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July 26, 2017

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Q&A: PPE validation with 3M’s Simon Field

Recently, 3M technical specialist Simon Field led a webinar, Introduction to PPE Validation, as part of the company’s Safety Spotlight webinar series.

SHP followed up with Field for an exclusive interview on the topic.

What is validation?

Validation basically means checking that personal protective equipment (PPE) works correctly. It’s about going back to the start of the PPE selection process and making sure that the equipment is still right for the worker, the hazard and the environment.

A lot of people will do basic validation without even realising it. For example, if you put on a pair of gloves and stretch your fingers to make sure the grip works correctly, then feel the tips to check there’s no loose material, that’s a very elementary form of validation.

When are validation techniques required?

Where PPE is more critical for your health and safety, it becomes much more important to validate that you have made the right selection, so more regimented and inclusive techniques are required. This is also the case where a person is wearing multiple types of PPE.

What are some examples of validation methods?

You can split them into fit testing and fit checks. Fit checks are more simple. They’re about performing a quick assessment at the start of the day to make sure that equipment works correctly. If you take respiratory protective equipment (RPE) as an example, fit checks are about checking the seal around the nose and mouth.

On the other hand, fit testing is about performing more extensive tests to check that your chosen PPE is suitable in the first place. So, to take our same example, full respiratory fit testing is about looking at different head movements and various other things that simulate how the respirator is going to be used in a real situation, and checking it still provides adequate protection.

How can employers and health and safety managers involve their workforces in the validation process?

Training is the key for this really. It’s about making sure workers are aware of the hazards around them and why validation is important. That can form part of regular PPE reviews, where people are put in panels or focus groups to talk about PPE in general, as well as how validation is working for them and whether anything needs doing.

How should companies record their findings and why is this important?

It’s particularly important for the more complex methods of fit testing. For respiratory fit testing, for example, it’s a mandatory requirement and certain details need to be on record for five years. However, it’s completely within the remit of employers to decide on how to record this. There are some guidelines and templates online and available from 3M. The underlying answer is that if ever there’s any doubt that PPE is working correctly, and this comes up in court, any documentation is going to be critical for the defence of that case.

What have you got planned for your next webinar?

I will be leading the next webinar in the 3M Safety Spotlight Webinar Series, which will run from 12.15 to 13.00 on 4 July. It’s going to be titled ‘Hearing Protection Validation – Advanced’, so it will build on some of the topics I’ve discussed here, but with specific reference to hearing protection equipment (HPE).

All the webinars are free, and we encourage participation from those watching, who can ask questions in real time both during and after the talks.

For more information, or to register for any of the free webinars, visit:

What makes us susceptible to burnout?

In this episode  of the Safety & Health Podcast, ‘Burnout, stress and being human’, Heather Beach is joined by Stacy Thomson to discuss burnout, perfectionism and how to deal with burnout as an individual, as management and as an organisation.

We provide an insight on how to tackle burnout and why mental health is such a taboo subject, particularly in the workplace.


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