bSafe@work 2/1/2018
Region>International
Webshop VS Safety shop
Where do you buy your PPE?
It seems that the number of webshops selling PPE and other safety products is growing by day, Some shops also have an actual store, but most of them are only selling their products online. But what is this telling us? Is this a new trend or is selling PPE online big business?

Probably selling PPE is an easy thing and manufacturers are comfortable with resellers doing this, knowing that an online store never can replace a safety expert, visiting the site or plant in order to give the best advice. But webshops also can have benefits, providing people to search and compare products and prices whenever they want. Besides that we also see that webshops in many cases have a larger product range than safety stores.

Roughly we could classify PPE in 3 classes in terms of the type of product that would be suitable for an online purchase (for the first time, not as a repeating purchase) or not:

1. PPE for protection during life threatening situations or hazards:
We believe that these products should be sold with a clear explanatory memorandum and (on site) safety instructions, like the following kind of safety products:
• Respiratory Protection (supplied air, self contained, air purifying masks, fit tests)
• Gas detection (portable)
• Fall Protection (lanyards, lifelines, harnesses)
• Welding equipment (welding masks, clothing)
• Flame retardant clothing (welding masks, clothing)
• First aid products and fire prevention

2. PPE for specific protection during daily work routine:
In this case, the use of PPE and safety products are for the protection of common hazards on construction sites, factories or plants for people working in these areas each day. These products could be purchased online, based on the fact that there is a form of personal advice and instruction:
• Head- and face protection (fit test)
• Hearing protection (electronic, ear muffs)
• Half masks and filter systems (fit test, clear filter instructions)
• Hand protection (level of cut protection, heat or cold protection)
• Safety clothing (high visibility)
• Safety shoes (measurement, ESD)

3. PPE for temporary or incidental situations:
For the situations where temporary protection is needed to enter a site or to carry out a short inspection, the following products can easily bought online without a specific training or instruction (besides the user manual that comes along with the indication of the standards and applications of the product):
• Head and eye protection (hard hat, safety glasses)
• Hearing protection (ear plugs)
• Hand protection (disposables)
• Work wear (all weather wear, general work wear)
• Work shoes

The power of e-learning and instruction videos
For some products an e-learning platform and instruction videos can give support in order to eliminate or reduce physical instruction on site.
Fortunately we see these kind of software and apps developing and the promotion of webshops to use them besides the other (online) training they offer. Also manufacturers are more and more willing to develop training videos, apps and software for some products in order to provide proper guiding and user instructions.

Buying PPE online, safe or not?
We believe that this question could only be answered by the seller of PPE and safety products in combination with the level of service and instructions provided during the sales transaction and aftersales (leaving aside the repetition of buying online products which were instructed or advised from origin). This leaves it up to the buyer in order to determine whether his PPE needs an extra advice and whom he or she is buying the product for. In many cases we see that the advantage of a lower price has a powerful influence on the decisions made rather than the safety ones.

One way or the other the 'digital world' is evolving so we have to accept the fact that buying products online will only increase and the safety market will not be an exception of that. We can only advice you to look good at the service level that is provided during your online purchase. If there are any doubts, always contact the shop for advice and instruction and train your employees as well in order to read the user instructions or look at the instruction videos online.
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