Understanding how to properly use PPE in the workplace is essential to maintaining a safe environment. Whether you work in a hospital, construction site, or a factory, there are occupational hazards to be wary of, requiring employers to ensure that the PPE is widely available to their staff.
According to the OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration), in 2019, 5,333 workers died while on the job. Nobody should have to fear fatality while in the workplace, which is why learning when to use PPE, putting it on, and safely removing it is essential.
Types of PPE
PPE is equipment that protects the wearer’s body from physical harm and infection in the workplace. The types of hazards that PPE aims to protect against include electrical, chemicals, biohazards, physical, heat, and airborne particulate matter.
There are nine categories of workplace protection employers must be aware of:
- Head protection
- Hand protection
- Eye and face protection
- Breathing apparatus
- Protective clothing
- Foot protection
- Hearing protection
- Respiratory protection
- Fall management equipment
Some of the most common pieces of PPE include masks, gloves, face shields, medical gowns, hard hats, and eye protection. While you may see these items being sold from various vendors, it’s critical that employers purchase PPE from a reliable source that sells products approved by the FDA and CDC. There are plenty of counterfeit items on the market.
Guidelines Surrounding PPE Use
Personal protective equipment (PPE) is heavily regulated in the United States. Any PPE intended for medical use must adhere to FDA standards. Some of this PPE must also undergo an FDA review called a Premarket Notification or 510(k) clearance before becoming available for U.S. resale. The review process requires manufacturers to demonstrate they’ve met the necessary labeling and performance criteria.
A document called the ANSI/ISEA 125-2014, laid out by the American National Standards Institute, provides a standardized assessment system for specifiers, suppliers, and regulators of personal protective equipment. This document helps ensure that all manufacturers work toward the same level of quality and testing for their products.
The OSHA sets out guidelines for PPE use that aim to:
- Help employers and employees understand the types of PPE
- Understand how to perform a “hazard assessment” of the workplace
- Choose appropriate PPE for various circumstances
- Recognize the training needed in the proper care and use of PPE
The OSHA requirements outline that it is the responsibility of an employer to assess hazards present in the workplace and provide employees with the proper protective devices for those workplace hazards. A business must implement an effective PPE program to ensure they keep everyone safe. Employers are also tasked with teaching employees how to put on and remove the PPE correctly.
OSHA outlines that employees are responsible for attending information sessions about proper PPE use, cleaning and caring for their equipment, and informing an employer of a need to repair or replace the protection.
Responsible PPE Use
Responsible PPE use in the workplace relies on a comprehensive PPE program that teaches both employees and employers how to handle the equipment effectively. PPE doesn’t reduce the risk level of certain infectious materials and workplace hazards present, and it also doesn’t guarantee total worker protection even when used correctly. However, PPE is the last line of defense when a hazard simply cannot be extricated from the work environment.
To mitigate the risks of harm or exposure as much as possible, workers must use PPE properly. So how can an employer put administrative controls such as work practices for PPE into place?
Assess the risk and match PPE to the hazard level
The first step in responsible PPE use is for the employer to assess the risks in the workplace and select PPE for workers that are appropriate to the risk level. Depending on the work environment and whether the dangers remain consistent throughout the job cycle, employers may need to select multiple PPE products to keep employees safe.
Involve and educate workers
It’s critical to involve workers in the PPE selection process and implement a training program. Employees must be educated on proper PPE use and have a say in the PPE they use. Ideally, workers should choose between two or three PPE models, and all gear should be individually assigned. This ensures that workers are comfortable and feel safe in the gear they’re given.
Workers should also receive detailed information about the function their PPE is performing. If they are wearing a respirator to protect against infectious airborne particles, they must be adequately informed about this risk.
Employers should communicate with employees about the comfort and practicality of their PPE. If pieces of equipment are extremely bulky, heavy, or uncomfortable, they are less likely to be worn regularly and adequately. Finding PPE solutions that do not inhibit an employee’s ability to do their job well is essential.
Perform proper fittings
After selecting PPE for workers, you can’t simply send them out into the field without performing the critical step of the fitting. Each worker should be fitted for PPE on an individual basis to ensure maximum protection from the occupational hazard in question.
Some types of PPE might require specialist personnel to come in for fittings, like a representative from the manufacturer or a medical professional in the case of respiratory protection.
Keep up with inspection
It’s essential to remember that assigning PPE to employees is not a one-and-done kind of deal. Employees must receive training on how to perform any necessary regular maintenance on their PPE to keep it functioning at the highest degree. Employers should organize frequent inspections of protective gear to avoid diminishing its effectiveness.
Discard PPE that becomes damaged in any capacity and set up procedures for employees to receive replacement products as needed. Give them the tools to clean and maintain the equipment properly.
Top Quality Protection from ICU Production Inc.
When you invest in your business and the safety of your workers, you need to know that you’re purchasing high-quality gear. That’s why at ICU Production Inc., all our PPE is approved by the FDA and CDC for your peace of mind.
We offer various gloves, masks, medical gowns, and face shields to keep your workers safe. Contact us today to learn more about our wide range of products.