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We explore the subject of safety in the workplace in 2021.


Rent or Buy? The big decision when it comes to safety equipment in manufacturing

Richard RyanBy Richard Ryan20 May 2021

While investment in safety equipment within manufacturing is in a different realm to the price tag for plant and machinery, it is nevertheless an essential expenditure for businesses to secure both employee and corporate wellbeing and one that can still have economic and operational implications.

Here Richard Ryan explores the considerations involved in hire vs purchase to make the acquisition of safety equipment more cost effective at a critical time for the manufacturing sector.


Historically in the UK manufacturing sector, safety equipment has been purchased outright, with businesses owning and storing safety kit on their own premises, managing tasks such as the maintenance and calibration.

But whilst this has become the accepted norm for safety equipment procurement, many businesses take a different approach to other key equipment. Take company vehicles for example: most companies now lease vehicles on short-term basis. Or perhaps may have used asset finance to acquire large ticket items like production lines, recognising the cash flow benefits of doing so. However, many companies still may not have considered the hire option for safety equipment such as gas detectors, fire equipment and breathing apparatus.

As with leasing vehicles, using hire vs buy has a range of economic benefits, namely that it gives more control over cashflow, particularly in times of business uncertainty, and preserves working capital. This is particularly important at a time when greater flexibility and access to cash is likely to have significance. While an individual gas detector may cost £25,000 rather than a seven-figure sum for plant and equipment, if you need multiple detectors the cost will soon add up to a point where it is significant to company cash flow.

So instead of raising capital to buy safety equipment every few years, an option open to manufacturers could be to use a rental service.

Considerable innovation has taken place in the space over recent years. ‘Rental robots’ – an automated warehouse for safety equipment is one such example. It reliably supplies registered users with the correct safety technology from its shelves, near the place of use, perhaps within a large plant or an industrial area, offering 24/7 availability, and clear tracking of all assets. This saves on both time, cost and resources while providing complete transparency and accountability.

The equipment in the rental robot is also updated regularly – the responsibility of doing so resting with the equipment hire company – ensuring the very latest, fully working technology on site exactly when it is needed.

Operational and Training Aspects

Another fundamental benefit of hiring vs buying – whether using a rental robot service or simply hiring the kit for a specific project or period – is that while a company’s own equipment will date, using rental equipment provides access to the latest models and means that it is also often possible to access higher specification kit.

An additional benefit is that newer equipment is often less complex and easier to use, dramatically reducing training requirements and allowing staff to get up to speed quickly as training can be carried out easily and quickly online.

Some may question how accessible rental equipment is if you need an item at short notice. After all, you are relying on a third party to supply essential equipment rather simply going to your own storeroom. However, particularly when hiring from a safety manufacturer, access to the equipment is almost immediate. With many companies holding considerable fleets of equipment available for rent, delivery can often be much faster – in some cases 24 hours – than if a company purchased the same product outright. While, if you use the rental robot service, you’re likely to have ready access to most items. So, by accessing safety equipment to meet business needs, renting allows companies in the sector to be more flexible and responsive to their safety needs.


When it comes to maintenance, calibration and testing of equipment, this can be very labour intensive, taking up valuable employee time. Maintenance can also be very costly once the warranty has expired.

Rented equipment, such as gas detectors or breathing apparatus, means that devices arrive fully serviced and calibrated to ensure accurate readings and performance, in other words, ready to be used immediately. As a result, employees can focus on their core role, rather than getting involved in the distraction of maintenance.

So when you next need to replace your safety equipment, whether hydrogen detection devices in the food packaging industry, or fire and escape equipment in heavy industry, it is worth weighing up the options.