Expiry dates are something we encounter everyday from the milk we put in our morning tea to the lotions we put on our skin to the equipment we use at work. The question is do we follow the date or do we make our own assumption as to whether something is still safe to use or consume. For example, milk that went out of date 3 days ago we will see if it passes the sniff test yet if fish is past its sell by date, we simply won’t eat it.
When it comes to safety equipment normally the only time, we find out it doesn’t work is when we need it too.
As a health and safety consultant I see equipment – used regularly and rarely – that is out of date. The most common is response when I advise people, they have out of date equipment is; well, it hasn’t been opened so how can it go out of date, or it doesn’t look damaged how can it be out of date.
As surprising as it may be, your hard hat and health and safety equipment will degrade in the packet the same way the lonely cucumber is the bottom of your salad drawer will, the only difference is your safety equipment will not look any different.
Lets look at the different safety equipment we may use and their expiry dates:
First aid kits:
First aid kits have a shelf life of 2- 5 years, generally antiseptic wipes have a 2-year shelf life before they become dry, and the antiseptic properties of the wipe no longer work meaning a tissue would be equally as effective. Sterile items such as bandages have a shelf life of 5 years as the plastic they wrapped in can degrade over time and small holes may allow air into this product reducing it sterility.
Can you still use it yes, but you can still drink water that’s been in a bottle in your car for 5 months the question is would you want to?
Fire extinguishers effectively have 2 expiry dates once a year when they should be serviced by a competent person when that person will ensure all the components of the extinguisher are in working order the pressure within the extinguisher is correct and the weight is within range. Then every 5 years for water and foam and 10 years for a CO2 extinguisher a discharge test is carried out where the integrity of the cylinder and it is determined if the extinguisher is in good working order.
Hard hats have a shelf life of 5 years. Its easy when we first start a company to buy an excess amount of equipment so that they can provide all their staff the necessary equipment they need. However, they don’t consider how long that equipment can be safely used. Hard hats are made of plastic and over time this will degrade and become brittle. The purpose of a hard hat is to deflect objects that fall from hit when the strike the hat however an out-of-date hard hat that is brittle will not deflect an object in the same way and can allow the object to penetrate through the helmet.
Harness and Lanyard:
Harnesses and lanyards have a shelf life of 10 years. Although most harnesses and lanyard do not make it to 10 years due to the use of them if you rarely use one it may still be intact 10 years later. The stitching and the material of the lanyards will degrade over time and as these pieces of equipment are vital in stopping you falling when working from height exceeding the manufacturers expiry date would not be a risk worth taking.
So, let’s ask the question again. Expiry dates. A genuine concern or a supplier scam. Expiry dates are a genuine concern in the workplace and the manufactures expiry date should be adhered too. We must ask ourselves what is worth more our life or the replacing the equipment …. Well, nothing is worth your life.