Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is apparatus worn by a worker to reduce or lessen exposure to certain occupational hazards.
Examples include gloves, aprons, helmets, all the way up to full body and survival suits.
It is the responsibility of the employer to determine if hazards exist and when PPE should be used to protect workers.
According to the Occupational Safety and Health Agency, hard hats are an important piece of safety equipment. Hard hats can protect workers from head impact, penetration injuries, and electrical injuries such as those caused by falling or flying objects, fixed objects, or contact with electrical conductors. Some examples of workers for whom hard hats should be considered are electricians, carpenters, linemen, mechanics, plumbers and pipe fitters, welders, freight handlers, timber cutters and loggers, stock handlers, and warehouse laborers.
In addition to hard hats, some work requires spectacles and goggles, special helmets or shields, spectacles with side shields, and/or faceshields. All of these items can help protect employees from the hazards of flying fragments.
Safety shoes, foot guards, and leggings can help workers avoid injuries by protecting them from hazards such as falling or rolling objects, sharp objects, wet and slippery surfaces, molten metals, hot surfaces, and electrical hazards.
It is critical to note that PPE is only one element of a safe and healthy workplace. Use of PPE does not guarantee total protection, but it does minimize exposure to hazards. PPE should only be used when a hazard cannot feasibly be prevented or eliminated altogether.
When an employer makes the important decision to implement a PPE program, they must take a number of steps. These steps include identifying potential hazards, selection of controls and appropriate PPE, as well as fitting and training for both employees and supervisors. The employer should also ensure ongoing support for the program as well as maintenance and auditing procedures.
All affected employees share the responsibility to identify and monitor the potential for workplace hazards on an ongoing basis. Each employee should make sure the PPE is utilized properly at all times, and provide feedback to supervisors and managers if any problems or discomfort with the PPE arises.
Employees should also make sure that management takes all of the proper steps to eliminate hazards before instituting a PPE program. Employees have a responsibility to raise any concerns they have, if they feel the PPE is not adequate to protect against the exposure to the risk.
If there is a danger in your workplace that cannot be eliminated and your employer has not offered you PPE, you need to ask for that protection. When you are provided with PPE, use it at all times when there might be a possibility of exposure to the hazard. PPE is only effective when designed and utilized properly.
Protect your well-being. Reduce your risk. And make the proper use of your Personal Protective Equipment a workplace priority.