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What Is Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)?

Posted by EHS Insight Resources on August 6, 2018 at 10:15 AM

Helmets, safety glasses, goggles, full body suits, respirators, gloves, ear protection – they all have different functions, but their goal is the same: to protect the wearer from potential health and safety hazards.

What Is Personal Protective Equipment?

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is the collective term of wearable equipment and gear that’s meant to protect the wearer from hazards. For instance, protection like earplugs or earmuffs is crucial in noisy environments. Gloves should be used when handling chemicals. Construction workers wear hard hats on construction sites to protect their heads from falling debris.

There are myriad pieces of PPE in a given organization, and their benefits shouldn’t go ignored.

PPE Isn’t Just a Good Idea – It’s Every Worker’s Right

According to OSHA, every worker whose job could put them at risk should have access to PPE. Every worker deserves to receive training and information about workplace hazards they might be exposed to, as well as the opportunity to review any injuries and illnesses that have occurred as a result of the workplace.

Employees also have the right to file a complaint with OSHA if they believe there is a workplace hazard that the employer is not preventing or complying with OSHA’s rules.

Part of every employer’s responsibility to maintain a safe work environment is to provide appropriate PPE that mitigates risk to the employees. It’s up to you to recognize when PPE is necessary, what devices are necessary, and train employees on how and when to use PPE. In addition, you must also provide training as to the limitations of PPE, how to maintain each piece of equipment, and how to properly dispose of the equipment when it is no longer functional.

Doing all of the above can help ensure that every employee receives adequate protection while on the job, which in turn keeps them and your company safe.

Best Practices for Using PPE in the Workplace

Simply offering personal protective equipment at work isn’t enough to reap its benefits. Take a look at the following best practices so that your PPE can effectively do the job it was designed for:

Purchasing

  • Consider the type of equipment needed and how many employees will need to use it at any given time. It’s important you purchase enough of each type of PPE so there’s never a gap in defense.
  • It can pay off to do your homework on various vendors and variations of PPE. Take a little time to explore your options, including warranties and servicing options.

Implementation

  • You should plan to train your employees on how to properly use the equipment, when to use it, and how to put on and remove the equipment. Even small variations from the normal methods can result in equipment failure.
  • Make sure your employees know that wearing PPE for tasks is not an option.
  • Consider disciplinary measures for employees who do not take the proper precautions.

Maintenance

  • Equipment should be regularly inspected for wear and tear and other defects. A good idea is to perform a visual inspection before and after the equipment is used each time.
  • All equipment should be in proper working order at all times.
  • Create an easy system for employees to report defects and remove equipment from commission.
  • You should also have a plan in place on how to service equipment. Having a vendor already assigned to the role can help you keep your equipment in good working order at all times.

Disposal

  • It’s never a good idea to keep dysfunctional PPE in the workplace, even when it’s clearly labeled as Do Not Use. This puts you at risk for employees mistakenly using this bad equipment, which could put their health and safety in jeopardy.
  • Understand how to properly dispose of PPE to avoid contamination, unauthorized use, and mixups.

PPE Improves Safety for Everyone

Using personal protective equipment in the workplace has been proven to reduce injuries, accidents, and other occupational risks when used correctly. As long as you provide adequate training, conduct routine inspections, and have enough supply on hand to protect all employees, your PPE will contribute to a safer work environment. It’s the right move for you, your company, and your employees, and the results will speak for themselves.

Featured resource: 5 Ways to Strengthen Your Safety Culture

Topics: Safety Equipment, Workplace Health and Safety, Safety Management, Training Management, Incident Management

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