Personal Protective Equipment
The workplace contains numerous hazards to which our employees may be exposed, and as employers it is our responsibility to protect our workers from these hazards to the highest degree possible.
There are three primary means of hazard control:
- Eliminate the hazard through redesign or substitution. This is referred to as Engineering Controls.
- Revise policies and/or procedures to perform the task differently. This process is know as Administrative Controls.
- The third method of protecting the employee is to provide Personal Protective Equipment.
Personnel Protective Equipment (PPE) is considered a last resort for employee protection after Engineering Controls and Administrative Controls have been exhausted and/or proven inadequate. PPE will not eliminate the hazard nor remove the employees from the hazardous area; it simply adds a barrier between the employees and the hazard.
There are many different types of PPE but there are a few basics such as gloves, eye protection and hearing protection. Some job assignments may require more extensive PPE such as hard hats, respirators, specialized gloves (such as Kevlar for meat cutters), chemical resistant aprons and boots, or a combination of several types of PPE.
In order to select the proper PPE, the tasks to be performed need to be examined to determine what hazards are involved in the process.
- Does eye damage potential exist from dust, chips, sparks, or other hazards which will require the use of eye protection?
- Is there excessive noise in the area or when a particular task is being performed which might trigger the need for hearing protection?
Employers are required to make these determinations and provide, free of charge, any PPE required, with a few exceptions: PPE requested by an employee even after it has been determined that the requested PPE is not required (employee convenience), steel toed safety shoes, prescription safety glasses, lost PPE, or any PPE purposefully destroyed or altered by an employee - such as drilling holes in a hard hat for ventilation.
Once the determination has been made as to what, if any, PPE is required and it has been provided to the employee, there must be a disciplinary policy in place which spells out the consequences of deviation from the policy. In other words, "failure to wear required eye protection may result in disciplinary action up to and including termination of employment.”
With a combination of Engineering Controls, Administrative Controls and the proper selection and utilization of Personal Protective Equipment, exposure to hazards and the potential for injury can be significantly reduced.