Safety professionals working across various industries are often faced with the question of whether to buy or rent the safety equipment that their many worksites require.

The decision ultimately is not straight forward and often relies on a number of factors such as cost, duration of use, inspections, calibration requirements and in many cases, basic hygiene consideration.

Should I rent or buy safety equipment?

Let’s consider confined space work for example. An activity which given the type of environment, is very much known for its high risks. Most operations have very stringent procedures and processes when it comes to operating in such environments and as part of mitigating the hazards and providing the adequate controls, numerous pieces of equipment are required to ensure safe operations.

Fully calibrated gas detectors, ventilation equipment such as blowers and extractor fans, breathing apparatus, fall protection equipment, emergency rescue gear such as stretchers and retrieval equipment are a just few of the items that could be considered for such operations.

As a rule of thumb, the more specialised the operation, the more specialised is the equipment that is associated with it. Rope access personnel as well as emergency rescuers for example, must undergo very specialised training in order to be deemed competent. As a result, rope access and emergency rescue equipment require a high level of care with strong periodical and pre-use inspections, third-party certifications and storage requirements. Unless an organization requires constant use of such skill sets, it is normally advised to rent the equipment or outsource the service when the operations require them.

On the other hand, although a certain level of training is still required, less specialised and more commonly used safety equipment such as harnesses and lanyards (used for fall protection operations), fire extinguishers of various types, heat or sound level detectors as well as gas detectors to name a few, could easily be maintained by safety or operational personnel inhouse.

Apart from the obvious cost, maintenance and duration of use considerations, the following six areas provide more practical points as to whether safety equipment should be purchased or rented:

  1. Cost of training to use the equipment internally: in addition to the purchase of any safety equipment, there may likely be a cost of training individuals to be able to use them. As per numerous health and safety standards and best practices, equipment such as portable gas monitors and fall protection equipment will require a certain amount of training before the user may be deemed competent to use it.         If the competency levels are not available in house, an organization may prefer to rent certain type of equipment along with the specialist personnel deployed to use them.
  2. Newer models and software updates: Some of the more complex types of monitors undergo advancements in software and technology changes. After several years that may require newer models to be purchased.
  3. Space for storage: most equipment needs a secure place for storage that is away from the elements such as sunlight and extreme temperatures
  4. Maintenance and Calibration Considerations: Various types of breathing apparatus such as supplied air respirators require ongoing air refilling and periodical functional test.
  5. Basic hygiene requirements: The number of times certain equipment is used by different personnel may also affect the decision whether to rent or buy. To ensure basic hygiene is also maintained, equipment such as respirators require a certain level of cleaning after every use.
  6. Requirements for accessories and add-ons: Certain applications may require additional pieces of equipment or accessories.

Of course, knowing what exactly is needed in advance and having the right experienced personnel to determine this could prevent such situations, it is however an important point that needs to be considered when the buy versus rent question is asked.

When making the rent versus buy decision, companies should mainly consider the expected time utilization of the equipment. If it’s not an item that will be used frequently or if it’s a specialty piece of equipment, then rental will usually be the more cost-effective solution. Our mission is to make your work safer, in whichever manner makes the most sense for you. Call us! We’re happy to discuss options with you.

Tony Guarino

Market Segment Manager - Confined Space

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