What is Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)?
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires that employers protect their employees from workplace hazards that can cause injury. Personal protective equipment, commonly referred to as “PPE”, is equipment worn to minimize exposure to a variety of hazards. PPE includes items like safety helmets, gloves, eye protection, high-visibility clothing, safety footwear and safety harnesses, as well as respiratory protective equipment (RPE).
PPE is used in a wide range of jobs and industries, from the obvious, such as agricultural and building industries to, more surprisingly, catering and lifeguarding. The type of PPE changes according to the user’s working conditions and regulations.
Why is PPE important?
PPE reduces the risk of injury or harm to users caused by hazards present in the workplace.
However, even when these measures have been applied, hazards still remain in the workplace and PPE is ultimately used to minimize the risk of injury. According to the OSHA Act , risk in the workplace can include injuries to the lungs (from breathing in contaminated air), the head and feet, (from falling materials), the eyes (from flying particles or splashes of corrosive liquids), the skin (from contact with corrosive materials and the body (from extremes of heat or cold).
The above examples are outlined on the OSHA Act but there are many other examples of hazards in the workplace, for example, slipping on a wet floor and cutting your hands on sharp edges.
Types of PPE
Eye protection can protect you from chemical or metal splashes, dust, gas and vapour and, even, radiation. That said, you should ensure you select the correct eye protection for your requirements. According to the OSHA Act, you should make sure your choice of eye protection is suitable for the task in hand and fits correctly. In addition, your eye protection should have the right combination of impact, dust, splash and molten metal eye protection.
The following types of eye protection are mentioned by the OSHA Act: Safety spectacles, goggles, face screens, face shields and visors. PDG Promotions have a range of eye protection available including goggles, face shields and spectacles.
Head and Neck Protection
Head and neck PPE can protect the user from the impact of falling or flying objects, as well as protecting injury from bumping the head or hair getting caught in machinery. Head and neck PPE can also protect the wearer from chemical splashes, as well as climate or temperature.
According to the OSHA Act, types of head and neck protection include industrial safety helmets, bump caps, hairnets and firefighters’ helmets, as well as scarves to protect the neck. In addition, some safety helmets incorporate or can be fitted with specially-designed eye or hearing protection
The OSHA Act also reminds wearers to replace head protection if it is damaged.
The main hazard to ears is, unsurprisingly, noise and PPE like earplugs, earmuffs and semi-insert/canal caps can provide the necessary protection.
Hands and Arm Protection
According to the OSHA Act, hands and arms can be at risk of abrasion, temperature extremes, cuts and punctures, impact, chemicals, electric shock, radiation, vibration, biological agents and prolonged immersion in water.
Gloves, gloves with a cuff combined with sleeves that covers all, or part of, the arm can offer effective PPE.
Feet and legs
Safety boots and shoes with protective toecaps and penetration-resistant, wellington boots as well as other types of safety footwear from Essential Safety Wear can offer effective PPE for your feet and legs.
It is important that the appropriate footwear is selected for the risks in each workplace.
Respiratory protective equipment (RPE) can offer protection for the lungs. If your work poses risks to your lungs and you would like to find out more, you can purchase an online copy of the HSE “Respiratory protective equipment at work” .