Course 600 - Introduction to Occupational Safety and Health

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Personal Protective Equipment

Image of Man Wearing PPE
PPE, such as the gloves and eye protection seen here, must be provided to the employee at no cost.

What is Required?

OSHA requires the use of personal protective equipment (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 have an obligation to provide PPE, including personal protective equipment for eyes, face, head, and extremities, and protective clothing and barriers. Employers must also make sure employees use and maintain PPE in a sanitary and reliable condition.

What is Proper Use?

Personal Protective Equipment must be worn and used in a manner that will make full use of its protective qualities. Personal protective equipment used incorrectly potentially exposes an employee to hazards, defeating the idea behind using PPE.

Low rates of compliance in wearing PPE usually indicate the safety management system is failing in some way.

When employees don't wear or use PPE correctly, it is usually because the employer:

  • does not provide quality PPE;
  • does not properly supervise the use of PPE;
  • fails to enforce the use of PPE; or
  • does not properly train employees on the use of PPE.

1. Who is responsible for determining if PPE should be used for protection?

a. employee
b. employer
c. OSHA inspector
d. union representative

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What Subjects Must be Trained?

Image of Man Wearing PPE
Workers using high voltage arc-flash electrical protective equipment.

According to the standard, to meet the minimum training requirements, each employee receiving PPE training must be trained to know at least the following topics:

  1. when PPE is necessary,
  2. what PPE is necessary,
  3. how to properly don, doff, adjust, and wear PPE,
  4. the limitations of the PPE, and
  5. the proper care, maintenance, useful life, and disposal of the PPE.

So far, we meet minimum OSHA requirements, but one very important topic is missing:

  1. why PPE is necessary

Why is this topic so important? Because study after study tells us the most common reason employees don't follow the rules in the workplace is because they don't know why the rules are important.

Teaching “what, when, and how to use PPE, and its limitations increase knowledge and skill.

2. What is the most common reason employees do not use PPE?

a. they don't know why using PPE is important
b. manager don't use it when it's needed
c. the PPE is uncomfortable
d. employees don't know how to use it

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Educate the "Why"

Image of Man Wearing PPE
Knowing why PPE is important can save your life.

As we mentioned previously, the first five topic elements in the list required by OSHA describe the "what, when, and how" of PPE use. The goal is to increase both knowledge and skill, so the employee is better able to properly use PPE.

The methods used to train the employee are primarily discussion and hands-on demonstration. To measure knowledge and skill, the instructor usually tests the employee by asking them to demonstrate using the PPE (harness, respirators, etc.).

Educate About the Consequences

The final "why" training topic addresses the importance of using PPE and what the consequences of behavior (compliance and failure to comply) will be. There are two primary types of consequences:

  • Natural consequences include some form of resulting injury or illness to the employee that inevitably occurs. For instance, a natural consequence might be an eye injury as a result of not using eye protection.
  • System consequences describe the discipline or recognition given by others in the company in response to the employee's performance. For example, an employee might be recognized for properly using PPE during a hazardous task.

The goal of this last element is to increase employee motivation to use PPE. When employees understand the consequences, they are more likely to use PPE properly and consistently.

The goal of teaching the "why" is to increase employee motivation to use PPE.

3. Which of the following is a system consequence that may result from not wearing PPE when required?

a. cancer
b. dizziness and nausea
c. a reprimand
d. a knee injury

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Demonstration is the Key

Before an employee is allowed to do work requiring PPE, the employer must require each affected employee to demonstrate:

  • an understanding of the training topics, and
  • the skills and ability to use PPE properly.
Image of Man Wearing PPE
Demonstration of skills proves adequate knowledge and ability.

Demonstration is the most common and probably the most efficient method to determine employee knowledge and skills. How does the employee demonstrate an understanding of the six PPE training subjects listed previously? Simple, their level of knowledge is measured by asking the employee questions similar to those listed below.

