You always try to work safely, so do you really need to wear protective gear all the time? The answer is YES for a variety of reasons. Aside from being legally required in many cases, no matter how careful you are, the unexpected can sometimes happen. A simple accident, slip or lapse in attention can have devastating consequences for your own safety and for those around you. No one can account for every potential jobsite risk, so that’s why utilizing Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for all tasks is so important.
PPE provides a personal barrier between you and any job hazards, when those hazards cannot be eliminated by other means. Without assigned PPE, you have no defense against workplace hazards and are at greater risk of being injured or becoming sick.
The only way to truly understand the potential risks within your operation is to undertake a formal assessment process. This can be conducted through local occupational health & safety organizations and can be supplemented with insight from product manufacturers. From noise, dust, fumes, cuts and electric shock, to chemical spills, vibration, extreme temperatures and falls, accurately knowing what you’re dealing with is half the battle.
There are far too many industries, variables and situations to effectively cover in just one article, so we’ll stick to some PPE basics as a primer.
This category of protective clothing offers a huge range of available features depending on the job need. Many work environments also require that items serve several purposes at the same time, so it’s important to properly spec before you pick any one type. Attributes can include:
Today’s work boots offer safety features that weren’t even considered several years ago and they provide better protection against the most common foot injuries. Be sure that any boots you use are specifically suited to the type of work that you do and that they meet or exceed CSA (or equivalent) standards.
Statistics show that injuries to the hand, wrist and fingers are second only to back injuries in the workplace. Hand protection is so important, that it is required by many Occupational Health & Safety associations to be a part of employee safety and operating standards across a variety of industries.
No matter what type of glove is needed for your job, they must fit properly and provide the dexterity necessary for peak performance. There are so many types available, that it’s hard to know sometimes what might be right for you. This is where occupational consultants and manufacturer information becomes so important.
Do you need gloves that offer:
For more information on hand protection, see the November 2013 edition of SafetyLink by clicking the Archive tab on the website.
It really goes without saying that the protection of the head, face, vision and hearing is of paramount importance. This is due to the sensitivity of these areas and the potential consequences should they be damaged. Many of the required protective equipment elements can be fitted together onto the helmet, however this is sometimes impractical, uncomfortable or just unavailable to the user. This is another area where consultation with a specialist goes a long way in developing a solid safety plan.
Protection of the head is required in almost every industry where restricted headroom, falling objects or working at dangerous heights pose a risk of serious injury. In many workplaces head protection is mandatory and this makes it the main form of personal protective equipment worn. There are a number of types available depending on the nature of the work and it’s important to follow the rules for replacement of your helmet based on age, regular wear and damage. Most helmets have a date of manufacture stamped on the inside, so this makes it easier for planning. Also be sure that the helmet rating is correct for your specific work environment.
This is another area where specialist consultation is important due to the sensitivity of the area. Eye and face protection type must be based on the specific work hazards present and the corresponding ratings for each piece of PPE required. Risks may include impact and flying debris, light radiation, dust, sparks, glare, fumes or chemical splash. Options include:
Safety Glasses – can be prescription strength and are good for low-energy impacts and IR/UV protection.
Eye Shields – worn over prescription glasses. Most suitable for job-site visitors.
Goggles – Protection against medium impacts, fluid droplets and coarse dust. Usually made from anti-fog coated polycarbonate or toughened glass.
Face Shields - Depending on the design, they can protect eyes and face against medium or even high-energy impacts, liquid splash and hazards like molten metal splash or electric arcs etc.
Once you have determined that you have an issue with noise levels, how do you go about managing the problem? Generally, companies are required by law to provide a hearing assessment and control program if noise levels are consistently above 85 decibels (dB). PPE for hearing comes in a variety of types and levels of quality and most commonly includes:
For more information on hearing protection, see the October 2013 edition of SafetyLink by clicking the Archive tab on the website.
If your workplace poses respiratory risks due to fumes, odours, dust or air-borne particulates, then some form of PPE will be required. Depending on the hazard type, there are many models available to protect workers on-site. Be sure to determine the exact type and rating necessary to provide optimal protection for both short and long-term exposure over time. Options include:
By providing workers with the optimal PPE and encouraging proper usage through a supportive safety culture, companies can help to reduce overall injuries in the workplace.