5-Minute Safety Talk: Personal Protective Equipment

The use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is an OSHA requirement. Every job has some sort of hazard that PPE can minimize. Employers must evaluate each job to determine hazards that are existant or may arise. Employees should understand how to use the required PPE and know how to maintain and properly clean it.

Hand Protection

There are about 500,000 work-related injuries to employees’ hands and fingers. There are four basic types of hazards:

  • Mechanical hazards which cause cuts, punctures, scrapes or crushing.
  • Environmental hazards such as extreme cold or heat.
  • Irritating substances from chemicals or germs.
  • Electrical hazards that cause shock or burns.
  • Your employer will first try to eliminate hazards with engineering controls like machine guards and improved workplace design. After that, PPE may be required.There are many types of handwear for all sorts of different hazards.

Eye Protection

Safety glasses (those that meet ANSI 2.87 standard) and full face shields provide protection against the impact of particles and wood slivers. If there are chemicals in use, specialized chemical goggles must be used. These types of devices form a seal around the user’s face, so that the chemicals won’t contact your eyes.

  • Adequately protect against the particular hazards for which they are designed.
  • Be reasonably comfortable when worn under the designated conditions.
  • Fit snugly without interference of movement or vision.
  • Durable, capable of being cleaned and disinfected.

Foot Protection

Typical examples of foot protection include various types of footwear that are appropriate for the hazard.

  • Safety shoes – have toe guards such as steel, reinforced plastic and hard rubber, that meet ANSI regulations (2.89) for protective footwear.
  • Metatarsal guards – instep guards to protect the top of the shoe, rather than just the toes.
  • Conductive shoes – prevent the accumulation of static electricity.
  • Electrical hazard shoes – offer protection against shock hazards from contact with exposed surfaces.
  • Puncture resistant shoes – protect against the hazard of stepping on sharp objects that can penetrate shoes.
  • Slip resistant shoes – have soles which provide improved traction in situations where slipping hazards exist.

Respiratory Protection

Respirators protect against chemicals, dusts, fibers, and in some cases – oxygen deficiencies. Many OSHA standards identify a concentration limit. The type of respirator will be different based on what hazards exist.

There are two basic types of respirators:

  • Atmosphere-supplying respirators provide clean breathing air from a source that is separated from the contaminated area.
  • Air purifying respirators pass contaminated air through filters, cartridges or cannisters to clean the air as it is breathed.

Head Protection

Hard hats are used to protect against impacts due to falling tools, other objects or contact with overhead structures such as pipes or ducts. Head protection is ANSI rated. There must be a label that describes this inside the hard hat. There are two classes of hard hats: type 1 has a full brim that is at least 1.25 inches wide; and, type 2 has no brim and has a peak extending forward from the crown.

There are three classes of hard hats:

Class A – provides general service and limited voltage protection. These hats are used for protection against impact.
Class B – provides utility service and high voltage protection. These hats, used mostly in electrical work, protect the employee from impact and penetration from falling, flying objects and high voltage shock or burns.
Class C – These hats provide lightweight comfort and impact protection, and are used when there is no danger of electrial hazards.

Fall Arrest Protection

A typical example is a full body harness with an attached expandable “rip-stitch” lanyard. This type of protection is used whenever persons work at heights where they are exposed to a fall hazard of greater than 4 feet.

Fall protection consists of:

  • an anchor point
  • connectors
  • body harness
  • lanyard, deceleration device, lifeline or a combination of these.