following these tips will help preserve the quality and readiness of the equipment.

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Who is responsible for correct PPE storage in the workplace?

In the UK, it is a legal requirement for all employers to provide necessary storage for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). According to the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992, employers are responsible for providing appropriate, secure, and adequate facilities for employees to store their PPE. These facilities can range from simple lockers in changing rooms to advanced options like special boxes that protect against dirt, temperature, and moisture.

Employers must also ensure that workers’ personal clothing is kept separate from wet or contaminated work gear and garments. Additionally, the Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992 (PPER 1992) mandates that employers not only provide the required PPE but also maintain and store it properly. This includes keeping PPE clean, dry, and secure, ensuring it is always ready and safe for use.

While employers are responsible for the maintenance, storage, and replacement of any PPE they provide, workers have a duty to use the PPE properly, following the training and instructions given by their employer. This collaborative effort helps ensure a safe and compliant workplace.

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