High visibility clothing was once something thought of as unique to the construction industry. Now it is seen as the hallmark of safety in almost every industry, including packhouses and distribution centers.
I will never forget discussing the emergence of high vis as a corporate standard with a group of civil engineers. Standing on the pedestrian footpath at the Lions Gate Bridge, they were dressed in suits, ties and fluoro orange vests. They stood in stark contrast to the tourists, sightseers and fitness focused locals in Vancouver, British Columbia.
The senior manager in the group explained to me how the attitude of the public seems to change when he puts on his high vis vest. The orange fluoro acted like a silent banner which said “I am here to work. I care about safety – yours and mine.” Even his bridge designs were perceived to be safer as a result.
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is important because of the perception that it gives. A clean packhouse, managed by a team in appropriately chosen, quality PPE sends a message that a business really cares about health, safety of people, produce and risk management within the supply chain.
PPE which is correctly chosen for the risk, adheres to recognized standards, is worn by trained individuals and well maintained can reduce the risk of occupational illness by 99% and reduce the severity of injuries by as much as a factor of 5.
This list shows suggested PPE for different packhouse situations:
|Safety Glasses / Goggles / Face Shields||Eyes||Chemical liquid splashes from infeed and treatment units, dust, grinding, particulate|
|Bump Cap||Head||Hard surfaces in restricted spaces like below the sorter, restricted spaces around other pieces of equipment|
|Hair Net||Head / Face||Cross-contamination of produce; pathogens|
|Noise Protection||Hearing||Excessive noise: a good rule of thumb is that if you have to yell to be heard, you are at exposure limits.|
|Gloves (cut-resistant; nitrile; heat; manual handling)||Hands and produce||Corrosives, toxic materials from produce treatment; cutting at QA stations; cross-contamination during manual handling of produce|
|Respirator (disposable / half-mask)||Lungs||Harmful gases, vapors, fumes or dust from treatment and processing|
|Clothing||Skin||Chemical liquid splashes; contact with objects; increased visibility near forklifts and loading docks|
|Footwear||Feet||Chemical liquid splashes; dropped objects; contact with hard objects|
PPE is the last line of defense against injury for people, it's more effective for an organization to make other efforts to eliminate, isolate or engineer a solution for a hazard.
This is what is referred to as the ‘hierarchy of controls:’ a concept that is often depicted as a pyramid with ‘eliminate’ at the top of the priority list and ‘PPE’ at the very bottom, below procedures and policies.
In a world where everything reasonably practicable has been done to eliminate a risk, and the team is fitted with good PPE, the risk of injury should truly start to reach zero.
When you’re considering PPE for your packhouse, here’s a few things to think about.
One size does not fit all
Everybody is unique and, as a result, the same pair of gloves, type of safety glasses or respirator will not fit everyone the same way, be comfortable and provide the necessary protection.
Training increases the effectiveness of PPE
While some PPE might seem obvious at first glance, it is still a requirement to ensure the person wearing the equipment knows:
- What it is to be used for and when;
- How they need to maintain it or clean it;
- When it should be replaced or disposed of.
In addition, specialized gear will have special requirements (for example, fit tests for respirators, daily inspections for harnesses, etc).
Good PPE is worth the investment.
Well-designed and ergonomic PPE certified to recognized standards (e.g., AS/NZS 1337, Z87.1-2003 or EN 812) will allow individuals to perform tasks easier and more efficiently with less down time. It’s important to remember that poorly designed or poor fitting equipment can have the opposite effect, by slowing down production, creating new hazards and causing frustrations.