10.1 The Basics
PPE stands for Personal Protective Equipment and refers to any kinds of special clothing or items you have to wear or use to carry out a certain task. It’s a generic phrase used in non-cleaning scenarios as well such as property maintenance.
It’s important for cleaning because of the potential harm to people from cleaning substances such as bleach, or cleaning activities such as mopping floors. There is a duty to consider this form of protection in general compliance legislation, as well as general instinctive measures such as wearing gloves when dealing with bleach.
Within a work context, which can include volunteering capacities as well, there is a specific requirement to consider PPE under The personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992, which boils down to when there is a risk to workers, PPE must be used and maintained.
Practically, look for ‘CE’ mark on any equipment you do purchase like gloves or hair nets, with verification that the PPE is fit for purpose and meets European Safety Standards.
This is to protect both the person doing the cleaning as well as people using the cleaned area, and generally becomes more involved the more potentially dangerous and commercial a clearing activity is. You also tend to use certain PPE items during regular cleaning tasks, but be open to consider others for one-off ones as well.
As well as the obvious benefit of protecting people from spillages or marks, aprons and pinafores they can help store cleaning items like cloths and sprays in those which have handy pockets in them. They can range from basic ones below waist, to more commercial ones covering the whole person.
They can also be a certain colour and design, with any relevant logos and contact details for the cleaning firm using them, and you will need to consider where to safely store them and to have regular cleans themselves.
These not only help protect hands from substances and harm, but can likewise help prevent germs and bacteria from people’s hands being directly transferred onto items being cleaned and used. Therefore cleaning without gloves should be very infrequent.
They are an important item to always use by default in most cleaning activities, although taking care to remove them in some scenarios and when you’re no longer cleaning, but also change for different cleaning activities, for example when you complete toilet areas and move to other tasks.
The most popular types are vinyl and latex, which can be powder coated to allow them to fit to the contours of the hand. Vinyl is helpful for smaller jobs but can cause irritations for those with allergies. Nitrile is another type which are more durable than, say, latex gloves but without the risk of allergies.
Disposable ones are popular as they can be easily changed and then thrown away, although non-disposable ones are relevant for, say, more heavy-duty activities and where regular cleaning is undergone. In these situations, make sure they are kept safe and clean themselves, including washing them.
For tougher jobs, like steam-cleaning, you will need thick gloves to prevent burns and harm.
10.4 Hair Ties
For those with moulting or long hair this will mainly keep their hair from falling down and getting in the way of visibility when cleaning, but also help prevent any hair and dirt within them touching and affecting otherwise clean areas. Often the individual cleaner needs to accordingly wear their own appropriate to their personal preference and hygiene.
Goggles can be used to protect potential eye contact with substances, generally for more major cleaning activities rather than general light duties. In addition to obvious scenarios like sprays contacting eyes, they can help prevent any accidental spillages and splashes from when you move substances somewhere else.
Also ensure they are also clean themselves and don’t cause a visual hindrance if they get spray and substances on them.
10.6 Shoe Covers
These typically go over existing shoes and boots to protect them from spillages and cleaning, particularly involving potentially messy floor cleaning.
Check whether a whole new set of appropriate shoes or boots are in actual fact needed though rather than just covers over existing ones.
10.7 Going Green
There is quite rightly a renewed interest in going green and being eco-friendly in various cleaning activities. This can take effect on many levels, with a lot of PPE and products having labels and information to help guide you.
These firstly need checking to make sure they make sense and addresses genuine concerns, and secondly considering any consequences of using them. So for example, you may only want to use water without any cleaning substance to remove any need for pollutants, but be careful that you don’t end up notably using more water in the process, and throwing away any bottles/packing you do use in a non-recycle way.