- Describe why the use of personal protective equipment is required to ensure one’s safety.
- Recall employer responsibilities to provide PPE and the employee’s responsibility to wear it, maintain it, inspect it, and select the right type for the application.
- Identify specific hazards posed to a worker’s head and the common types of equipment that protect against those hazards.
- Identify specific hazards posed to a worker’s eyes and face and the types of equipment that protect against those hazards.
- Recognize basic hazards posed to a worker’s respiratory system, the types of equipment that protect against those hazards, and the training that is required before their use.
- Identify the common types of equipment that protect against noise hazards.
- Identify specific hazards posed to a worker’s hands and the common types of equipment that protect against those hazards.
- Recognize specific hazards posed to a worker’s feet and the common types of equipment that protect against those hazards.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, in one period of observation, hard hats were worn by only 16% of workers who sustained head injuries, although 2/5th’s were required to wear them for certain tasks at specific locations. Only 1% of approximately 770 workers who suffered face injuries were wearing face protection. 23% of the workers with foot injuries wore safety shoes or boots. About 40% of the workers with eye injuries wore eye protective equipment. A majority of these workers were injured while performing their normal jobs at regular worksites.
Wearing Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is critical to successfully working in many high-risk work environments. In some cases, PPE stands as the only control for specific hazards. Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is clothing and equipment that protect various parts of your body against hazards you may be exposed to on the job.
There are so many ways to be injured on a normal worksite, that forsaking personal protective equipment (PPE) is allowing for substantial risk of harm. Damage can occur to the body in several ways, including respiratory distress, accidental ingestion, and what gets absorbed or injected into the skin. That’s just to name a few.
Some hazards may be controlled by eliminating them at the source through engineering and administrative controls, but personal protective equipment (PPE) is a crucial safety precaution often used in combination with other controls. When those controls can’t eliminate the hazard, personal protective equipment (PPE) can provide acceptable protection within its capabilities and limitations. It’s important to remember that PPE doesn’t eliminate hazards; it just minimizes exposure. Therefore, PPE should be viewed as the “last line of defense” in protecting you from workplace hazards. Wearing the PPE provided by a company is the last thing a worker can do to keep themselves on the job and out of harm’s way.
Common Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) Used
For example, why wear a hardhat? Head injuries may be caused by falling objects or through contact with a fixed object like a pipe, beam, or heavy equipment. But there’s also the possibility of accidentally making contact with electrical hazards. Wearing a safety helmet or hard hat is one of the easiest ways to protect your head from injury. Hard hats must resist penetration by objects, absorb the shock of a blow, be water and fire resistant, and fit properly. It is critical that protective headgear fit properly, or it may not protect you.
Eye injuries alone account for about 2,000 daily incidents that require some kind of medical treatment. OSHA requires your employer to provide appropriate eye and face protection if you’re exposed to any hazard that would endanger these areas. While specific PPE may vary according to task and employer, all eye and face protection should guard against the potential hazard. It should also be comfortable and fit properly, provide unrestricted vision and movement, and allow unrestricted functioning of other required PPE.
Safety professionals will identify the most effective types of eye and face protection for the specific hazards at your workplace, but here are common, basic types of protection for the eyes and face:
- Safety Glasses
- Safety Goggles
- Face Shields
- Welding Helmet
Selection and proper use of respiratory protection are key elements when guarding against hazardous airborne contaminants. The basic types of respirators are air-purifying and air-supplying.
Many forms of noise can damage hearing, both on and off the job, resulting in a cumulative trauma disorder (CTD) hearing loss. There are many types and styles of hearing protection, each engineered to block or absorb high and low frequency noise. There are three basic types of hearing protection commonly available: ear inserts, ear muffs and canal caps.
The first step in preventing hand injuries is to know the hazards involved in your job and what can be done to eliminate them. Hazards to your hands include such things as pinch points, hot surfaces, cold surfaces, rotating machine parts, sharp edges, and chemicals, to name a few. Wear gloves to protect your hands against germs, splinters and slivers, punctures and cuts, and hot and cold surfaces. Protective footwear guards against two major categories of injury. The first includes injury to the foot itself from punctures, crushing, cuts, burns, and sprains. The second category includes injuries to other parts of the body resulting from slips, trips, or falls.
According to OSHA, workers must also be trained on the following:
- Using personal protective equipment (PPE) properly.
- Be aware of when PPE is necessary.
- Know what kind of PPE is necessary.
- Understand limitations of PPE in protecting from injury.
- Put on, adjust, wear, and take off personal protective equipment.
- Maintain PPE properly.
5 Ways to Get Employees to Use Personal Protective Equipment
Lead by Actions
One of the best ways to motivate employees is to lead by example. If you aren’t willing to use personal protective equipment yourself than you can’t expect your employees to use it either. It’s difficult to trust someone who says one thing but does another. So put on that hard hat when you’re on the work site and demonstrate the importance of safety in the workplace.
Educate Employees on Why PPE is Important
When employees know the reasoning behind a certain policy, they are much more likely to adhere to it. Rather than just handing workers a face mask and telling them to put it on, let your employees know why they need to use each specific type of personal protective equipment for their job. Inform them of the dangers of not using it, and emphasize the impact of PPE on worker safety and health.
Keep Open Communication
Listening to your employees can make a world of difference. Involve employees in discussions concerning which specific PPE brands, colors and models to purchase since they’ll be the ones using it during the work day. Ask employees how satisfied they are with the PPE you provide, and what recommendations they have for the next time you purchase PPE. Address complaints promptly, and keep open communication with employees in an effort to provide the most comfortable and appealing equipment possible.
Use the Right Equipment
Use equipment that is easy to clean, maintain and replace. Or opt for equipment that is disposable. The easier personal protective equipment is to use the more likely employees will use it. Since cleaning and maintaining is all part of PPE use, choose equipment that makes these aspects of its use as simple as possible. You can also eliminate the need for cleaning and maintenance by purchasing disposable equipment. Similarly, non-disposable equipment should be easy to replace. If you run out of PPE that’s not easily replaceable, you lose valuable production time searching for new equipment.
Over time people have a tendency to become complacent when they have to perform the same procedure on a daily basis. If you don’t enforce your PPE policies each and every day employees may begin to use their equipment improperly, or even forgo its use altogether. Make sure to have a written PPE policy in place, and check in on employees to ensure they are using th