Every employee has a right to work in an environment that poses no risk to their health and safety. In 1974 a key piece of legislation was enforced that would influence the working lives of many - the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. This is a primary piece of legislative framework which covers occupational health and safety in the United Kingdom (UK) and it was introduced to deliver significant improvements in workplace health and safety, including requiring employers to ensure that the correct Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is worn by its workforce where required.
As always, PPE should be used as a second line of defence, after undertaking actions to worker hazards before they can affect the workforce. Since its inception, The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations (known as COSHH) has been introduced and this is viewed as one of the most important pieces of legislation relating to chemical hazards at work.
COSHH requires employers to undertake certain legal duties, including risk assessment, prevention or control of exposure, use and maintenance of controls, health surveillance and provision of information and training. Whilst these two key pieces of legislation have been enhanced by a number of new laws and amendments, they were certainly a catalyst for the ongoing design and manufacture of quality PPE.
Although the concept of personal protection was not new at this time, the legislation brought a heavier emphasis on the use of PPE. The equipment needed to protect workers, the look and comfort of the product was not a priority. However, as the years evolved, the users of this equipment demanded more, it simply wasn’t enough for it to function, it needed to be comfortable, look good and protect. This combined with a more highly skilled and educated workforce has created higher expectations from PPE end users. This demand for better PPE has in turn fuelled PPE product development.
The UK’s occupational safety regime has an admirable record and the UK has long been viewed as one of the world leaders in workplace health and safety. The innovative use of new solutions and technologies helps contribute to this success. With this innovation comes the need for industry recognition. Each year, the BSIF’s Safety Awards highlight and encourage innovative solutions to safety problems. Past winners of the product innovation awards have included products that have incorporated new technologies, simplified complex processes or just overcome a hazard that has continued to damage workers health up until that point.
Sperian is this year’s winner of the Product Innovation Award for its Howard Leight Quiet Dose Exposure Monitor, an in-ear dosimetry that measures the actual noise levels reaching a worker’s eardrums over a working day. A previous winner, Polyco, produced a product that helped overcome problems in the meat industry by developing a new glove fibre that offered dexterity, wearabilty and maximum protection.
These products though are just the tip of the iceberg. Since then, new innovations include, stable, robust and lightweight helmets, very low resistance respirators, specialist anti-arc clothing using new materials, online training and assessments and better ways of displaying safety signs, to name just a few.
The PPE market is heavily dependent on technological innovations and it seems that UK safety equipment manufacturers do not fail to achieve. The UK continually delivers new innovative ways to spread the word of health and safety with most recently, a Manchester businessman creating an innovative hairdressing health and safety application for the iphone. With new technology come new opportunities. The UK Government need look no further to find a success story of innovation!
The Howard Leight Quiet Dose
Exposure Monitor by Sperian