Personal Protective Equipment Vending Simplifies Employee Safety

by POWER Magazine July 1, 2017

By many indicators, working in the power sector today is safer than it’s ever been. In 2014, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) found that utilities had a lower fatal work injury rate per 100,000 full-time workers than any other industrial sector.

While thorough training and increased communication initiatives serve as key elements of safety programs, many of the risks inherent to this line of work have also led many organizations to make personal protective equipment (PPE) an essential requirement.

Outdated Safety Measures
But even with a set of written industry standards from OSHA in effect, workers can still lose a piece of safety equipment or damage an essential item over time. Failure to provide and maintain adequate PPE not only presents physical risk to employees, but also could carry serious legal and financial implications for employers.

Sometimes, the biggest hurdle for a workplace is manually monitoring, issuing, and managing the distribution of PPE—a problem magnified by varying PPE requirements across job functions and total employees (Figure 1). And tracking PPE compliance can be difficult, time-consuming, wasteful, and costly.

1. Personal protective equipment (PPE). Power plant workers regularly need PPE, but the task of doing out the supplies can be time consuming and costly. New vending options make it easier for companies to distribute and track these vital safety supplies. Courtesy: IVM Inc.

A Simplified Distribution Process
In 1993, Union Pacific Railroad approached Indianapolis-based IVM Inc., which was, at the time, a traditional vending-machine management company, to build a custom PPE vending solution. It wanted a system that could dispense items, such as gloves and earplugs, and track employee supply usage.

IVM’s PPE vending solutions have since been deployed across a variety of manufacturing and industrial settings—from nuclear plants, to utility plants, to construction sites. In addition to vending machines, IVM also manufactures lockers and other “smart” supply vending solutions.

Duke Energy, one of the largest energy holding companies in the U.S., has long subscribed to IVM’s solutions (Figure 2) to more easily issue PPE, ensure safety compliance, and meet OHSA standards. In addition, IVM has partnerships with the D.C. Cook Nuclear Plant and PSEG Nuclear, and the company collaborates with organizations across a range of industries to help them achieve their safety goals.