Personal protective equipment is essential to keeping workers safe from hazards on the job. Employers are required, by OSHA law, to provide properly fitting and effective PPE to workers at no cost to them. OSHA considers PPE be to be used as a “last line of defense” in the hierarchy of hazard control but requires it nonetheless.
The first requirement OSHA has regarding PPE is that an employer must perform a hazard assessment of their workplace to “identify and control physical and health hazards.” The assessment should be a walk-through survey to look for potential hazards posed to employees. OSHA does provide a list with common hazards found in the workplace. The employer should collect and record the data, so it can be analyzed to determine the proper types of PPE required in the worksite. The workplace should also be reassessed for change in conditions, equipment, or operating procedures that may result in hazards.
Following the hazard assessment, employers will need to both identify and provide appropriate PPE for employees. This includes researching types of PPE and different levels of protection that is offered. Requirements don’t stop there, however. Employers are also required to then provide training for employees on the use and care of PPE. Workers should understand how to properly wear PPE, attend training sessions on PPE, and care for and clean their PPE. Employers must also maintain the PPE and replace worn or damaged PPE. A workplace’s PPE program should be periodically reviewed, updated, and evaluated.
In many standards, including eye protection, head protection, and foot protection, OSHA refers to regulations developed by the American National Standards Institute, or ANSI. OSHA however, has set forth standards in regard to ventilators, respiratory protection, electrical protective equipment, and personal fall protective equipment. OSHA’s specific requirements for PPE in general industries can be found under section 1910.132 and OSHA’s standards for construction PPE can be found under section 1926.26. OSHA also has specific standards for marine terminals and shipyard employment.