Rent or buy?

15 July 2021

Richard Ryan explores the case for renting over buying safety equipment.

INVESTMENT IN safety equipment for businesses, particularly those operating in more hazardous environments, is an essential expenditure to secure both employee and corporate wellbeing.

Here we explore the economic and operational considerations involved in hiring rather than purchasing corporate safety gear. This is particularly important as more of the UK workforce start heading back to work facilities following the lifting of Covid-restrictions.


Historically safety equipment, such as gas detectors and fire safety equipment, has been purchased outright, with businesses owning and storing safety kit on their own premises, and managing tasks such as the maintenance and calibration of safety equipment. 

However, many businesses take a different approach when it comes to other key equipment. Take company vehicles for example: most companies now lease vehicles on short-term basis, or they may have used asset finance to acquire large ticket items like production lines, recognising the cash flow benefits of doing so.

As with leasing vehicles, using hiring rather than buying has a range of economic benefits, namely that it gives more control over cashflow, particularly in times of business uncertainty, and preserves working capital. This is particularly important at a time when greater flexibility and access to cash is likely to have significance. While an individual gas detector may cost £25,000 rather than a seven-figure sum for plant and equipment, if you need multiple detectors the cost will soon add up to a point where it is significant to company cash flow.

So instead of raising capital to buy safety equipment every few years, an option open to UK businesses could be to use a rental service.

Considerable innovation has taken place in the space over recent years. ‘Rental robots’ - an automated warehouse for safety equipment is one such example. It reliably supplies registered users with the correct safety technology from its shelves, near the place of use, perhaps within a large plant or an industrial area, offering 24/7 availability, and clear tracking of all assets. This saves on both time, cost and resources while providing complete transparency and accountability.

The equipment in the rental robot is also updated regularly – the responsibility of doing so resting with the equipment hire company – ensuring the very latest, fully working technology on site exactly when it is needed.

Operational and Training Aspects

Another fundamental benefit of hiring vs buying – whether using a rental robot service or simply hiring the kit for a specific project or period – is that while a company’s own equipment will date, using rental equipment provides access to the latest models and means that it is also often possible to access higher specification kit.

An additional benefit is that newer equipment is often less complex and easier to use, dramatically reducing training requirements and allowing staff to get up to speed quickly as training can be carried out easily and swiftly online.

Some may question how accessible rental equipment is if you need an item at short notice. After all, you are relying on a third party to supply essential equipment rather simply going to your own storeroom. However, particularly when hiring from a safety manufacturer, access to the equipment is almost immediate. With many companies holding considerable fleets of equipment available for rent, delivery can often be much faster – in some cases 24 hours – than if a company purchased the same product outright. While, if you use the rental robot service, you’re likely to have ready access to most items. So, by accessing safety equipment to meet business needs, renting allows companies in the sector to be more flexible and responsive to their safety needs.


When it comes to maintenance, calibration and testing of equipment, this can be very labour intensive, taking up valuable employee time. Maintenance can also be very costly once the warranty has expired.

Rented equipment, such as gas detectors or breathing apparatus, means that devices arrive fully serviced and calibrated to ensure accurate readings and performance, in other words, ready to be used immediately. As a result, employees can focus on their core role, rather than getting involved in the distraction of maintenance.

So when you next need to replace your safety equipment, whether hydrogen detection devices within science parks, or fire and escape equipment in heavy industry, it is worth weighing up the options. 

Richard Ryan is marketing manager, Dräger Safety UK, and Dräger Hire. For more information, visit