If you work in a professional environment using your own Category 3 PPE (most harnesses, helmets or PFD’s) then in my honest opinion you should keep a personal PPE Gear Register and it should be accessible for employers to view.
In this post I’m going to look at some of the detail around PPE Gear Registers I find interesting, why I think you should log your gear and a simple, free solution for you to use. OK, grab a brew and lets get into it
First of all lets have a look at what Catagory 3 PPE actually is.
The term PPE first entered the outdoor world when the European Union introduced Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) quality and safety standard laws back in the 1990’s. Because the EU is the biggest market in the world for these kind of products the effect has been worldwide.
During the 90’s I was initially working in climbing shops (Costwold’s) then for a climbing equipment manufacturer (DMM) before starting full time work as a freelance outdoor instructor. I was fortunate to see the whole process unfold from all 3 sides of the industry and be part of the conversations on how to make the changes work.
DMM have a good post about PPE standards on their website with lots of detailed info which you can read HERE. This is the information regarding PPE Catagories and what’s both included and not included:
The Directive does not distinguish between PPE for professional use and PPE for leisure purposes.
- Category I: Products for use with minimal hazards, such as sun glasses and protective footwear..
- Category II: PPE not falling into category I or III, such as crampons and helmets.
- Category III: Products that protect against mortal danger or serious harm to health, such as harnesses, connectors (crabs), lanyards, slings, pulleys, ice axes, cams, nuts etc. (NB also includes products for other activities like cycle helmets and watersport PFDs)
Personal protective equipment excluded from the scope of the Directive includes:
- PPE designed for and used by the armed forces or in the maintenance of law and order.
- PPE for self-defence (e.g. aerosol canisters, personal deterrent weapons).
- PPE designed and manufactured for personal use against adverse atmospheric conditions (e.g. seasonal clothing, umbrellas), damp and water (e.g. dish-washing gloves) and heat.
One of the interesting changes the European PPE laws brought about was the requirement for all items of Cat 3 PPE to be sold with instructions. These instructions had to include certain information, the bit that had the biggest impact was probably Inspection, Retirement and Lifespan
On the instructions manufacturers are required to state a maximum lifespan for a product. Because the manufacturer has the greatest understanding of the materials in a product once this has been formally stated its very difficult to ignore.
My most over used word is interesting and I’m going to use it again because its interesting how some manufacturers advice on life spans have changed. At DMM I was part of some interesting conversations around the maximum lifespan of products. Its also worth noting that during the 90’s there were some interesting issues identified through the BMC Technical Committee with some plastics used in mountaineering products (helmets and boots) becoming brittle over time and failing.
Initially most products were given an arbitrary lifespan of around 10 years from manufacture. However over time many manufacturers have included differentiation between shelf and use life and some have even specified no end date for metal products.
The spark that’s initiated this blog post is me adding some new gear to my personal gear register as I noticed than the Black Diamond harness and helmet I’m adding have a 10 year life span from manufacture. There is no allowance for shelf life where as I know Edelrid allow for some time for on the shelf of a distributor or retailer in the guidance for their harnesses by specifying 12 years from manufacture or 10 years from first use.
DMM and many hardware manufacturers now specify “No known maximum life for obsolescence and only the condition of the product is applicable.”
I’ll include links to some interesting resources for you to look at here including
Paul Smiths document “Summary of Manufacturers stated maximum life for obsolescence of recrational Climbing Equipment” dated 2/3/2017
Rock Empire’s “Equipment Lifetime” dated 1/10/2016
NB – Both are out of date and therefore should not be relied upon but both give an great insight into how dates and guidelines from manufacturers have and continue to evolve.
So thats some of the background, I’ve gone down a bit of a rabbit hole there, I hope you’ve found it “interesting”, now lets get back on track.
Why do I think should you keep a register if you use gear you own in a professional work environment?
The main reason is I think it would significantly help improve the quality standards of our industry. I have personally seen some shockingly poor condition personal gear used on programmes. In one instance I saw a trainer boasting about how old and poor condition the foam in his PFD was to instructor trainees on a white water rescue course!
The simple act of recording key details of our gear like manufacture or first use date, maximum end of life date and periodic inspections is so simple there is no reason really not to do it.
And employers should be requiring staff to keep a log of personal gear and sharing that information with them if its used on programmes just like programme equipment needs to be logged.
Do inspections matter? This is an interesting question. My answer (YES) is based on the fact that no matter how rigorous centres are with their daily use equipment checks when a periodic inspection is done there always seems to be some gear pulled out for attention for reasons like required maintenance or end of life. If inspections are identifying equipment that needs attention (and they always seem to) then they are very worth while doing and we should include our personal gear in a similar process.
It happened with a PFD of mine earlier in the year, it had reached its maximum life span based on manufacturers guidance so needed retiring from work use and my gear register highlighted it.
I also strongly believe that if organisations are going to allow people to use their own PPE equipment on programmes that there should be a process in place to ensure that equipment meets their organisations stated standards. The easiest way to do this (in my opinion!) is through personal PPE registers.
Equipment Registers can take any number of formats, just like logbooks. A simple document or spreadsheet can be a great solution and can be shared with employers via email or something like a dropbox link.
An even simpler solution thats free, already set up and ready to go is GearLog
GearLog® is the adventure sports platform that makes equipment management quick and easy. Store all your gear, inspections, lists, reservations, loans and qualifications in one place. Access them on any device, anywhere in the world.
Gearlog has a free option (GearPro) that includes all the features (and more) needed for individuals and small organisations to professionally and easily manage their gear register. Its much simpler than setting up a spreadsheet or document of your own plus gives you access from any device including through a mobile app.
Not listed here is a feature I think is really useful and its that you can share a link for employers to view your equipment register log making it really easy for them to see equipment meets their organisational standards and that a due process is in place to keep it up-to-date .
So thats it, simples!