What Is PPE?Personal protective equipment (PPE) is equipment worn by employees to minimize their exposure to a variety of hazards. Examples of PPE include gloves, safety boots, safety goggles, earplugs, hard hats, respirators and full body suits.
Making the workplace safe entails the provision of instructions, procedures, training, and supervision to encourage employees to work safely and responsibly. Although engineering controls and safe work systems have been applied to a workplace, some hazards might still be present, which can result in injuries to the lungs, the head and feet, the eyes, the skin and the body. PPE is needed in these cases to minimize risk.
PPE GuidelinesThe Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that hard hats are worn by 16 percent of employees who sustain head injuries; face protection is worn by 1 percent of employees who suffered from face injuries; safety boots are worn by 23 percent of employees who sustained foot injuries; and about 40 percent of employees who suffered from eye injuries wore eye protection. In light of these statistics, it is important that every employee be informed of the following guidelines.
- Understanding when PPE should be used
PPE is one of the least effective ways of controlling the risk associated with hazards. As a result, it should only be used when there are no other practical control measures available, or as an interim measure until a more effective control method can be implemented. It should always be used when it could potentially reduce risk of illness or injury.
- Assessing suitable PPE
The type of PPE used should be the most suitable PPE for the job being performed. When assessing suitability, consider the following:
- What are the requirements of this job?
- Will this PPE protect workers from the risks, and is it appropriate for use given the environmental conditions present in the workplace?
- Will the use of this type of PPE increase the overall level of risk to workers, or will it add new risk?
- Can this PPE be adjusted to fit correctly?
It is the responsibility of employers to instruct and train their employees on the proper use of PPE. This includes the reason(s) for using PPE, as well as the circumstances under which it should be used, its maintenance and storage, and the limitations of the selected PPE. In the event that some aspect of the job changes, PPE may need to be changed to suit the task.
PPE also has to be well maintained. That is, it should be kept clean and in good condition. All PPE should be maintained in accordance with the manufacturer’s maintenance schedule. This includes the recommended replacement periods and the shelf lives. These simple maintenance requirements can be carried out by employees, but more intricate repairs, such as the replacement of parts, should only be done by specialists. Workers should always inspect their PPE before every use and be sure to report its loss, destruction or any faults to the employer.
PPE should also be properly stored when it is not being used. For example, PPE can be stored in a dry, clean cupboard, or for smaller items, in a box or case.
Key Points to Remember About Personal Protective Equipment
- PPE is most effective when used in combination with other control methods.
- It is the employer’s responsibility to provide all employees with suitable PPE.
- The selected PPE should provide adequate protection for its intended use.
- It is the employer’s responsibility to adequately train all employees on the safe use of PPE.
- It is the employee’s responsibility to ensure that all PPE is properly maintained and its defects reported.
- It is the employee’s responsibility to ensure that all PPE is returned to proper storage after use.