Cleaning Your Safety Equipment
These are strange times, with the idea of worker safety now coming to include a whole new dimension of minimizing contact with others and limiting the spread of germs among work crews. This new reality and the many challenges brought on by the current health crisis force us to rethink how we clean and maintain our facilities and our gear, including our personal fall protection equipment.
We’ve been fielding a lot of inquiries about how best to clean our safety equipment, so we wanted to address some of the most common questions and concerns.
What cleaning products are best for safety equipment?
We recommend you check the manufacturer’s product instructions for care and maintenance, but here are some guidelines you can follow. Thankfully, you generally don’t need any special products—the best option is usually cleaning with tap water and mild soap, such as liquid dish detergent. This combination is effective in killing the COVID-19 virus, inexpensive, and safe for the integrity of the equipment.
You can use either cold or warm water but avoid using hot water above 130° F (54.4° C), as this can damage the equipment. You don’t need to soak or submerge the equipment—wiping it down with soapy water using a damp sponge will do the trick. Rinse with clean water to remove any soap residue. After cleaning, allow the equipment to hang-dry in an open, ventilated area to prevent mold or a musty odor. Do not machine-dry the equipment; this can also damage it.
Harsher cleaning products such as rubbing alcohol, bleach, hydrogen peroxide, naphtha, turpentine, or acetone are not necessary, and can damage the integrity of the material—these are NOT recommended for cleaning personal fall protection equipment of any kind. Avoid sanitizers, bleach, and other industrial cleaning supplies.
How often should I clean my safety equipment?
Especially in this time of heightened risk from a potentially dangerous contagion, we recommend making cleaning your equipment a habit. Make it part of your process by adding it to your inspection forms or work checklists.
Ideally you can make cleaning part of the pre-use process, but the need to allow time for the equipment to air-dry can make this challenging if you need to begin using it right away. You might consider adding a cleaning step to the process after you finish using the equipment each time. This should ensure that the equipment is clean when you’re ready for it the next time. (As a bonus, any dirt, paint, and debris that has soiled the gear will be that much easier to clean off while it’s fresh.)
Relying on a cleaning regimen begs another question—how do I know the equipment was cleaned after its last use?
Should employees share equipment or have their own?
Normally we recommend being fitted and having your own fall protection equipment, and now it may be more important than ever for each worker to have and maintain his or her own personal fall protection equipment and other safety apparel (safety glasses, gloves, hard hats, etc.) in order to minimize contact between employees. If workers must share equipment, we recommend cleaning the gear between each use, before passing it on to the next employee.
Treating low-cost personal safety equipment such as gloves and safety glasses as disposable items may be another approach to minimizing the spread of germs via your team’s safety equipment. These items can be cleaned regularly, of course, but it may prove more cost effective to simply discard inexpensive items at the end of a shift instead of investing the time into disinfecting them after each use.
Are there other best practices to follow during the pandemic?
In general, we recommend workers follow the safety guidelines provided by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO). Wash your hands regularly with soap and water for 20 seconds, or use hand sanitizer with an alcohol content of 60% or more. Whenever possible, maintain a physical distance of at least 6 feet (2 meters) from other workers, even those who do not appear to be sick.
Although these are trying times and the whole world seems upside down right now, we will get through the current health crisis together. We are here to help in any way that we can during this challenging time. Sooner or later, we expect that we’ll be able to get back to work without fear. In the meantime, practice good cleaning habits with your personal fall protection equipment to protect yourself and others from the danger presented by COVID-19 and, as always, stay safe.