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News & Updates

RPE testing and maintenance – getting it right matters!

Recently, we have seen an increase in the HSE’s focus with regards to the inspection and maintenance of reusable RPE equipment, which has led to action being taken by the HSE against companies who have failed to comply with current regulations. 

The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations, Provision 9, refers to the Maintenance, Examination, & Testing of control measures such as respiratory protective equipment.

The regulations stipulate that, where Respiratory Protective equipment (other than disposable respiratory equipment) is provided to meet the requirements of regulation 7, the prevention of hazardous substances to employees, the employer shall ensure that thorough examination, and where appropriate, testing of that equipment is carried out at suitable intervals. 
The intervals between each inspection should be carried out in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions, as well as your own risk assessment, and should increase where the equipment is used frequently or where the health risks and conditions of exposure are particularly severe. Typically, monthly documented inspections as well as pre-use visual inspections, recommended as per HSG53, will usually mean you are doing enough to satisfy the requirements of relevant Health & Safety Law. 

The employer must ensure a maintenance log is kept for all examinations and tests, and any repairs made from the findings, with records being held on file for 5 years from the date on which it was made.

Inspection and testing should be carried out only by personnel with adequate knowledge, training, and expertise in examination methods and techniques for such equipment. 

Some key points for inspection include:

Half mask / Full face mask:

  • Overall cleanliness of the mask – free from contaminants 
  • Straps 
  • Facepieces / seals
  • Filters 
  • Valves 
  • Any change to users’ physical appearance (correct seal purposes)

Powered Respirators:

  • Hoses which connect the air pump to the hood
  • Battery packs undamaged and in good working order
  • Visor / hood in good condition
  • The respirator delivers at least the manufacturers recommended minimum volume flow rate. If air is supplied via a compressor, you should ensure that the air quality is not compromised by any nearby contaminants, with quality tests being performed every 3-months.

It is important that where inspections identify any defects to work equipment, employees fully understand the reporting and replacement procedure to prevent any equipment being used that is not fit for purpose. 

Employers must also provide a suitable means of storage for equipment when not in use, which should be separate to other clothing or work equipment to prevent cross contamination.

Remember, although inspection, maintenance, and storage will usually be enough to ensure that equipment remains in good working order, where face fit testing is required for certain respirators, this will also require the user to be compatible with ensuring a correct seal, e.g.  no facial hair. 

Need Face Fit Testing? Our qualified team members can assist you with this – please just ask.

PPE rules are changing too

On 6 April 2022 the Personal Protective Equipment at Work (Amendment) Regulations 2022 (PPER 2022) come into force and amend the 1992 Regulations (PPER 1992).

PPER 2022 extends the duty on every employer in Great Britain to ensure that suitable PPE is provided to ‘employees’ who may be exposed to a risk to their health or safety while at work, to limb (b) workers. Employers need to carefully consider whether the change to UK law apply to them and their workforce and make the necessary preparations to comply.

To find out more about the implications of these changes and what you need to do, visit the HSE’s website.

For more information or further support to help you with RPE inspection and maintenance procedures, please contact your designated advisor or SK Health & Safety on 01427 420 402 or healthandsafety@skaltd.co.uk, and #oneoftheteam will be happy to help.