There’s this common misconception that personal protective equipment (PPE) gets in the way of work, that it makes the job harder, and worst of all it slows you down.

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In the past that may have been true. But as technology has evolved, our understanding of ergonomics has grown and safety standards have increased which has forced manufacturers to find ways that debunk these myths with the products they produce. At RPB we have always understood the importance of operator safety, and instead of seeing PPE as a barrier, we have used this as an opportunity to enhance the user’s experience at work which positively impacts on operator productivity.

For any business, productivity is a key driver in performance. The faster and more effective employees are in their role the greater their output level is likely to be, which positively impacts on profits for the business. Through examining the relationship between productivity and PPE we have discovered that there are a number of factors that influence this with comfort, protection, and performance being critical. By using PPE that supports these three key areas, operator safety can be increased and PPE becomes a tool for the job, rather than an obstacle.

Comfort is determined by many factors, whether it’s the fit, materials used, weight distribution, ergonomics, or the temperature, these all play a role combining to create our experience of using a product. When these aspects of the design are considered and executed properly, this reduces aches and strains on the operator’s body which allows them to sustain higher levels of performance for longer periods of time without the need for additional breaks or reduced workload capacity. In addition to the physiological benefits, there is also a wellbeing element to this as greater comfort leads to greater job satisfaction and boosted morale which is known to increase operator work effort. By increasing comfort, this also reduces the effects of fatigue and through this, a higher level of productivity is able to be achieved and sustained.

The next area that people become concerned with when wearing PPE is how this will physically impact their ability to perform in their role. Instead of PPE being created as something that is just placed in front of a body part to protect it, there is a considerable amount of thought that goes into how the PPE will influence the user’s movement and function, which dictates how the operator will perform. In roles where vision is essential, large viewing areas are created. Where the operator needs complete skin protection while ensuring the head is able to still be moved freely, hoods are created to support this movement. Where there is messy work that reduces the operator’s visibility, peel-off lenses are utilized. Whatever issue may arise in an application, there are ways to utilize the PPE to make performing these tasks easier than it would be without the PPE at all. In making the work easier, productivity is increased as there is less down time, greater accuracy and efficiency, and reduced amounts of rework that occurs.

The most important component to PPE is the level of protection it creates. The sole purpose of wearing it in the first place is to ensure the operator can safely work in the environment without feeling the effects of the hazards that are present. This is perhaps one of the clearest links between PPE’s influence on productivity as the operator’s health heavily dictates the amount of work they can carry out safely. By controlling things like air supply, temperature, and impact of debris for example, operators are able to avoid injuries and significant health risks that can occur due to the respiratory hazards. Operators are then given a chance to live long, happy, healthy lives that ensure they are always able to perform at their best.

If you’re wanting a more productive workforce, then maybe its time to look at the PPE that you’re using and see the real differences compared to PPE that has been designed to support operators, rather than just protect them.