Personal protective equipment (PPE) is used in work and medical environments to reduce the risk of workplace injuries and illnesses and to minimize potential exposure to harmful materials. People who come into contact with chemicals, radiological materials, electrical components, mechanical devices, and other dangerous items in their work environment must use PPE and safety equipment to protect themselves and their colleagues.
The type of PPE that provides the most effective protection depends on the industry you work in. Safety gloves, eye protection, face protection, head protection, and respiratory protection are some of the most important forms of PPE. In working environments, employers are required to provide PPE for their employees. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) sets the standards for PPE quality and requires that all equipment meet the standards created by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI).
The importance of PPE goes beyond the equipment itself. Wearers must be educated and trained on how to use it correctly. Incorrectly using PPE limits its effectiveness and makes the wearer much more vulnerable to injury or illness. It’s recommended that employers implement a PPE program to teach people about the hazards that are out there and how PPE products can help them.
Common Types of PPE
Although there are multiple types of PPE, some equipment is more common than others. In most cases, PPE should be fitted to the individual wearer. However, some equipment is one size fits all.
Surgical masks and respirators are designed to block potentially harmful particle droplets, splatter, and spray from reaching the mouth and nose of the wearer.
Gloves come in various materials, such as nitrile, latex, and vinyl, and are used to protect the wearer from scratches, cuts, and contamination from harmful materials.
Gowns are typically used in medical facilities or laboratories. They protect the wearers and people they come in contact with from spreading diseases or harmful chemicals. They are categorized into four different levels of protection, from minimal to high-risk scenarios.
Cleaning your hands with a minimum of 60% alcohol-based hand sanitizer effectively removes bacteria. This is crucial in minimizing the spread of disease in places with vulnerable people, such as hospitals or nursing homes.
Face shields don’t provide as high a level of respiratory protection as masks, but they’re designed to prevent liquid splashes, chemical spills, and loose debris from coming in contact with the wearer’s face. They are often used in customer-facing roles as the wearer’s face remains visible.
There are many specialist types of PPE, particularly when it comes to equipment for construction workers. Certain work and tools require the wearer to use specialist eye protection, helmets, gloves, clothing, or other materials for their safety.
Reasons to Wear PPE
Accidents happen on worksites every day, leading to employees being injured or even killed. Infections and diseases can spread around hospitals and medical facilities if protective measures aren’t taken. Proper PPE is essential in reducing the risk of illness and injury for the wearers and those they encounter. These are some of the top reasons you should wear the appropriate PPE in the workplace.
Shields the Face and Eyes
Approximately 2.4 million eye injuries are suffered in the US annually, with around 50,000 of these injuries causing some level of vision loss. The American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) reported that 90% of serious eye injuries can be prevented by wearing eye protection.
Full face shields effectively protect the eyes and face from loose debris or splashes of hazardous materials. Some face shields are designed to give the wearer increased protection against UV rays and other forms of radiation. Wood, metal, medical, and general labor workers benefit from face shields. Safety glasses are often worn for added protection.
Face shields and other forms of eye protection should be tested for suitability.
Covers the Skin
Contact with various chemicals and hazardous materials can cause long-term damage to your skin. Although it may not be recognizable at the time, continued exposure can contribute to diseases such as cancer and dermatitis. Cuts, burns, scratches, and contact injuries can also lead to infections, causing permanent damage or serious illness.
Gloves, gowns, face masks, and shields are used frequently to protect the skin. Vinyl gloves are very popular in low-risk scenarios, such as kitchens or in the hospitality industry. Nitrile gloves are highly effective in protecting the hands against prolonged chemical exposure.
Heavy-duty protective clothing, such as cut-resistant or heat-resistant gloves, must be used in certain manufacturing jobs.
Many harmful substances are invisible, causing you harm as you inhale them without realizing it. Respiratory protection, using N95 respirators, can reduce the damage from harmful materials such as dust, fumes, spray, pesticides, and chemicals. There is insufficient ventilation available to guarantee quality air circulation in many working environments, so respirators are essential.
Failing to supply workers with adequate respiratory PPE may lead to workers’ compensation cases.
It’s FDA Regulated (Quality Control)
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) regulate PPE in the workplace. Any PPE manufactured for medical use should meet the standards for protection. The FDA regulates items such as surgical masks, N95 respirators, medical gloves, and gowns, with some equipment requiring premarket notifications before it’s available to the public.
There are illegitimate products on the market that don’t receive testing, so make sure you purchase PPE from a reputable supplier compliant with CDC and FDA standards.
Helps Prevent Harm in Workplace Accidents
Unfortunately, there’s no way to guarantee that accidents won’t happen. People make mistakes in the workplace and medical fields, leading to injury and illness. PPE protects the wearer from the consequences of a potential accident on the job. It is quality controlled and acts as the last line of defense, enabling people to work without unnecessary stress.
It’s a Legal Requirement
Businesses are required to provide adequate protective equipment for their workers. The level of PPE is dependent on the industry and particular roles carried out. While jobs in the construction, fire, safety, and medical sectors tend to have clear guidelines in terms of PPE, private businesses may find it a little more difficult. There can be gray areas where it is unclear as to what exactly they need to provide.
In such cases, businesses should seek professional help to put together a PPE program. This involves six key steps:
- Surveying the workplace and identifying all risks and hazards.
- Determining appropriate safety controls on site.
- Choosing the appropriate PPE for workers and site visitors.
- Ensuring PPE is fitted to individual wearers.
- Training staff to use PPE properly.
- Auditing and analyzing the effectiveness of the story.
Choosing the Right PPE
Whatever industry you’re involved in, protecting workers and minimizing risk takes planning and organization. Sourcing the right PPE is an essential step. After determining your needs, ensure that you purchase quality equipment from a reliable provider.
ICU Production Inc. supplies high-quality, tested PPE that is ready for immediate use in various industries. From FDA-approved medical gowns to thoroughly tested hand sanitizer, we can help you ensure you’re stocked with all necessary PPE.