What You Need to Know About Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
If workplace safety of employees falls under your responsibilities, you are likely aware of the need for specific personal protective equipment (PPE) required within your company, whether it be by you as safety management or by the law. To review, PPE includes any appliances worn in order to reduce specific workplace risks identified by a particular company.
There’s no question that PPE is absolutely necessary in many scenarios. While this may seem like basic knowledge, there are unknown facts and misconceptions about PPE that many people, even safety professionals, do not know about. This blog post provides safety professionals and their employees with the need-to-know information regarding PPE in order to maintain the highest potential for safety.
PPE is addressed in several different OSHA regulations.
We know that you are aware that there are OSHA regulations involving personal protective equipment. You most likely are aware that by law, employers must conduct workplace hazard assessments that allow them to identify workplace risks that may present the need for the use of PPE, as generally covered in OSHA’s primary PPE standards (Title 29 of the Code of Federal Regulations, Part 1910 Subpart I).
However, depending on your industry, you may need to read further. There are also specific personal protective equipment regulations under Part 1910 Subpart I and within OSHA’s General Industry Standards, including:
It is important to thoroughly review any of these regulations that may apply to you, as not doing so can not only put you in violation of code, but it can also compromise your employees’ safety.
A PPE implementation program is necessary for any company that utilizes PPE.
Personal protective equipment are not just tools and appliances to hand out to your employees, force them to wear them and never speak of them again. Just as you implement written programs for general safety as well as specific procedures, the same should be done for the use of PPE.
Right off the bat, any workplace risks identified in your company’s hazard assessment that are to be prevented by using PPE should be stated. Upon implementation of the PPE in question, that particular piece of equipment should be tested to verify its effectiveness at minimizing the hazard and to ensure that no new hazard has resulted from implementing the PPE’s use.
Additionally, the following items should be addressed within your PPE program:
- Identification and providing of the applicable PPE to workers
- Training on the usage of PPE
- PPE care, maintenance and replacement guidelines
- Standards for regular review and revision
Without a personal protective equipment program such as the one mentioned above, there is no way to control your PPE’s effectiveness of providing safety.
There is the possibility of PPE creating additional workplace dangers.
It is important for you to be aware that, in some cases, implementing PPE can actually cause additional workplace dangers, thus causing a reverse effect to their purpose. We can boil this down to three reasons:
- When it comes to eliminating hazards and risks, using PPE as a control measure is usually implemented as a last resort in conjointment with another control measure when that control measure alone does not do enough to reduce risk. There is never the guarantee that using PPE will completely eliminate a safety hazard.
- PPE such as dust masks require the equipment to fit appropriately in order to prevent exposure to risk. It is not always easy to test that equipment fits properly, and wear and tear to the appliance can eventually lead to misshaping, causing risk exposure.
- While the two above points are true, many employees do assume that because they are wearing their PPE, they are completely safe. This brings about a sense of false confidence that may cause them to behave more recklessly than they otherwise would because of their assumed sense of safety.
By being aware of accounting for the shortcomings of PPE, you are in a better position to counteract the risks introduced.
New technology allows for more advanced PPE.
Typically, when thinking of PPE equipment, wearables such as aprons, dust masks, ear muffs, glasses/goggles, gloves, hard hats or shoes most likely come to mind. You have to remember that it’s 2017 now- technology is a thing and it is our friend. There are many wearable PPE pieces that implement technology for a much more advanced form of protection, including our own SoloProtect ID.
Our device uses technology to protect employees from both social and environmental risk by allowing employees to discreetly raise an alert at the possibility of danger with the touch of a button or automatically in the event of incapacitation with our 'Incapacitation' detection feature. PPE such as our own can be multi-faceted, providing a solution for many risks with just one wearable.
It is so important to consider all of the above information to ensure that you are utilizing personal protection equipment in a way that meets its intended purpose. For more PPE information, see OSHA’s Personal Protective Equipment Guide. See SoloProtect’s own form of PPE in action by watching our overview video.