Choosing the proper personal protective equipment (PPE) is a delicate decision. You have to ensure the gear you select protects against the specific hazards of the job while not restricting or inconveniencing the wearer. Being comfortable and compliant increases workplace safety, and compliance leads to fewer injuries. As you select proper PPE for your team, you need to ensure that all products meet the industry and government standards.
Who is Responsible for PPE?
If, as a worker, you’re ever uncertain about what personal protective equipment you need to wear or are entitled to, don’t hesitate to ask questions. According to OSHA, your employer is obligated to provide and pay for any PPE necessary for your position. So what are the responsibilities of the employer and the employee where PPE selection and use are concerned?
When selecting and providing PPE in the workplace, employers must:
- Perform the “hazard assessment”
- Determine which PPE is necessary and provide it to the worker
- Train employees on the proper use of PPE
- Maintain the PPE and replace it when it becomes damaged
- Frequently review and update workplace PPE protocols
While employers bear the brunt of the responsibility for assessing and addressing risks in the workplace, employees must also contribute to proper PPE use. They need to:
- Wear the PPE properly
- Tell a supervisor if the PPE becomes damaged or misshapen
- Maintain their PPE
- Attend training sessions about PPE use and application
When to Use Personal Protective Equipment
There are different levels of protection required depending on your occupation. Consider what the worker’s job entails and the environment they are in when choosing protective clothing. You can follow the evaluation, selection, and training standards for choosing PPE per the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)’s Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) regulations.
You must first identify what hazards you wish to protect workers from. You must be mindful of how hazards affect workers’ health in various ways during this evaluation phase.
When an employer is conducting a risk assessment, they can help minimize areas of conflict between existing work practices, costs, and hazards.
Here are some possible dangers that workers might face on the job:
- Exposure to electrical hazards
- Machinery, moving parts, and personnel in motion that could result in collisions
- Exposure to chemicals that could lead to skin and eye exposure, eye injuries, or respiratory issues
- Hazardous dust could burn or scratch the eyes or lungs.
- Sharp and rolling objects that can puncture the skin and cause bodily injuries
- Infectious diseases, bloodborne and airborne pathogens
Before implementing PPE, see if there’s a way to eliminate the hazard entirely. PPE is a last resort to manage risk in the workplace, but it doesn’t completely protect the worker from harm in all cases. Work with guards, engineering controls, and manufacturing procedures whenever possible to do hazard control.
How to Choose the Right Types of PPE
It is still necessary to use PPE, regardless of engineering controls, work practices, and administrative controls. Due to the wide range of risks that PPE may address, such as heat, flames, bloodborne pathogens, and hazardous chemicals, these recommendations for PPE selection are more general. As you choose PPE, think about answering these questions:
- How likely is the hazardous event to occur?
- To what extent is the worker in contact with the hazard?
- For how long will the hazard be present?
- Where is the worker most likely to come into contact with a hazard?
Choosing the right PPE is crucial for keeping the work environment safe.
Read and follow the label when handling dangerous chemicals or hazardous materials and ensure your PPE provides sufficient protection. For example, if you are handling pesticides, the pesticide’s label will indicate what protective measures the handler should take.
What PPE Should You Wear?
Each piece of PPE you wear must meet industry safety standards and the specific needs of your job. Additionally, PPE must function well whether it is used alone or with other equipment.
Wearing multiple pieces of protective equipment should not bother you when worn in combination. Your eye protection must not obstruct your respiratory protection or hearing protection, for example.
Ensure that all parts, seams, and other elements of reusable PPE are free of damage before and after each use. Dispose of them properly if necessary.
Face protection can include masks and face shields. Masks should be completely covering the nose and mouth to protect the wearer from airborne particles and fluids. They should also be comfortable to wear over the nose and mouth during the work shift.
A face shield may be used instead of a mask or goggles when additional skin protection is needed or desired. It should cover the entire forehead, go below the chin, and wrap around both sides of the face as well.
The results of the job-hazard analysis should primarily influence your choice of gloves. Various hazards present unique challenges for protecting worker’s hands. Certain types of gloves offer protection against bloodborne pathogens and heat, among other risks.
The level of protection and the duration of protection offered by gloves differ. The gloves must be comfortable enough to wear for long periods to wear outside long-sleeved clothing for maximum protection. The best material for your profession depends on what you are handling and what the hazards present in the workplace are. For example, nitrile and latex gloves are best for the medical field, while vinyl gloves are better suited to the food handling industry.
A gown should be worn if there is a high risk of splatter in a medical scenario. A gown needs to cover your entire torso and be comfortable to wear. Various CPE gowns made of synthetic materials can protect workers in routine medical procedures. During invasive procedures or when there’s a high risk of exposure to infectious diseases and airborne pathogens, level 3 or level 4 gowns should be used.
Worker Training for Using and Wearing PPE
Correct measurement and fitting of the protective clothing are essential. Workers with PPE must learn how to put it on, remove it, and adjust it correctly. Workers are more likely to wear PPE when they feel comfortable in it. If there are changes in dress code, work assignments, or types of protective equipment required, or if improper practices are detected, employers must retrain employees on the proper use of the required PPE.
Knowing the disposal strategy for chemical and biological protective garments may require treating them as hazardous materials. The proper care and maintenance of PPE, their lifespan, and disposal should be addressed when training with protective clothing.
What to Do When Disposing of PPE
Some PPE requires regular, thorough inspection, while other items have expiration dates. Ensure someone is tasked with performing these checks and staying on top of PPE supply for the facility. Follow the advice of the PPE manufacturer, and be cautious when disposing of damaged or outdated PPE. Pesticides, blood, and other harmful chemicals present on PPE must be disposed of according to the product’s label and any federal, state, or local requirements that may apply.
Follow the manufacturer guidelines closely for cleaning and maintenance of reusable PPE.
When is the Best Time to Replace PPE?
All PPE must be kept in excellent working condition. If handling hazardous chemicals or materials, PPE with rips and tears becomes useless. It is therefore essential to regularly inspect and replace the PPE if it fails or is damaged.
Keep these factors in mind as you inspect your PPE and if you need to dispose of them:
- Discoloration or degradation
- Straps not working as well
- Visible damage such as rips, cracks, and tears
- General aging compared to the PPE’s expiration date
- Previous exposure to harmful substances or pathogens
Using these criteria, you can determine whether it’s time to replace your personal protective equipment. PPE that has been in storage also needs to be kept in mind since they are likely to degrade over time.
You can establish a PPE-grading system to measure the level of efficiency as a piece of equipment is used over time. Make sure everyone is aware of how PPE should be handled before they begin working. PPE should be replaced if it has deteriorated or shows any signs of damage.
Safety Culture and Personal Protective Equipment
Selection and use of personal safety equipment are important components in a safety culture – a culture that puts employee safety at the forefront. PPE is not a substitute for improving work practices, safe administration, and other precautions or safe workplace conduct.
Because of this, all hazardous products must be handled, transported, and stored cautiously by appropriately qualified and knowledgeable workers. To prevent harm in the workplace, your team should understand the PPE they use and how to protect themselves best.
PPE requirements will vary significantly based on the industry and occupation of the worker.
Find Quality Protection From ICU Production Inc.
After completing the risk assessment, you should have created a list of the PPE necessary for your work environment. The selection of PPE is crucial for the safety of your workers and the work environment. You can turn to ICU Production, Inc. for all your PPE needs.
Our product range of face shields, gloves, gowns, and masks are FDA- and CDC-certified. They follow industry regulations for safety and protection that are suitable for use across many industries. To keep your workplace as hygienic as possible, we also offer disposable wipes and hand sanitizers.