Can PPE be shared, reused, or altered?

In many instances PPE is assigned to specific individual, and it is important to train workers on different types of personal protective equipment and what that means for sharing or reusing them. When employers purchase items specific to the employer (such as proper fitting boots), they should be assigned to that worker and not shared. On the other hand, items like safety glasses can be shared among a few employees if disinfected properly. Other pieces of equipment that can shared among others after disinfection includes hard hats, safety vests, etc. For workplaces like hospitals, some gowns are meant to be washed, disinfected, and ready to use again.

Some forms of PPE are designed exclusively for one-time use such as disposable ear plugs, disposable respirators, latex gloves, and shoe covers. Because there is not a proper or recommended way to clean and disinfect disposable PPE, it is extremely important for these items not to be used more than once as it could pose an even more hazardous risk. Workers should be informed that immediately after using these items they should be properly disposed of carefully.

Purchasing brand new PPE can be a costly venture, especially for small or mid-sized businesses, and secondhand equipment may seem out of the question for safety and compliance purposes. Used equipment however, can still meet OSHA standards and end up saving employers money in the long run. Items that qualify to be reused or sold secondhand are ones that can be easily sanitized and reused without the result of structural damage. Equipment like foot protection and safety gloves will need to be in new-like condition to be shared or reused.

As for altering or making adjustments to PPE, it is usually discouraged. In the event an alteration makes sense however, employers should check with the equipment’s manufacturer for their recommendations, and modifications should still comply with OSHA’s standards.

 

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