Workplace Safety Blog Post

Keeping Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) Clean

Personal protection equipment, or PPE, is critical for keeping people safe in the workplace. There are many different types of PPE available, each of which is designed to provide a specific type of protection to the person wearing it. While some PPE items is designed to be used once and then disposed of, most of it is able to be used many times as long as it is not damaged. For reusable personal protection equipment, it is important to make sure that it is properly cleaned. In most cases, this means cleaning it after each use, though for certain items that are assigned to the same person each day, it may be possible to use multiple days without cleaning.

If your facility has any type of PPE that can be reused, it is critical that you have policies and procedures in place on how this is done. These policies and procedures should cover a number of things, including:

  • Which PPE Can be Cleaned – The first thing to identify is what types of PPE can be cleaned, and what needs to be disposed of after each use.
  • How to Clean Each Type of PPE – Creating policies regarding how each type of personal protection equipment should be cleaned will ensure it is done correctly and everyone is kept safe.
  • When to Dispose of Reusable PPE – Even reusable PPE needs to be disposed of and replaced at some point. Having policies in place to determine this is important.
  • How to Store Cleaned PPE – Once an item is cleaned, it needs to be stored properly so that it says in good condition until it is ready to be used again.

Which PPE Can be Cleaned?

For many types of PPE, it is obvious whether it should be cleaned or simply disposed of but having a policy in place is still important. For example, single-use earplugs should never be washed and reused not only because it would be gross, but also because washing them can cause them to be less effective. Hard hats, on the other hand, can be used for months, or even years, as long as they are properly cleaned and maintained.

How to Clean Each Type of PPE

When making procedures for cleaning personal protection equipment, you will need detailed instructions not only for each type of PPE, but also for what is on it. For example, reusable gloves may be able to simply be washed like normal clothes most of the time, but if they are exposed to a corrosive chemical, they will need to be treated first and then washed.

When to Dispose of Reusable PPE

All personal protection equipment will wear out over time. Employees who use the PPE should be instructed to inspect the reusable PPE each time they use it, and again once they are done. They will need to watch out for holes, signs of wear, missing fasteners, and other potential issues. If you have a separate team that is responsible for cleaning and maintaining the PPE, they should also be shown how to watch for signs that it is time to have a particular piece of PPE replaced.

How to Store Cleaned PPE

Once personal protection equipment has been properly cleaned, it needs to be stored correctly until it is ready to be used again. As with other aspects of your policy, each type of PPE will be treated differently here. For example, standard PPE clothes that employees need to wear everyday will typically just be kept at the employee’s home and worn in to work. Respirators that are used in the workplace, on the other hand, will typically need to be stored in a safe and clean location near the area where they will be used.

Training and Policy Updates

Your policies and procedures related to how to clean and store reusable should be created to ensure your employees are always safe. This means being able to identify when PPE is no longer effective and taking steps to ensure it lasts as long as possible. Once you have created your policies and procedures for this, make sure that you provide sufficient training to any employees who may use or clean personal protection equipment. In addition, review these policies and procedures on a regular basis to ensure they continue to be effective based on the way PPE is used in your facility.

Additional Resources