A Digital Approach to PPE Management
Many companies are still managing personal protective equipment on paper, while nearly every other aspect of Control of Work system is managed digitally. It’s time to change that.
Tech solutions have lagged because PPE is seen as the last line of defense in the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s Hierarchy of Controls for hazard prevention. PPE is the final barrier of protection after eliminating, replacing and isolating hazards, and enforcing safe work practices.
Though PPE is at the bottom of the inverted pyramid of the Hierarchy of Controls, this doesn’t mean it’s not a crucial part of the safety framework. As we saw in 2020, when PPE entered the mainstream lexicon amid the corona virus pandemic, even individual-level solutions like cloth masks can be a differentiator between those who stay safe and those who do not.
The pandemic underscored the significance of PPE as well as the importance of being able to manage evolving PPE requirements. This is critical because nearly every industry has some element of work that requires PPE, whether it’s wearing gloves to avoid cross-contamination when handling food or wearing a full hazmat suit, gloves, boots and mask to clean up biohazardous sewage leaks.
“PPE is vital in protecting personnel because there is always the risk of hazardous materials coming out of pipes or being in the atmosphere,” said Christian Agyako, a senior subject matter expert in Control of Work at Sphera. “It might be the least effective control, but it’s used extensively in industry.”
However extensive, even large corporations that regularly deal with hazardous materials, physical risks and potentially dangerous or nonstandard work conditions, are often still managing PPE requirements with paper-based systems. Cross-referencing a paper-based PPE matrix outside of the Control of Work solution can impede efficiency and reduce the likelihood of compliance. It also can be burdensome to update paper-based PPE matrices when materials, standards or conditions change, and to identify safety gaps in current recommendations. Most critically, during an emergency, cross-referencing an analog resource to ensure that proper PPE is being used can cost critical response time, increasing safety risks and liability.
Now more than ever, businesses need to digitalize, streamline and centralize PPE management. Shifting to a digital PPE solution that fits seamlessly into existing workflows for Control of Work can improve compliance, safety and efficiency, which will lead to productivity gains, lower costs and better quality. This can be a game-changer for businesses seeking to create more value for customers or carve out a space for themselves in a crowded market.
That’s why Sphera is now offering a brand-new module to its clients to help them streamline PPE management.
“Our goal with this module was to create a one-stop shop for PPE, so it can be accessed from within the solution,” Agyako said. Sphera’s PPE Selector module is designed as part of the Control of Work software. When planning work, users can select substances that will be used or present on the job, and the solution will automatically display a list of recommended PPE. Key features include:
- Fully configurable lists for recommended PPE based on in-house and regulatory requirements.
- Visual representations of recommended PPE for easy identification and improved compliance.
- The ability to specify PPE at multiple stages of the Permit to Work lifecycle.
Sphera’s PPE Selector solution uniquely enables users to customize recommended PPE at multiple stages of the process, while keeping recommendations up to date to reflect evolving risk conditions, such as the pandemic.
The tool promises to transform emergency response and Incident Management. “When you have an emergency response, at the click of a button, the Control of Work solution will print off or display the procedures and required PPE to respond,” Agyako said.
However, beyond emergency response, automating the PPE process can help businesses better manage risk on a broad scale. It enables risk managers to track compliance, identify gaps and improve safety, efficiency, retention and productivity, which translates into greater value for the customer and safety for the end user.