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Best Practices for Properly Storing PPE

June 7, 2024
How you store PPE can affect its ability to protect you.

Personal protective equipment (PPE) can be rendered unprotective by sloppy storage hazards. Let’s look at some types of PPE and tips on storing them so the protection is there when you need it.

Safety glasses. This particular PPE takes first place in the neglect and abuse competition. A glasses case is inexpensive; you can pick one up at any drugstore. Putting your safety glasses in a case after your shift ends will keep them from getting scratched up. Tossing them into your hardhat may keep them from getting crushed, but it won’t keep them from getting scratched.

Hardhat. You’ve probably seen cars with a hardhat sitting on the rear deck of the interior. This is convenient since it’s out of the way. There are a couple of problems with this, however. First, during a collision, anything on that rear deck becomes a missile — and that hardhat is, well, hard. Second, sunlight gets amplified through the glass and will likely deteriorate your hardhat (unless your state permits tinted rear windows, and you have sufficient tint to block the UV). Store your hardhat somewhere else. Almost any place is better.

Insulated gloves. In the shop, these should be stored in a special cupboard. When mobile, store them in a UV resistant case or bag. Never store them folded or rolled up, as this deforms their shape. Don’t put anything else, especially tools or chemicals, in that cupboard, case, or bag. The only exception would be for talc that is used with the gloves (and it should be in a special compartment since you don’t want any object touching the gloves). 

Insulated sleeves. The rules are similar to the ones for insulated gloves. But since these are designed to be rolled up, you just need to use something called a “sleeve rollup”. You can also use canvas sleeve bags or combo bags that are designed for storing sleeves and gloves together.

Insulated blankets. Use a bag, box, compartment, or other container that is specifically designed for insulated blankets. Never put anything else in there with the insulated blankets. That risks puncturing them in a way that might not be easily visible.

Respirators. Dust masks are relatively inexpensive, so if you need to wear one frequently, then keep a box of them on hand. The box will protect the mask from being punctured by sharp objects or being crushed so its already weak seal just isn’t there. A crew can use the same box because you dispose of these when you’re done using them.

But step up to a canister-style respirator, and you’ve now got a mask made of rubber or a similar material. And because it’s usually about twenty times the cost of a dust mask, it’s issued to the individual and is reusable. If it doesn’t come with its own case, you can purchase one for the price of a couple of dust masks. Keep this respirator in the case when it’s not being worn. Always clean the respirator before storing it (this not only eliminates the “ewww” factor, but it also prolongs the life of the material).

Safety harness and lanyard. Never wad up the lanyard or tie knots in it. Fold it over in loose loops and put it in a storage bag or hang it from a peg or similar. A modern harness is designed such that you can fold it up and store it in a bag also. If no bag came with your harness, you can find something suitable through your electrical distributor. Even a canvas bag you repurpose for this is good enough. Putting the harness in a bag prevents the straps from getting twisted up while it protects the harness from getting snagged on something and damaged.

This seems like a lot of bags and cases. Why not have just one big PPE bag? As noted already, you can’t put other things in with insulated gloves. Each item of PPE has a specialized storage bag or case, and that’s what you want to use.

But you can provide a way to put each worker’s collection all in one place:

  • In the shop, you can designate individual storage lockers for the PPE of individual workers to put their collection of bags and cases.
  • For mobile applications, you can use almost any kind of lightweight box or duffel; find something that works well for you. It’s a good practice to have your personal one labeled with your name and contact information, and to put the same on the individual bags and cases that go inside it.

Always check PPE before putting it away, keep PPE stored out of harm’s way, and inspect PPE before first use. Treat it with care, and it will be able protect you when you need it to.

About the Author

Mark Lamendola

Mark is an expert in maintenance management, having racked up an impressive track record during his time working in the field. He also has extensive knowledge of, and practical expertise with, the National Electrical Code (NEC). Through his consulting business, he provides articles and training materials on electrical topics, specializing in making difficult subjects easy to understand and focusing on the practical aspects of electrical work.

Prior to starting his own business, Mark served as the Technical Editor on EC&M for six years, worked three years in nuclear maintenance, six years as a contract project engineer/project manager, three years as a systems engineer, and three years in plant maintenance management.

Mark earned an AAS degree from Rock Valley College, a BSEET from Columbia Pacific University, and an MBA from Lake Erie College. He’s also completed several related certifications over the years and even was formerly licensed as a Master Electrician. He is a Senior Member of the IEEE and past Chairman of the Kansas City Chapters of both the IEEE and the IEEE Computer Society. Mark also served as the program director for, a board member of, and webmaster of, the Midwest Chapter of the 7x24 Exchange. He has also held memberships with the following organizations: NETA, NFPA, International Association of Webmasters, and Institute of Certified Professional Managers.

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