Understanding the importance of PPE and knowing how to correctly select equipment to fit the hazardous situation are critical for safety of workers. If you think buying PPE and placing the items in the workplace is adequate for compliance, you’re setting your workplace up for OSHA penalties (as well as employee injuries).
Compliance with Personal Protective Equipment Standards is a system of interdependent actions—each of which must be functioning properly to adhere to regulations. Make sure your PPE program is functioning effectively by checking the following areas.
In order to establish a comprehensive PPE program, employers must assess physical and health risks in the workplace. In fact, it is impossible to determine PPE without an adequate hazard analysis—a point OSHA is very aware of and frequently cites employers lacking this element.
Examples of physical hazards include:
- Moving objects
- Falling objects
- Fluctuating temperatures
- High intensity lighting
- Rolling or pinching objects
- Electrical connections
- Sharp edges
Examples of health hazards include:
- Overexposure to harmful dusts
- Exposure to blood or other potentially infectious material
During your analysis, note each type of hazard present. Consider job duties, (including work conducted seasonally or non-routine) and observe environmental conditions, too. Ask yourself, “What are the possibilities of injury?”
Some hazards may not be readily apparent without careful evaluation and thought. For example, workers on the manufacturing floor might not have any danger of falling objects through the course of their duties. However, if these same employees are working below scaffolding or catwalks which are used by maintenance staff, then falling tools or equipment can be a hazard (at least part of the time). You would need to provide hard hats for these workers when maintenance is performed above them.
If there is danger of falling objects that may strike the head, then it also follows these items may also strike feet. Therefore, you’ll also need safety shoes for workers when there is any sort of falling hazard, such as the slip on safety shoes manufactured by Wilkuro.
Virtually every worker (except for some retail or office employees) has the potential for eye injury. Look for dust, chemicals, objects that may break loose and flying particulates to determine the need for workplace eye protection. If any of these are present (or the potential for eye hazards exist) then workers must wear safety glasses or goggles.
Always document your assessments in writing and maintain written policies that require workers to wear PPE to avoid OSHA citations.
Train employees prior to providing PPE and keep a record of training on file. Under OSHA, employers must demonstrate the proper ways to wear all types of PPE, (including foot, eye and hearing protection) during training.
Workers also should be taught to inspect PPE before wearing and to report damaged equipment. Under no circumstances should employees ever wear damaged PPE, so employers should have a supply of replacement items on hand to avoid dangerous consequences. During training, workers should be informed of the methods to obtain replacement PPE.
Regularly revisit your PPE to look for inadequacies.
Accidents and incidents must be monitored and investigated. A written designated accident/incident reporting mechanism should be in place. Consider each event carefully to determine if personal protective equipment could have prevented the incident. If employees were wearing PPE, could a different type of equipment have changed the outcome? For example, perhaps safety goggles instead of safety glasses should be worn when performing certain tasks.
As part of this process, employers should also review 300 Logs for injuries and illnesses which may indicate defects in the program, such as inadequate training, inappropriate PPE or show new hazards.
Improving the quality of your PPE can often reduce injuries and incidents almost immediately. General industry PPE must meet the categories of safety standards developed by American National Standards Institute (ANSI). Check to make sure existing PPE (and future purchases) meet ANSI Standards. PPE should fit workers properly and be compatible with other types of items if worn together.
For PPE programs to be successful, employees must wear the required equipment. Comfort is a factor that should be considered by employers during selection, as workers are more likely to wear PPE that is comfortable.
Safety shoes, often heavy, expensive and cumbersome can be particularly difficult for employees to wear. If your workers need protective footwear, consider the options offered by Wilkuro Safety Toe. This incredibly successful type of footwear PPE meets ANSI standards (ANSI Z41 PT 1991) and offers comfort and proper fit. The Wilkuro Safety Toe slip on safety shoe fits over the shoes of workers and is the comfortable, light-weight alternative to heavy safety footwear.
Content of this blog may not apply to your situation and is for informational use only. Always consult a qualified occupational health and safety professional in your jurisdiction who understands your unique safety challenges. It is the responsibility of the customer to ensure that any product purchased is appropriate protection for the intended use.