Using PPE in the manufacturing workplace is a critical part of an overall safety program.
What is personal protective equipment (PPE)?
Personal protective equipment (PPE) protects workers from workplace injuries resulting from chemical, radiological, physical, electrical, mechanical, or other workplace hazards.
PPE includes things like gloves, aprons, face shields, safety glasses, hard hats, coveralls, earplugs and more.
It is only one element in a complete safety program; it does not eliminate the hazard itself or guarantee total protection. It is the last level of protection in a safety program; after other methods – such as engineering controls, safe work practices and administrative controls – don’t solve the hazardous situation. PPE can help to reduce the risk of injury.
Engineering controls involve physically changing a machine or work environment. Safe Work practices involve training workers how to perform tasks in ways that reduce their exposure to workplace hazards. Administrative controls involve changing how or when workers do their jobs, such as scheduling work and rotating workers or limiting access to areas with hazards.
Eye and Face PPE
Let’s look specifically at eye and face protection. Some questions to ask include:
- Does the job involve airborne dust or flying particles? Think about operations such as sawing, cutting, drilling, sanding, grinding, or blasting.
- Do employees handle hazardous liquid chemicals? Look at operations such as pouring, mixing, painting, cleaning, and siphoning.
- Are employees’ eyes exposed to physical or chemical irritants? Operations might include battery charging and installing fiberglass insulation.
- Are employees’ faces exposed to extreme heat? Operational tasks could include welding, pouring molten metal, smithing, baking, and cooking.
- Are employees’ faces exposed to other potential irritants? Look at operations including cutting, sanding, grinding, cleaning, siphoning.
Typical eye and face PPE include goggles, spectacles, face shields, and welding helmets.
Using PPE and other safe work practices give workers ways to reduce face and head injuries.
Not wearing PPE when it is required is a serious safety issue.
Unfortunately, this is where the problem lies, it doesn’t always get used properly or consistently, which can lead to accidents in the workplace.
Other consequences include: additional citations, increases in workers’ compensation premiums and a negative perception of the company. And, of course, there are always the impacts to the injured employee – financial and emotional.
When implementing PPE as part of your safety program:
- Address the hazards present.
- Match PPE to the hazard. Will one layer of PPE be sufficient or do you need multiple layers?
- Consider the ergonomics of the PPE. Does it fit comfortably and is there flexibility in choice? Fit each worker on an individual basis.
- Ensure regular maintenance.
- Conduct training.
- Monitor the program.
Use of personal protective equipment when required needs to be part of the company’s safety policy. If it is not, it will be difficult for the company to hold employees accountable to using PPE.