How long does PPE last and which products have an expiry date?
It is the responsibility of the user to always inspect PPE before use to ensure it is in good working condition.
Some critical PPE has an expiry or “best before” date, after which its ability to deliver the protection it was designed for is compromised.
Safety harnesses, hard hats, disposable respirators and sunscreen are four key product lines which have expiry dates.
Height Safety Harnesses and Lanyards: 10 Years
Safety harnesses and lanyards have a 10-year lifespan from the date of manufacture, which must be written on the PPE’s compliance label along with the date of destroy.
However the majority of harnesses and lanyards will not make it to the end of that 10 year lifespan, having been tagged out of service well before then.
Mistreatment, sunlight, dirt, oil, regular wear, incorrect storage and being involved in a fall are the main reasons why harnesses and lanyards are decommissioned.
Harnesses, lanyards (and indeed all PPE) must be inspected before each use. They must also be inspected by a height safety equipment inspector every six months or as per the manufacturer’s instructions to ensure good working order.
Other height safety equipment lifespans and service schedules can be found on the Working At Heights Association (WAHA) height safety equipment inspection and maintenance schedules page.
Hard hats: Two Years
While hard hat shells do not officially have a lifespan, Pro Safety Gear recommends they are replaced every three years.
However most hard hat shells do not last that long as it is a Standards requirement that the harness inside the hard hat shell is replaced every two years.
While the harness can be replaced independently of the hard hat shell, most people choose to simply buy a new hard hat.
Tracking the age of your hard hat requires you write the date of first issue on the sticker that is inside the helmet. It is also recommended to write your name on this sticker.
Always inspect your hard hat for any cracks, damage or excessive wear and tear before use and if it takes a hit or drop, it is best to replace it as it may have structural damage that is not visible.
Disposable respirators must be discarded three years from the date of manufacturer, after which time their ability to protect you is compromised.
Look for the date stamp on packaging and always store disposable respiratory protective equipment inside original packaging to ensure this date is accessible.
While most disposable RPE is single-use, some people do get a longer lifespan with light use with non-toxic chemicals. If you do plan on re-using single use RPE, you need to be careful with contamination and storage after use.
Once opened, sunscreens will begin to lose their protective properties after six months, according to Choice.
Unopened they can be expected to retain their maximum protective properties for around three years from manufacture, after which time their active ingredients become less effective.
Look for a “best before” or expiry date stamped on sunscreens. Discard any sunscreen that are beyond that date, have been opened more than six months or on the shelf for a few years.
How long does general PPE last?
All PPE has a lifespan however how long that is will vary based on usage rates, the environment it is being used in (whether indoors or outdoors) and the levels of UV, chemical, dirt and sweat exposure.
How the PPE is stored when not in use is also a major factor. Is it looked after? Often PPE is treated poorly and left in the back of the ute at the mercy of the elements, reducing its lifespan.