February 4th, 2004

Is Your PPE Big Enough?

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How effective is your personal protection equipment? Britain’s Health Safety Executive (HSE) wants to know.

No rugged testing is in order, though. The HSE is embarking on a different kind of study, one that seeks to find out how well personal protection equipment fits today’s working body. In particular, the HSE is interested in how well lanyards and harnesses work with the weight of the workers whose jobs put them at heights on a regular basis.

As part of the program, called Body Size Criteria, the HSE has commissioned researchers at Loughborough University to weigh 700 people across the U.K. who regularly work at heights, including engineers, construction workers and emergency rescue crews. The goal of the study will be to determine if the current design standards for personal protection equipment used by these workers is adequate for the weight of the average at-heights worker who other studies have indicated is often above the weight range of the average British adult.

Size of the user is an important component in ergonomics, whether in the design of tools, workstations, equipment, seating or clothes. Recent studies in other countries including Mexico, the United States and France, have sought to find the dimensions of today’s consumers with the goal of creating a better fit in clothing, sporting goods and even office gear while also being employed in further-reaching settings like automobile design where the size of the driver in relationship to the car can greatly impact drivability, comfort and safety.

The same goal stands for the HSE. While the organization will be looking at only a small portion of workers, if their study indicates that those workers would benefit from a more accurate fit in personal protection equipment, improved safety, comfort and working conditions could soon be the norm for some larger-than-average workers.



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