  • What PPE is required for your particular job?
  • When is the PPE required to be used in your job?
  • What are the possible defects your PPE might have?
  • How do you properly care for and maintain/store your PPE?
  • What is the useful life of your PPE?
  • From what hazards does the PPE protect you?

The form of the "test" may be either written or oral. However, if you are training a number of employees, you should give them a written test to measure individual knowledge. It's also the intent of most OSHA standards that knowledge be measured by written exams. Thorough documentation of PPE training is required. We will discuss how to document PPE training in section 6.

It is the intent of most OSHA law that knowledge is measured by written exams.

4. How does the trainer determine if an employee has the necessary skills to properly use in PPE?

a. The employee demonstrates proper use to the trainer
b. The group answers oral questions asked in class
c. The employee complete written exams
d. Each employee answers oral questions asked by the trainer

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Who Should Conduct the Training?

Image of Man Wearing PPE
Competent persons should conduct training.
(Click to Enlarge)

This is a very important question. Whoever the person training PPE is, he or she needs to be an expert who not only understands how to use PPE correctly but has a thorough understanding of the importance of doing so. It's critical that the employee understands the importance of wearing PPE, not only for their safety but their "continuing employment."

The employer must verify each affected employee has received and understood the required training by a competent person.

Training Documentation

PPE training must be completed using a written certification document containing:

  1. the name of each employee trained,
  2. the date(s) of training, and
  3. the subject of the certification.

When documenting safety training, and specifically PPE training, it's also important to formally certify employees have demonstrated (proved) to the trainer, adequate knowledge and skills with respect to safety training.

PPE training documentation will be strengthened when it contains the elements below:

  • a statement by the employee that they have received training by the employer on the six subjects listed previously, and that the trainer has demonstrated proper use of the PPE and answered all employee questions about PPE use satisfactorily; and
  • a statement by the trainer that, through an oral or written test, the employee has satisfactorily demonstrated an understanding of the subjects covered during training, and has, through practice, demonstrated the skills needed to properly don, doff, use, care for, and maintain the PPE.

5. To strengthen PPE training beyond minimum requirements, the trainer should _____.

a. state the date and location of the PPE training
b. list the name of each employee completing the training
c. certify employees have demonstrated proper use of PPE
d. include the number asked during the group's oral test

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When is Retraining Required?

Image of Man Wearing PPE
Annual retraining is important to maintain PPE skills that are not used regularly.
(Click to Enlarge)

When the employer has reason to believe any affected employee who has already been trained does not have the understanding and skill required by the PPE standard, the employer must retrain the employee.

Retraining is required but is not limited to situations where:

  • when the use of PPE is only required rarely;
  • changes in the workplace render previous training obsolete;
  • changes in the types of PPE to be used render previous training obsolete; or
  • deficiencies in an affected employee's knowledge or use of assigned PPE indicate that the employee has not retained the requisite understanding or skill

Online Training

According to an OSHA letter of interpretation (February 4, 2009) about online training, an employer may not rely solely on the use of an online or video training program when training the use of PPE.

According to OSHA, the trainee must be able to "don, doff, touch, feel and otherwise manipulate a particular piece of personal protective equipment that an employer may require or provide to protect their employees from injury or illness." To be considered adequate, online PPE training must also include a hands-on practice component so that the employee can practice using the employer's specific PPE.

PPE training must include a hands-on portion so employees can practice using the PPE.

6. Why is online training alone NOT sufficient to meet OSHA's PPE training requirements?

a. The type of PPE training given is at the discretion of the employer
b. PPE training only requires knowledge-level training
c. OSHA rules require employees to practice using PPE before using
d. OSHA requires employees to take a written test

Check your Work

Read the material in each section to find the correct answer to each quiz question. After answering all the questions, click on the "Check Quiz Answers" button to grade your quiz and see your score. You will receive a message if you forgot to answer one of the questions. After clicking the button, the questions you missed will be listed below. You can correct any missed questions and check your answers again.

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Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

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