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Collective Protective Equipment

Definition and types of Collective Protective Equipment

Collective protective equipment are systems that directly intervene at the source of danger, limiting the risk of exposure for all workers rather than just an individual.

In any work environment, ensuring the safety not only of each individual worker but also of groups operating simultaneously is indispensable. Hence, the use of collective protective equipment (CPE) becomes a necessity. Collective protective equipment generally refers to measures implemented to shield workers from potential harm resulting from exposure to a concrete risk. Their characteristic lies in safeguarding all workers exposed to the same risk.

Understanding the operational context is crucial to identifying risks and implementing appropriate protective measures. For instance, on a construction site where there are excavations or suspended loads, parapets (or overhead protection) might be a collective protective measure to adopt. To immediately assess the risk level of each work phase, you can use a construction site safety management BIM software. This software enables the development of an ergo-technical model of the site and the adoption of the most effective collective/individual protective measures.

Additionally, employing immersive virtual reality in construction sites allows the simulation of risk scenarios for worker training and education.

What Are Collective Protective Equipment?

Collective protective equipment, commonly referred to as CPE, constitute a set of systems and devices designed to directly intervene at the root of hazards. Their effectiveness lies in addressing hazards at their core, establishing a safer and protected work environment for all involved workers across diverse activities.

These devices primarily fall into two distinct categories, each tailored to address specific prevention and safety needs in different work contexts:

  • Devices for localized prevention and safety: This category encompasses devices designed to protect workers in specific risk points or particular areas of the workplace. They aim to prevent damages or injuries directly linked to localized situations or specific tasks (examples include fire doors, sterilization systems, parapets, etc.);
  • Devices for general prevention and safety: This category covers a wide range of devices designed for general worker protection during their employment. They are intended to mitigate risks that can occur in various work contexts and often offer broader protection compared to localized safety devices (examples include handrails, air replacement systems, radiation shielding devices, etc.);

Types of Collective Protective Equipment

Depending on the type of work activity, there are various collective protective equipment. Here are some examples:

  • safety nets;
  • scaffolding;
  • continuity groups;
  • fire detectors;
  • fire doors;
  • stair handrails;
  • temporary and fixed parapets;
  • sterilization systems;
  • radiation shielding devices;
  • chemical and microbiological risk hoods (in research labs);
  • smoke or vapor extraction devices;
  • air replacement systems;
  • air purifiers.

Difference Between Individual and Collective Protective Equipment

The primary distinction between individual protective equipment (IPE) and collective protective equipment (CPE) lies in their application:

  • IPE are tools designed to be worn by a single worker to protect their personal health and safety. They are personalized and tailored to the individual needs of each worker. The main goal of IPE is to reduce risks for an individual operator exposed to specific workplace hazards. These devices include items like helmets, gloves, protective eyewear, etc.;
  • CPE, on the other hand, provide protection to multiple workers simultaneously exposed to the same risks.

Another significant distinction concerns product directives:

  • for IPE, there are specific directives establishing quality and safety standards, allowing the CE marking on devices. This marking indicates compliance with the European Union regulatory requirements;
  • for CPE, there isn’t a similar product directive, thus they cannot bear the CE symbol.

Lastly, another differentiation concerns training:

  • specific training might be required for the use of IPE to ensure correct and safe utilization of such devices;
  • for CPE, however, regulations do not explicitly provide guidelines for training, although adequate instruction on the use of collective protective equipment remains essential to ensure workplace safety.