Factors to Consider When Choosing Personal Protective Equipment

Ensuring that you and your employees are warm and safe while wearing proper PPE (personal protective equipment) is not an easy task.  In selecting PPE, there are certain third parties such as ANSI (American National Standards Institute) that certify equipment for efficacy.  Equipment without ANSI approval has not been tested as effective and is considered similar to a costume even if they still look the part.

OSHA standard 29 CFR 1926.28 sites compliance for the construction industry.  Initial evaluation of workplace hazards based on the tasks of the job at hand will provide a direction for which PPE to provide and the level of hazard or contaminants, chemicals that you or your employees will come in contact with.  Here are some quick tips in choosing the correct equipment and making sure it is in good working order:

  • Eyes Safety glasses, goggles are determined for use based on OHSA Standard CFR 1910.133 when workers are exposed to eye or face hazards such as flying objects, molten metal, liquid chemicals, acids or caustic liquids, chemical gases or vapors, or potentially injurious light radiation.  Employers must provide adequate eye protection when encountering these potential hazards. As a continuation of eye protection face shields should be used in welding operations.
  • Heads Should be adequately protected using hard hats if there is a chance of debris falling or if there is a chance of employees bumping their heads.     
  • Feet Should be protected in proper safety shoes; determine what level of protection you require – moderate can be accomplished by a composite toe and should be utilized if dealing with electrical hazards, steel toe footwear is suited for more adequate toe protection with heavier potential hazards.  
  • Hands and arms OSHA Standard CFR 1910.138 – the are many gloves designed and certified for different tasks – electrically rated gloves, those for chemical protection, cuts, punctures and abrasions such as wood, nails, shingles  
  • Bodies – High visibility vests- There are many significant issues  to consider when making the final hazard and safety assessments that will help you determine the most appropriate type of apparel for your situation. The first consideration is the National, State, and local standards and regulations.  A key to selecting the right apparel is to consider which will offer the best visibility with comfort in daytime, low-light, and nighttime conditions in a variety of work environments. 
  • Hearing – Ear plugs, earmuffs are determined based on the time weighted average of the employee’s daily activities.  If the time weighted (8-hour average) is at 85 decibels or above a hearing protection program is required and must include proper hearing protection.  

If Personal Protective Equipment is to be utilized, a PPE program should be implemented.  This program should address all of the hazards present; the selection, maintenance, and use of properly fitting PPE; the training of employees; and observation of the program to ensure its ongoing usefulness.  As weather conditions change and the weather becomes much colder in many parts of the country, ensure that your PPE is conditioned for warmth as well as protection.

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