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Trends in above the neck PPE procurement

27 January 2016

The market for personal protective equipment (PPE) is growing globally, fuelled by mounting awareness of workplace safety and increasing legislation. Claire Weston marketing manager at Uvex says that alongside this growth in demand, PPE buyers are becoming more discerning, demanding better performance as well as low prices.

In the UK, awareness of the need for safety in the workplace and therefore, for robust PPE, has been heightened thanks to better education, continuing high accident rates and constant HSE prosecutions, while the effect of bad safety records on companies’ reputations is also increasingly significant. All these factors impact on PPE buying decisions, increasing the importance of acquiring the most effective PPE possible.

Despite the recent recession and present climate of austerity, PPE quality, performance and durability are trumping price. Safety managers are buying to last, and appreciate that buying the cheapest equipment is often a false economy in the long run.

So what are PPE buyers looking for? Large companies seek high levels of service support, fast and seamless service delivery, detailed information and complete solutions to any PPE problems or issues. These buyers require suppliers who will be their partners – it is more than just a simple sales relationship. They want suppliers who offer PPE appropriate to their size and market, who keep in touch and who understand their business.

Because there are a large number of competition and product options, buyers from larger companies require clear clarification on the real offering, and what makes one product different from another. They are looking for knowledge and expertise to provide a complete solution to a given application. Added to this, the more technologically-innovative products that have resulted from good R&D and first class manufacture can also appear more expensive, so larger companies will often require a justification of their price on a cost-in-use basis.

These companies seek additional benefits such as education of their workforce on the use of particular PPE. They want the supplier to provide, for example, free product trials, audits, training, technical support, posters, marketing materials and tool box talks. There is also a demand for comfort, ease-of-fit and wearability assessments.

This increased demand for value-added services, solutions, advice and training, and not just for the products themselves, means that suppliers must be thoroughly genned-up on both their own and their competitors’ products.

When PPE providers offer a consultative approach to problem solving in the workplace, this helps overcome the barrier of non-compliance, with workers not wearing their PPE, and makes the wearer feel more empowered.

Smaller companies, on the other hand, often comprise a more consumer-based sector, focusing more on simple factors such as price and delivery. This is driving the development of the logistics market.

Additional services

Whilst there is a difference in the demands made by varying sizes of organisation, several features are being sought by buyers from all sizes and types of company. First, facefit testing is supremely important to ensure respiratory protective equipment (RPE) perfectly fits the individual and therefore, completely effective in keeping wearers safe from dust, fumes, chemicals, particulates and bacteria. Facefit testing offers added value to the customer, especially if it is free at the point of sale. uvex has a dedicated team that provides this service to its customers.

Second, the compatibility of different items of PPE, for example RPE and safety eyewear, provides a complete solution. Fit and comfort issues can be created by combining separate, incompatible items of PPE, leading to workers removing one or both, with obvious risks to health and safety. When selecting specific brands or models, buyers are considering all the different types of PPE being used, and so they look for equipment that works well together.

Third, as well as high levels of comfort, wearers covet safety eyewear that is stylish and fashionable as well as protective – they want products they can look and feel good in.

Finally, the cost over the life of the piece of equipment is a factor buyers want to know about. High quality products may be more expensive, but calculations will show that a better quality product, for example safety eyewear, can actually be less expensive than a cheaper alternative in the long run because it will need replacing less often and will have an extended product life. The more money spent, the more value for money ultimately gained.

Overall, it is becoming increasingly important to meet the customer’s requirements. Suppliers must be reliable, flexible and knowledgeable so that procurers can make appropriate buying decisions. They must remain on their toes.