Focus on women’s PPE and skills shortages, says new report

  • Health & Safety
women's PPE
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Peninsula Team, Peninsula Team

(Last updated )

Skills shortages, sustainability and women’s PPE have been highlighted as key areas for the UK health and safety sector to improve upon, in a new industry report .

Striving For Excellence, released by RS, a global services and solutions provider, revealed 82% of respondents agreed, or strongly agreed, with the statement that more needs to be done to ensure PPE is suitable for women in terms of better fit, sizes and suitability – but only 1% cited it as an important buying factor.

Director of RS, Ryan Plummer, said more must be done to raise the profile of this issue:

“It seems there’s still a way to go on achieving awareness of the importance of PPE developed specifically for women.

“After the success of last year’s survey and resulting report, we wanted to follow up to see how things may have changed.

“It was interesting to see that sustainability is growing in importance, with more buyers prepared to pay a premium for sustainable products, even in the face of challenging times.

“This highlights more than ever the need for suppliers and solutions providers to really step up collaborative working with customers, to support them in making the right product choices in accordance with their business objectives, whether they be budget, environmental or staff-centred requirements.”

Gathered from a survey of 891 respondents working in health and safety, the report represents opinions and experiences across manufacturing, energy and utilities, public services, logistics and retail sectors, amongst many more.

Buyers of PPE cited three main challenges – finding suppliers who have the right stock, sourcing quality and trustworthy parts, and keeping up to date with new products and technology.

Nearly half of all respondents (47%) cited skills shortages in health and safety as their biggest risk to an organisation. Issues mentioned included team erosion due to budget constraints, and being a ‘one man band’ department.

In addition, 37% of respondents cite counterfeit or substandard PPE as a real issue in the industry.

Dr Karen McDonnell, Occupational Health and Safety Policy Adviser at the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA), said:

“The British Safety Industry Federation is very clear on standards for personal protective equipment.

“Getting PPE procurement right first time is fundamentally important, and businesses should take advantage of the available support and guidance from recognised suppliers.

“They must ensure that the PPE they are issuing has been correctly tested and certified to the appropriate standard. Failing to do so puts workers lives at risk.”

Other indications from the survey show a greater confidence in organisations’ ability to protect both employees and end users, as 88 and 89% respectively ranked their abilities high or extremely high.

Mental health continues to be an area of concern across all sectors, as only 55% of respondents said they were confident in their company’s capabilities in this area.

In addition, 86% said accident prevention was the highest priority area of compliance and area, with a clear need for a business strategy.

The survey respondents were predominantly men in management and advisory roles – with just over half working at large businesses, 29% at medium-sized organisations and 18% worked at small businesses with 49 or fewer staff.

Dr McDonnell believes larger organisations have a vital role in changing PPE procurement culture by making better standards a priority:

“EHS professionals need to get better at explaining the benefits of ‘good health and safety’ to their supply chain, as this adds value for both parties,” she says.

“One way of securing the future for any organisation is to have a healthy and happy supply chain that ensures you have everything you need from them at the right place and the right time to the right standard.

“Evolving supply chain culture brings real benefits from a sustainability perspective and will support your organisation to tackle whatever the future is going to bring.”

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