PPE is the commonly used acronym for personal protective equipment and refers to any garments or equipment designed to be worn and protect employees from occupational hazards. The six different categories of hazards include:
- Physical Hazards such as slips, trips, falls, heat, cold, noise, etc.
- Chemical Hazards such as acids, pesticides, and heavy metals.
- Biological Hazards such as mold, fungi, viruses, and bacteria.
- Electrical Hazards such as arc flashes, shocks, and electrocution.
- Mechanical Hazards involving machines that have the potential to cut, entangle, or crush.
- Radiological Hazards involving radionuclides or radioactive elements.
All types of workplaces can harbor several risks of injury. Whether the workplace is a laboratory or a factory, it is important that workers are protected from any present hazards.
Different Types of Personal Protective Equipment
There are all kinds of different PPE options to use depending on the risk of hazardous circumstances. However, before choosing personal protective equipment, make sure to reference any applicable OSHA regulations and training guidelines. This will help make sure employees obtain the best protection from occupational hazards within their unique environment.
The following is a list of the different categories of PPE that employers can use to help their workers stay safe:
- Hearing protection includes PPE such as earplugs and earmuffs.
- Fall protection includes PPE such as safety harnesses.
- Head and face protection includes PPE such as hard hats, face shields, and safety glasses.
- Respiratory protection includes PPE such as SCBAs, supplied-air respirators, and facepiece respirators, and PAPRs, and masks.
- Protective clothing includes PPE such as gloves, gowns, fire-resistant clothing, steel-toed boots, etc.
Clothing Items Mistaken for PPE
Some items of clothing should not be used in place of OSHA, NFPA, or NIOSH rated PPE. The reason being because they might not be rated for the same amount of protection as standard PPE items. Regular clothing items are also not tested in harsh environments involving chemical, mechanical, or other varieties of hazards.
These non-PPE items include sunglasses in place of ANSI approved safety goggles or safety glasses, sneakers in place of steel-toed boots, light colored jackets instead of reflective outerwear, or electronic earbuds in place of earplugs.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) creates and enforces regulations, often referring to the standards developed by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). OSHA requires employers to assess the physical and health hazards in the workplace and identify the proper PPE to protect workers from exposure or injury.
The responsibility of PPE largely falls on the employer, who will need to provide PPE, ensure it correctly fits the worker, provide areas to store the protective equipment, conduct trainings for its proper use, and regularly inspect the equipment, ensuring it is in proper condition. Not only that, but employers are obligated to provide safety information in a way that everyone can understand. This means providing instruction in languages other than English if needed.
When Personal Protective Equipment Must be Used
When it comes to the hierarchy of hazard controls, PPE is at the bottom of this hierarchy and is considered the last line of defense for workers. Even so, it is crucial to have well-fitting, properly designed, and maintained equipment since PPE is a proven way to improve safety and prevent accidents in the workplace.
Employers should hang PPE requirement signs around the facility to remind workers where and when is the appropriate time to don their PPE and ensure everyone is well informed about PPE protocol.
- Who supplies PPE at work?
- What is PPE?
- What hazards do PPE protect from?
- What are PPE requirements?
- What situations require PPE?
- Why is PPE considered the last resort?
- What is hearing protection?
- Who regulates PPE?
- What type of training is there for PPE?