How long does PPE last and which products have an expiry date?
Some critical PPE has an expiry or “best before” date. Its ability to deliver the protection it was designed for is compromised thereafter.
It is the responsibility of the user to always inspect PPE before use to ensure it is in good working condition.
Safety harnesses, hard hats, disposable respirators and sunscreen are four key product lines which have expiry dates.
Height Safety Harnesses and Lanyards: 10 Years
Wear PPE accordingly. Safety harnesses and lanyards have a 10-year lifespan from the date of manufacture. It must be written on the PPE’s compliance label along with the date of destroy.
However, the majority of harnesses and lanyards will not make it to the end of that 10 year lifespan. These would have been tagged out of service well before then.
Some of the main reasons why harnesses and lanyards are decommissioned are mistreatment, sunlight, dirt, oil. These also include regular wear, incorrect storage and being involved in a fall.
Indeed all personal protective equipment must be inspected before each use. In this case, they must be inspected by a height safety equipment inspector every six months or as per the manufacturer’s instructions to ensure good working order.
Other height safety equipment lifespans and service schedules can be found on Working At Heights Association (WAHA). They have a height safety inspection and maintenance schedules page.
Hard hats: Two Years
While hard hat shells do not officially have a lifespan, Pro Safety Gear recommends they are replaced every three years.
However, most hard hat shells do not last that long. It is a Standards requirement that the harness inside the hard hat shell is replaced every two years.
While the harness can be replaced independently of the hard hat shell, most people choose to simply buy a new hard hat.
Tracking the age of your hard hat requires you write the date of first issue on the sticker that is inside the helmet. It is also recommended to write your name on this sticker.
Always inspect your hard hat for any cracks, damage or excessive wear and tear before use. If it takes a hit or drop, it is best to replace it as it may have structural damage that is not visible.
Disposable respirators must be discarded three years from the date of manufacturer. Afterwards, their ability to protect you is compromised.
Look for the date stamp on packaging. Always store disposable respiratory protective gear inside original packaging to ensure this date is accessible.
Most disposable RPE is single-use. Some people do get a longer lifespan with light use with non-toxic chemicals. If you do plan on re-using single use RPE, you need to be careful with contamination and storage after use.
Once opened, sunscreens will begin to lose their protective properties after six months, according to Choice.
Unopened they can be expected to retain their maximum protective properties for around three years from manufacture. Although subsequently, their active ingredients become less effective.
Look for a “best before” or expiry date stamped on sunscreens. Discard any sunscreen that are beyond that date, have been opened more than six months, or on the shelf for a few years.
How long does general PPE last?
All PPE— PPE glasses, PPE clothing, etc., has a lifespan however how long that is will vary. This is based on usage rates, the environment it is being used in (whether indoors or outdoors) and the levels of UV, chemical, dirt and sweat exposure.
How the PPE is stored when not in use is also a major factor. Is it looked after? Often PPE is treated poorly and left in the back of the ute at the mercy of the elements. This is a good way to reduce its lifespan.