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Personal Protective Equipment

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Personal protective equipment (PPE) is a very important and integral part of any safety and health system. Personal protective equipment is used in many industries and it’s very common for workers wear more than one type of PPE to protect against different hazards in the workplace. PPE should always be comfortable for the user, compatible with their body type, and effective when protecting them from the hazards.

PPE is not always the first step to take when preparing or improving a safety and health program. OSHA always recommends that companies should try and use engineering or administrative controls to help eliminate potential hazards to workers. When we use engineering controls we are trying to eliminate the hazard at the source by modifying the system. When we use administrative controls we focus on following formalized practices and standards. When these engineering and administrative controls don’t provide enough protection that’s when the employers provide the employees with the proper PPE.

Selecting the proper PPE can be somewhat of a hassle. Employers can look at OSHA regulations that will list what PPE is recommended for that certain project. Employers can also look on the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) website to see what recommendations they have. Pre-planning is also important, doing site inspection and task analysis of the workplace conditions can help greatly when selecting what proper PPE to use for those tasks. Also involving the workers when selecting the PPE is a good idea, because if the employees aren’t comfortable wearing it or it alters the way they work they might not like to wear it. Once the PPE Is established each employee needs to be trained on how to properly use the PPE, and at the minimum they must know when and how to use the PPE. After the PPE has been used in the workplace it is a good idea to evaluate how effective the PPE was.

Manufacturing companies offer all different types of PPE, and each one is designated for certain use. Many different types of safety hard hats exist, and an employer must select the proper hard hat that meets necessary impact and electrical insulation requirements of ANSIZ89.1. Some hardhats are meant for top impact, some for top and lateral impact, and some for electrical insulation requirements. Eye, head and face protection is also one of the more important PPE’s. Employers must identify the hazards and figure out whether or not eye, head and face PPE is necessary. The hazard assessment should begin with a walkthrough that creates a list of potential hazards such as impact, dust, chemical, optical radiation glare, high temperature, hot metal, and general lighting. After the assessment is complete the employer should select eye and face protection devices that meet ANSI Z781.1 standards. Also available for employers is the ANSI/ISEA Z87.1-2010 standard that includes a pull-out selection chart that shows recommended protectors for various types of work activities that are hazardous to workers. Hearing protection is another important PPE.

Employers are required by OSHA to limit the 8-hour time weight average (TWA) noise exposure to 90 dBA or less. The employer must enroll into the sponsored hearing conservation program which includes annual audio-metric testing and training. Each of the hearing protection devices are based off the noise reduction rating, which provide information about how much noise they reduce. Selecting the proper noise reduction hearing protection is critical for the employees. Comfort is also important when selecting the hearing devices. There are many different types of hearing protection available and selecting the right one for each employee will help them stay compliant. Fifty percent reduction in noise is a good estimate in typical workplace protection.

Respiratory protection requires knowledge of what contaminants are in the air and what type of concentration levels are in the area. OSHA exposure limits are based threshold limit value which lets you know if employees are allowed in that area and for what length of time. Respirators must be selected based upon the contaminant type, exposure level and how long they are exposed. Many different respirators are available for each type of contaminants whether it’s chemical or dust particles.

In my opinion PPE can be extremely useful in the workplace and saves lives every day when designed with engineering and administrative controls. Integrating these multiple types of PPE isn’t easy and takes time and money. It is always best to include the employees in when selecting the PPE, and if they have to wear multiples sometimes they sell kits that have a safety glass, hardhat, respirator combo so they don’t need each one they are all built in. This article shares great ways to become compliant and the proper steps needed to comply with OSHA regulations. Any new companies or existing companies that don’t have an effective PPE program should read an article related to this one because of the knowledge that can be harnessed from this article. PPE is always getting more efficient and safer for the employees and without it many lives would be in danger every day in the workplace.

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