Your safety equipment must be appropriate and in good condition to ensure the safety of staff and clients.
Good practice includes appropriate selection, regular checks, scheduled maintenance, records and retirement processes.
Emergency equipment must be included in these processes, however for good practice advice specific to emergency equipment, including communication systems, see the Emergencies section.
Check industry standards such as Activity Safety Guidelines when deciding what equipment to use.
Consider activity set-up and operation, all your identified emergency scenarios, and build in contingency for broken equipment.
Remember that safety equipment often includes warm clothing.
Sufficient quantity and, where relevant, a range of sizes is important.
Equipment should be used according to manufacturer’s instructions - consider this carefully when making selections.
Make sure the right staff are involved in the selection process (consider using external experts).
Check equipment before and during use to ensure it is in safe working condition - don't rely just on scheduled maintenance or inspection programmes.
Damaged/unsuitable equipment should not be used and must be removed from use and isolated e.g. clearly marked ‘not safe for use’ or put in an agreed ‘out of service’ area
Record or report damaged or missing items in a way that prompts their timely replacement or repair.
Use equipment logs to help encourage checks, i.e. sign equipment out as fit for purpose before use and sign in on return.
Remember to check the condition of equipment that you have hired before use.
Where the equipment’s primary function is safety, suitable items must be provided for staff to use, e.g. helmets.
Staff can choose to supply their own clothing and equipment for reasons of comfort and/or convenience, but an employer can’t require this of them.
When staff choose to supply their own safety clothing and equipment, you must be sure that it is in suitable condition and meets industry good practice standards. Ensure that you record staff equipment checks.
Correct use, inspection and maintenance of equipment will help ensure it’s not the cause of incidents. Therefore:
- ensure that SOP's specify the safety equipment required for the activity
- train staff in the use of standard and emergency equipment - supervise staff until they are able to use equipment safely
- ensure staff know they are individually responsible for ensuring that equipment is in good shape by doing thorough checks, raising concerns and asking if unsure
- appoint someone with appropriate technical expertise to take responsibility for equipment
- carry out maintenance in accordance with the manufacturer’s recommendations
- schedule in-depth inspections and include regular equipment checks in SOP's e.g. prompts for pre and post use checks in trip paperwork
- in-depth inspections should include a check of equipment logs for any notes/concerns, and result in updated equipment records, including what is due for replacement
- correct storage and good everyday equipment care are key factors - a strong safety culture helps to ensure they will happen and induction is an opportunity to keep this alive
- ensure you will know if the equipment you use is recalled by a manufacturer - connections with outdoor sector organisations and other operators will help with this.
Recording the purchase, use and maintenance of equipment helps to ensure it's life-cycle is suitably monitored. It also develops an increased understanding of its expected lifespan specific to your operation.
Develop a maintenance and inspection schedule and use tools such as equipment logs as a system to trigger equipment replacement.
When establishing a record keeping system ensure that you record details such as:
- equipment type
- date purchased
- any identifying markings
- intended usage and usage restrictions
- retirement information
A variety of systems can be used to record and track equipment information including:
- labelling with company name and purchase date
- individual identifiers such as coloured tags
- a batching approach (record the number of items in the batch and inspect them all on the same cycle)
- keeping detailed equipment logs and retirement schedules where necessary, e.g. rope use
- keeping registers/log books for each vehicle and include details of inspections, damage, repairs and maintenance
Retiring equipment should follow clear guidelines, e.g. some safety equipment may need to be destroyed to prevent future misuse.
Include the following in your equipment retirement process:
- follow the manufacturer's recommendations on retirement requirements
- check with other operators, national organisations or the regulator if a manufacturer's guidelines are not clear
- monitor levels and conditions of equipment use and storage, all of which may influence retirement dates.