OSHA standards require the use of PPE to reduce employee exposure to hazards when engineering and administrative controls are not feasible or effective in reducing these exposures to acceptable levels. Employers are required to determine if PPE should be used to protect their workers and they must also make sure employees use and maintain PPE in a sanitary and reliable condition.
In general, employers are responsible for:
In general, employees should be:
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With few exceptions, OSHA requires employers to pay for personal protective equipment used to comply with OSHA standards.
Employers cannot require workers to provide their own PPE. Employees who use their own PPE must do so voluntarily. Even if an employee provides his or her own PPE, the employer must still ensure the equipment is adequate to protect the worker from hazards at the workplace.
Employers must pay for the following:
Employers are not required to pay for some PPE in certain circumstances:
Safety belts, also called body belts, are worn around the waist to help employees working at heights correctly position themselves in front of a work area or to prevent them from falling over an edge. Safety belts connect to positioning and restraint lanyards that are attached to an anchor point on a building or structure.
Body belts should not be considered personal protective equipment if they do not adequately protect employees from being injured if they fall. OSHA does not allow the use of safety body belts as part of a personal fall arrest system (PFAS). They may only be used for positioning a worker.
Employees may be allowed or even encouraged by the employer to use back belts to provide support for the lower back while lifting heavy objects at work. However, the use of back belts is not recognized by OSHA an adequate control measure to prevent back injury when lifting heavy objects. While back belts may be acceptable to workers because they seem to provide additional support, they may restrict the body's range of motion and eventually cause injury due to atrophy of back muscles. Research by NIOSH indicates that the primary value in back belts is that they "remind" the employee to use proper lifting techniques.
Clothing must be worn which is appropriate to the work performed and conditions encountered. Loose sleeves, ties, lapels, cuffs, or other loose clothing must not be worn near moving machinery.
Make sure that you immediately remove clothing that becomes saturated or impregnated with flammable liquids, corrosive or toxic substances, irritants, or oxidizing agents. Don't wear it again until it's properly cleaned.
Of course, defective or damaged personal protective equipment must not be used. It's important to inspect PPE regularly, and before each use, to make sure it's capable of adequately protecting an employee from exposure to hazards. Remember, PPE that is defective is not PPE.
All PPE clothing and equipment should be of safe design and construction, and should be maintained in a clean and reliable fashion. Employers should take the fit and comfort of PPE into consideration when selecting appropriate items for their workplace. PPE that fits well and is comfortable to wear will encourage employee use of PPE. Most protective devices are available in multiple sizes and care should be taken to select the proper size for each employee. If several different types of PPE are worn together, make sure they are compatible. If PPE does not fit properly, it can make the difference between being safely covered or dangerously exposed. It may not provide the level of protection desired and may discourage employee use.
To help determine the best PPE for the job, conduct a hazard assessment of each employee's task, the likelihood that the employee would be injured without PPE, and the severity of a potential injury. For example:The task: A worker uses a plasma cutter to remove the bottom of a 55-gallon drum that contains traces of motor oil. His only PPE is a pair of synthetic gloves. The outcome: The drum explodes and the worker receives severe burns on his face and hands. An effective PPE hazard assessment would produce the following information:
You are told to mix a certain chemical with water to use as a cleaning agent to wash down your company trucks. You check out the chemical. It looks like water, doesn't feel any different than water... so you assume PPE isn't really necessary. So, you go about washing the trucks. Your hands and arms get pretty wet with the solution you've mixed, but, heck... no pain, no sting... must be safe. No worse than water, right? Wrong, very wrong.
You've been using a mixture of hydrofluoric acid and water. By the time you get home your arms are hurting like crazy. You hurry off to the hospital, but by the time you arrive, it's too late. The hydrofluoric acid has penetrated your skin on both of your arms, clear through to the bone. Fluorine ions have replaced calcium ions in the bone, effectively turning it into a sponge-like consistency. But, you are lucky; only one arm must be amputated. The doctors were able to save the other arm.
This scenario would not have occurred had you been properly trained in using PPE. The PPE standard mandates the employer must provide "hands-on-how-to" (practice) training to each employee who is required to use Personal Protective Equipment. To meet the minimum training requirements, each employee receiving PPE training must be trained to know at least the following:
So far, we meet minimum OSHA requirements... but one very important element is missing: The PPE standard does not specifically require education on "why" PPE is necessary.
So, why is this element so important? Because study after study tells us the most common reason employees don't follow rules in the workplace is because they don't know why the rules are important.
Protective eye and face devices must comply with ANZI Z87.1, "American National Standard Practice for Occupational and Educational Eye and Face Protection," and OSHA Standard 1910.133, Eye and Face Protection.
Protective eyeglasses or spectacles are made with safety frames, tempered glass or plastic lenses, temples and side shields which provide eye protection from moderate impact and particles encountered in job tasks such as carpentry, woodworking, grinding, scaling, etc. Safety glasses are also available in prescription form for those persons who need corrective lenses.
These normally consist of an adjustable headgear and face shield of tinted/transparent acetate or polycarbonate materials, or wire screen. Face shields are available in various sizes, tensile strength, impact/heat resistance and light ray filtering capacity.
Face shields may be used in operations when the entire face needs protection and should be worn to protect eyes and face against flying particles, metal sparks, and chemical/biological splash.
These shield assemblies consist of:
These shields will be provided to protect workers' eyes and face from infrared and ultraviolet light burns to the retina, flying sparks, metal spatter, and slag chips encountered during:
Respiratory Protection is important when employees are exposed to potentially hazardous atmospheres. Respirator use must conform to ANSI/ASSE Z88.2, Practices for Respiratory Protection, and OSHA Standard 1910.134, Respiratory Protection.
To understand how respirators can be used to protect employees, it is important to understand what a respirator is and what it is not. A respirator protects against respiratory hazards by removing specific air contaminants from the ambient (surrounding) air or by supplying breathable air from a safe source.
The air-purifying respirator, or “APR,” has an air-purifying filter, cartridge, or canister that removes specific air contaminants, such as particulates, gases, and vapors, or both from the air.
Selecting an appropriate filter, cartridge, or canister can be complicated because there are many types, and none protect against all contaminants. That’s why it’s necessary to identify each respiratory hazard in your workplace before you select a respirator.
Air-purifying respirators are available in non-powered and powered types:
Atmosphere-supplying respirators are used to provide breathing air from a source independent of the ambient atmosphere. Respirators that supply breathing air are generally used in highly hazardous work environments. It is critical that such respirator systems provide breathing air of optimal quality and that the equipment operates reliably.
The two types of atmosphere-supplying respirators are:
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This OSHA video highlights the steps in how to properly use different types of air-purifying and atmosphere-supplying respirators. The video also discusses employer responsibilities to employees under OSHA 1910.134 Respiratory Protection Standard.