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PPE Compliance vs Certification vs Conformance do you and your TEAMS know the difference!

In Occupational Health and Safety standards (OSHA, NFPA, ASTM) addressing the proper wearing, adequate protective performance, and necessary care and maintenance for FR PPE programs. As Company and an employer, or a wearer ( worker), these standards and associated requirements can be confusing. Personal protective equipment, commonly referred to as “PPE“, is equipment worn to minimize exposure to hazards that cause serious workplace injuries and illnesses. These injuries and illnesses may result from contact with chemical, radiological, physical, electrical, mechanical, or other workplace hazards.

So before you buy you NEED to consider a lot of things;

Choosing and Using PPE If engineering controls are neither feasible nor result in completely eliminating the hazard, PPE must be used.

Criteria for choosing PPE should be that they · provide adequate protection for the worker · comply with applicable laws, regulations · meet company standard · not cause undue discomfort and doesn’t create new hazards This includes such items as hardhats, gloves, safety eyewear, safety footwear, fall arrest equipment, respirators, hearing protection, among many others.

Consider why and for how long the PPE is needed, such as · for a short time due to a temporary process or in case of temporary breakdown of engineering controls · for long term, regular use · to compensate for lack of engineering control or inadequate control · during handling of substances, clean-up of spills, repair of equipment · to comply with law and regulations.

Also consider the · nature and size of the hazard · degree of protection the PPE will provide · how easy the PPE is to use and how well the worker will accept using the PPE.

So before you buy or issue gear what are you measuring that purchase or item against? Although Compliance and Certification and Conformance sound similar they are really quite different in the safety world.

Standards are set specifications designed to ensure products, services and systems are safe, reliable and consistently perform the way they are intended to. However, Standards compliance is often voluntary – even in PPE – unless it is mandatorily adopted by Government.

What is Compliance?

Compliance to a Standard, whether that Standard is voluntary or mandatory, is not enforced or monitored in Australia. Thus, manufacturers may claim compliance based on self-testing.

What is Certification?

Independent Standards certification of compliance requires a product be tested and examined by an independent certification body such as SAI Global. Unlike claims of compliance, there is no grey area in certification.

Third party certification provides assurance that a particular product or process meets the requirements of a nominated Standard. It supplies assurance that the said product or process is tested regularly, in line with the recommendations within the Standard.  NOTE: Certified products have gone through an extra step in the manufacturing process. These products carry added value, with the product’s quality and fit-for-purpose assured in accordance with Australian Standards.

Some of these standards focus on the construction, requirements, and ultimate certification of FR PPE to ensure minimum protective performance against a specific hazard. Other standards direct how a PPE program should be administered with respect to the employer’s responsibilities and required compliance.  Yet other standards focus more on specific hazards.

Choosing an FR PPE garment certified for use to protect against the appropriate hazard does not mean an employer has complied with all the appropriate required standards and responsibilities necessary to protect workers. Understanding and focusing on the appropriate standards for your particular hazard and workplace situation is critical to help reduce potential wearer injury.

So let’s talk about STANDARDS or what we focus on:

CSA Standards

Standards can be:

International standards

Developed by ISO and IEC (and others) and are used directly or adopted by other standardising bodies.

Regional standards 

Government standards can also be considered regional standards since they apply equally in both countries.

National standards 

Prepared, adopted or approved by a national standards body or other body accredited to produce national standards.

For example, Government Standard® brand Standards are either developed in your country  or are adoptions of international standards.

PPE must be kept in good working order and replaced if it is damaged or has expired. It must also meet the various Canadian standards, such as the following:

·        CSA Standard Z94.4-02 – Selection, Care and Use of Respirators

·        CSA Standard Z94.3-07 – Eye and Face Protectors

·        CSA Standard Z94.1 – Protective Headwear

·        CSA Standard Z195-09 – Protective Footwear

·        CSA Standard Z94.2.02 – Hearing Protection Devices (Performance Selection, Care and Use)

Conformance on the other hand is a recognition of formal testing, that prove that an

operating system provides 100% support for a given standard. Certification of conformance is awarded to an operating system after an official Certification Authority has reviewed not only the results of formal testing, but formal conformance documentation as well.  A prime example of this would be CSA vs ANSI footwear on a site.

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