Just about every industry has been negatively affected by supply chain problems since the start of the pandemic. The construction industry is certainly no exception. Building materials have been one area of concern, but so too has safety gear like personal protective equipment (PPE). Because PPE is such a critical requirement, it’s crucial that companies be proactive about preventing safety equipment shortages these days.
But how exactly should they go about it? Here are some important steps for preventing safety equipment shortages that can endanger crews and the ability to complete projects on schedule.
Tips for Preventing Safety Equipment Shortages
- First, it should be said: Never fail to meet mandatory safety standards. For example, don’t send workers to a job site wearing high-visibility garments of the wrong class if you don’t have enough of the correct ones.
- Regularly take a complete inventory of your existing stock of PPE and other safety gear.
- Review and record expiration dates for applicable equipment. However, factor in your usual rate of replacement. For example, hard hats with a 4- or 5-year expiration date often need replacement within 2 to 3 years; high-visibility apparel typically lasts around 6 months, but sometimes needs replacement sooner depending on the care and use.
- Train employees to inspect their PPE; sometimes, it’s not easy to tell that something like a reflective material is no longer as effective as it should be.
- Compare your inventory to your job and manpower projections for the next year. Is your company expecting a steady work flow or an increase or decrease in projects and crew requirements? Do you have enough safety gear on hand to cover your expected needs?
- Contact your safety equipment vendors to ask about the supply chain issues that are affecting them. Get specifics about which products they have in stock, which are seeing delays, if any others are likely to become a concern, how long the delays are, and the total wait time you can expect for each product.
- Inquire about more practical, suitable alternatives to products that have become difficult to procure.
- Preventing safety equipment shortages is often as simple as placing orders with a greater lead time. With a clear view of what you have on hand, what you expect to need in the foreseeable future, and how long it will take to get the safety gear you need, you should be able to adjust your ordering schedule.
- If necessary for budgetary or other reasons, rearrange how you order to prioritize safety equipment that will take longer to receive.
- Take good care of the PPE and other safety equipment you already have. So much safety gear ends up needing premature replacement just because it wasn’t properly cared for. Review the best practices for proper care and pass along care instructions to your employees. For example, simple things can significantly extend the life of reflective and fluorescent high-visibility apparel, such as washing it inside-out and without fabric softener, rough materials like denim, and dark clothing, as well as hanging it to dry rather than putting it in the dryer.