Personal protective equipment (PPE) is what employees wear while on the job in order to reduce their exposure to hazards. However, personal protective equipment is not intended to be the first line of defence against workplace hazards.
PPE should be the last line of defence, after all other avenues of reducing risk have been explored. All other attempts to control hazards should be made before personal protective equipment is used, including redesigning the working environment, moving further away from a hazard, using non-hazardous materials rather than hazardous ones, using new equipment with better safety features or adapting current equipment to make it safer. Once all of these things have been done, PPE can be worn as a last line of defence, rather than a first source of protection from workplace hazards.
However, PPE can be a helpful way to protect workers against a number of risks in the workplace, including loss of hearing or sight, crushed limbs, burns and abrasions, chronic diseases, brain damage and even death. In order for this equipment to be effective in preventing injury, it needs to be the right PPE for the job and it needs to be of good quality. Also, the PPE must fit the employee correctly and it should be well maintained and in good repair. It is the responsibility of the employer to ensure that this PPE is available to employees at all times.
Employees should not be made to pay out of their own pocket for their PPE, it should be supplied as part of the equipment in the workplace.
Types of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
There are many different types of personal protective equipment, each suited to a different type of task or industry. You might need to use more than one type of personal protective equipment, depending on the risks that are associated with your particular job. Here are some of the common types of personal protective equipment:
Eye and Face Protection
There are many different designs of equipment to protect the eyes and face, including goggles, safety glasses, hoods and face shields. Make sure that you are using the right protection for your particular job. Also, make sure that the eye and face protection fits correctly and that you can still see what you are doing when you are wearing it.
Safety footwear protects your feet from being punctured, compressed or impacted. You should choose the foot protection that is appropriate for the job that you are doing - such as steel toed boots on a construction site or PVC rubber boots that protect your feet from chemicals.
With hardhats being the most common variety, head protection is important for protecting your head from impacts and from objects falling on your head from above.
Any employee who works outdoors will also need to think about sun protection. A sunburn is not only painful and unsightly, it can also increase your risk of skin cancer. Sun screen should be available to workers whenever they are working outside – even on a cloudy day because UV rays can penetrate clouds.
In some jobs, you might need protection from harmful inhalants in the atmosphere, so you will need to wear respiratory protection. This includes a self-contained breathing apparatus, a work pack, a dust mask or a cartridge respirator. It is important to make sure that you have the appropriate training to use this equipment, as misuse of it can be deadly.
This type of personal protective equipment can save you from losing your hearing – which can affect you for the rest of your life. Whether you are using ear plugs or ear muffs, they should fit you correctly and provide enough insulation so that you are not exposed to noise at a harmful level.
Work Clothes and Gloves
Some jobs will require you to wear the appropriate work clothes and gloves in order to protect you skin. The style of the clothes and the gloves will depend on your particular job, so make sure that you are dressed adequately for your position.
Tips for Wearing Personal Protective EquipmentWearing the right personal protective equipment for your job can make your work tasks a lot safer. Here are some tips that you can keep in mind:
- Before commencing work, employees should always be trained in how to use the personal protective equipment.
- The PPE should always be kept in the work areas, within easy access of employees when they need it.
- PPE should be kept clean and functional.
- Also, PPE should be inspected on a regular basis and repaired or replaced if it is starting to show signs of wear and tear.
- Remember, personal protective equipment is not effective unless it is worn correctly at all times. Always make sure that you wear personal protective equipment consistently.
- Also, keep in mind that personal protective equipment is not always enough to protect workers against dangers in the workplace. If you can perform other steps to protect workers, you should do this as well.
- Some employers are tempted to reduce costs by cutting corners and buying protective equipment that doesn’t conform to the official health and safety standard. Make sure that you inspect your PPE carefully and determine whether it meets the standard of quality that is necessary for your adequate protection.
Health and Safety Training Regarding PPEIt is important that all employees in the workplace are trained in the appropriate health and safety qualifications for their industry. This includes the correct use of personal protective equipment. This equipment will do no good to protect employees if they are not aware of how to use it properly. Available PPE Courses
All supervisors and workers should undergo the correct health and safety training, so that they are aware of how to use their personal protective equipment safely. There are many valuable and relevant supervisor and manager safety courses available.
- CIEH Level 2 COSHH
- Managing safely in the workplace
- Equip managers with the right safety skills
- Contractors and managing health and safety
- What is health and safety management?
- Advice on health and safety management courses
- Understanding health and safety legislation
- Occupational health and safety courses
- Writing a health and safety policy