The Evolution Of PPE In The Oil & Gas Industry
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). It is the last line of defence between the wearer and the hazards they face. These days, for many industries, the wearing of such protective items during work is mandatory. So, have you ever given much thought to the processes that led to how PPE was developed and how it has been improved over the years, decades or even centuries?
You may not be surprised to hear that PPE was inspired by the military. The earliest known protective clothing was recorded in the Fourth Century, when Japanese soldiers would strap iron plates to their bodies to protect themselves during combat. Blacksmiths were then known to wear protective clothing to shield them from the molten metals they worked with on a daily basis. Such practices have led to the development of protective overalls, such as those worn in many industries today.
The use of respirators is said to have been invented by Leonardo Da Vinci in the Sixteenth Century, and was further developed during WWI to protect the wearer from inhaling the harmful gases that were developed for use as toxic weapons. In modern days, workers wear and use respirators and breathing apparatus to protect themselves from irrespirable atmospheres they may encounter during their line of work.
In addition to military applications, the development of protective headwear stemmed from the ship building yards in the 1800s where workers would cover their hats in tar and leave in the sun to cure and harden, thus protecting them from dropped objects such as hammers and wrenches.
This ‘Hard Boiled Hat’ was developed by the owner of a mining equipment company, whose son returned from war with a steel helmet, inspiring him to develop something to improve industrial safety. The modern hard hat, as you will know, is made from lightweight plastics and synthetic fibres. No doubt this made them far more comfortable and effective for the user.
Whilst modern PPE can be very effective, we must remember to not rely wholly on it to protect us from the dangers we face, both at work and during our day-to-day activities.
Author: Harriet Miller