The proper selection and effective use of personal protective equipment (PPE) is particularly important, since this equipment represents the final form of effective protection for exposed individuals. European directives, recommendations and guides already exist for the selection and use of PPE. However, they frequently fail to reach small and medium-sized enterprises and the self-employed. The purpose of this project was to conduct a feasibility study into the provision of information and a database which enables self-employed people, small and medium-sized enterprises, specialist dealers, and OH&S experts to select any item of PPE intelligently.
Within the scope of this feasibility study, the four institutes involved identified the needs and possible solutions for development of a user-friendly facility by which PPE can be selected. An analysis was conducted of the selection criteria for hearing protectors, head protection, respiratory protection, foot protection, eye protection, protective clothing, protective gloves, PPE against falls from a height and PPE against drowning. The BG Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (BGIA) assumed responsibility for the part of the study dealing with implementation of the relevant directives with regard to specifical national issues, actual work conditions, and special work procedures. Specifical national issues were considered in the first instance only for France, Finland, Poland and Germany. The four institutes also drafted technical and financial proposals for implementation of an Internet solution which would provide many years' service. Consideration was to be given to aspects of software and database maintenance; quality assurance; organization; the consideration of user feedback and the incorporation of data from PPE manufacturers; and the involvement of PPE experts, the standardization community, the European Commission and the social partners. This comprehensive approach is novel. One reason for the failure of similar projects in the past is that insufficient attention was paid to some of the above aspects. Upon conclusion of the feasibility study, a "demonstration" computer program is to provide an initial impression of the PPE selection program as it appears to end users. Should the project appear feasible, the European Commission has promised further funds for implementation.
A comprehensive final report was submitted to the European Commission. The users (specialist dealers, PPE experts, etc.) were consulted in order for their requirements concerning the PPE database to be identified and incorporated into the concept. The "demonstration" computer program was also tested by a number of German PPE experts. The response was favourable. The scope of this feasibility study allowed only for production of a demonstration version with limited functionality and a very limited number of examples. The system will not be suitable for practical application until it covers all types of hazard and PPE in as many sectors as possible. In addition, the experts are of the opinion that certain aspects of the program's handling can be improved further. Should the assessment of the feasibility study by the European Commission, which is now to follow, allow the PPE database to be created in full, the concluding test results may be exploited during its completion.
-cross sectoral-Type of hazard:
mechanical hazards, noise/vibrations, dangerous substancesCatchwords:
personal protective equipment, small and medium-sized enterprises, preventionDescription, key words:
personal protective equipment, selection, hearing protectors, head protection, respiratory protection, foot protection, eye protection, protective clothing, protective gloves, PPE against falls from a height, PPE against drowning