17-May-05 5:00 PM  CST

OSHA Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

Personal protective equipment (PPE) is considered by a majority of the laboring workforce as a necessity or tools of their trade.  Although PPE is worn frequently, common mistakes, misuse, and mishaps are still present.  Take for instance, just the other day I drove past one of many construction sites within the City of Houston and everyone had on their hard hats, goggles, work boots, reflective vest (for those directing traffic), and gloves.  However, it dawned on me as it has in every 10-Hour course that I have taught: individuals do not typically know why they use specific PPE, how to use it appropriately, or when to throw it away.  I will begin to answer these basic questions for you today.
First, PPE is used as a last resort. PPE should not be used as a substitute to engineering controls, administrative controls, or work practice controls.  Simply try to eliminate the hazard and if it still exists use PPE for protection against the recognizable hazards.  With that being said, a hazard assessment must be completed in order to determine the “recognizable hazards” and what PPE should be use for that identified hazard.  Once these steps have been followed select the best PPE to use, not necessarily the least expensive or the newest/coolest design. 
Second, train every employee on the use of the PPE.  For instance, if our hazard assessment reflects that employees are around potential falling objects then we would choose to eliminate that hazard. If it still exists then we would have every employee wear a hard hat.  But it does not stop there; we have to train each employee on the hard hat.  Topics that should be included at a minimum:

  • Evaluation of equipment
  • Selecting appropriate equipment
  • Use of the equipment
  • Maintenance of the equipment
  • And limitations of  the equipment
I know what you are thinking: what can I say about a hard hat that everyone does not know already?  My advice is to be creative, touch the basics, and always add an interesting tidbit.  For example, did you know that hard hats expire?  According to ANSI Z89.1 hard hats must be marked appropriately and should meet this standard. Because OSHA incorporates the ANSI standard by reference, employers must follow its recommendations. Due to the fact that hard hats break down over time, once that date has expired, replace the hard hat. Expiration dates are located on the underside of your hard hat. OSHA states that the hard hat must meet manufactures’ recommendations and most manufacturers state in the original wrapper of the hat that the hat will expire in four to five years.  

I have briefly explained why employees need to wear personal protective equipment so my challenge to you is to ensure that you convey this message down to the laborer.  Information is only beneficial when it reaches the hands and minds that need the information.  If you still feel behind the curve, the safety consultants at Safety United, Inc. will be enthusiastic to help you with your safety problems, or just to chat.  Call us!!

For additional information on this article, please contact:
Shae Meehan
(713) 439-1241
Source: Safety United  
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