Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) are designed to protect workers from workplace related hazards. For every type of a workplace hazard, there is a specific PPE. The worker must know which PPE they should use after judging the work environment. They can clearly judge what equipment they require if they are properly trained by their employer. It is the responsibility of the employer to make sure workforce is properly trained to judge the hazards and pick up the most suitable PPE while working in a harmful environment. Moreover, the PPE should fit the worker properly. Unfitting PPE is as good as not wearing it at all.
Basic protections offered by PPE
Each member of the workforce should know the properties of the PPE and the protections they offer before he makes a choice for a PPE. A glove can not protect a worker from glare arising out of welding. So they should choose the PPE sensibly after judging the workplace for hazards and the protection PPE offer against the hazard.
- Protection from head injuries: While canopies and shed covered sidewalks may be present at the workplace to protect the worker from falling objects but there are many working environments where these structures may not be present to aid the worker. In these situations, he has to be particularly dependent on hard hats for protecting his head against hazards. These include falling objects, penetrative objects and electrical contacts. OSHA also provides guidelines to the workers to get their hair properly set to prevent them from getting stuck into working machine parts like chains and belts.
- Protection from foot and leg injuries: Injuries can be sustained by the workers due to wet, slippery or hot work floors. Injuries can also be caused due to presence of sharp objects and live electrical wires at the workplace. These can be averted by the use of foot guards, leggings and safety shoes.
- Protection from eye and face injuries: Most workplaces have flying fragments of dirt and particles. In some other working environments, splashing molten metal and flying sparks are common. Glare and optical radiations are common in occupations like welding. Workers working in such environments must wear spectacles, goggles, shields and helmets with side protection to protect their face and eyes from related workplace hazards.
- Protection from hearing loss: Often workplaces are marked with heavy machinery working round the clock. Prolonged exposure to such noise can lead to irreversible ailments and hearing problems. Workers must wear earplugs made of foam, waxed cotton or fiberglass wool. They generally fit well in the ears. They should be cleaned regularly or else replaced if not possible to clean.
- Protection from hand and body injury: Sometimes workers have to work in environments containing harmful chemical and particles that can harm the hands through cutting, heating and getting electrocuted. Gloves provide the basic protection to the hands against such hazards.
Some other times, workers have to work in environment that mandates them to cover their whole body to protect themselves from hazards like heat, radiation, spilling chemicals and hot metals, etc. workers have to wear body suits made up of rubber, plastic, fire retardant material to protect themselves from such hazards.
- Protection for respiratory organs: When the work environment contains harmful fumes, gases, smoke, dust and vapors etc, respirators should be used for breathing purpose. Normal breathing can lead to dangerous illness and injuries. However, the masks should cover the nose, mouth or entire face and they should fit properly. Respirators should be approved NIOSH and proper training regarding their use has to provided to the workers using them.
Though PPE are a last resort for defense against hazards, they must be used without fail and negligence. In case all the primary protections fail, PPE offer good amount of protection to the worker from the hazard. Workers should have the proper knowledge and training about the usage of PPE.