PPE Standard requirements provide mandatory rules to help employers provide the greatest possible protection for employees in the workplace. The cooperative efforts of both employers and employees will help in most effectively establishing and maintaining a safe and healthful work environment.
In general, employers are responsible for:
In general, employees should be:
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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.
Personal Protective Equipment must be worn and used in a manner that will make full use of its protective qualities.
Low rates of compliance in wearing PPE usually indicate the safety management system is failing in some way. Any one of the following root causes may result in general non-compliance:
There are many different types of PPE needed. Here is a list:
PPE is required wherever the conditions listed below are encountered that are capable of causing injury or impairment by being absorbed, inhaled, or physically contacted.
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 and the worker’s use of PPE they already own must be completely voluntary. Even when a worker provides his or her own PPE, the employer must ensure that 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:
All personal protective equipment must be of safe design and construction for the work to be performed.
The PPE rules require that rings, wristwatches, earrings, bracelets, and other jewelry must not be worn if it's possible for it to come into contact with power driven machinery or electric circuitry.
Why this rule? Read how this rule might have prevented some serious injuries.
De-gloving of a finger caused by a ring. From Bob F.
The accident occurred when the individual was jumping off the side of an Army tow truck. He placed his hand on the railing of the bed and jumped off. The ring caught on the side of truck bed. Upon reaching the ground, the ring had removed all the skin from the finger, leaving the muscles, bone and fingernail exposed.
The individual was rushed to an emergency room where the finger was inserted into the wall of the stomach area. A pedicle graft was performed using the skin from the stomach area. After more than eight operations and over 100 plus days in the hospital the finger is semi-useable.
Nothing but air? NOT! From Joan R.
I took care of a man who got his ring caught on a basketball hoop as he made a dunk and pulled his whole finger off--skin, bone, and all at the knuckle. Not a pretty sight.
It's important that you understand that back belts should not be considered personal protective equipment in that they physically "protect" you from back injuries.
Devices such as back belts are not recognized by OSHA as control measures to prevent back injury. While they may be accepted by individual workers because they feel as if they provide additional support, if used improperly, they may restrict the body's range of motion and possibly aggravate other ergonomic stressors in the job. Research indicates that the primary value in back belts, when used properly, is that they "remind" the employee to use proper lifting techniques. As a result, fewer back injuries occur. Thus, OSHA does not forbid the use of back belts and similar devices, nor does it endorse their use.
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.
A first critical step in developing a comprehensive safety and health program is to identify physical and health hazards in the workplace. This process is known as a "hazard assessment." Potential hazards may be physical or health-related and a comprehensive hazard assessment should identify hazards in both categories. Examples of physical hazards include moving objects, fluctuating temperatures, high intensity lighting, rolling or pinching objects, electrical connections and sharp edges. Examples of health hazards include overexposure to harmful dusts, chemicals or radiation.
The hazard assessment should begin with a walk-through survey of the facility to develop a list of potential hazards in the basic hazard categories below.
In addition to noting the basic layout of the facility and reviewing any history of occupational illnesses or injuries, things to look for during the walk-through survey include:
When the walk-through is complete, the employer should organize and analyze the data so that it may be efficiently used in determining the proper types of PPE required at the worksite. The employer should become aware of the different types of PPE available and the levels of protection offered. It is definitely a good idea to select PPE that will provide a level of protection greater than the minimum required to protect employees from hazards.
The workplace should periodically be reassessed for any changes in conditions, equipment or operating procedures that could affect occupational hazards. This periodic reassessment should also include a review of injury and illness records to spot any trends or areas of concern and taking appropriate corrective action. The suitability of existing PPE, including an evaluation of its condition and age, should be included in the reassessment.
Documentation of the hazard assessment is required through a written certification that includes the following information:
Below is a sample PPE Assessment Form.
If the person conducting the hazard assessment discovers that hazards requiring PPE are present, or likely to be present, then management must:
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.
OSHA requires that many categories of PPE meet or be equivalent to standards developed by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). ANSI has been preparing safety standards since the 1920s, when the first safety standard was approved to protect the heads and eyes of industrial workers. Employers who need to provide PPE in the categories listed below must make certain that any new equipment procured meets the cited ANSI standard. Existing PPE stocks must meet the ANSI standard in effect at the time of its manufacture or provide protection equivalent to PPE manufactured to the ANSI criteria. Employers should inform employees who provide their own PPE of the employer's selection decisions and ensure that any employee-owned PPE used in the workplace conforms to the employer's criteria, based on the hazard assessment, OSHA requirements and ANSI standards. OSHA requires PPE to meet the ANSI standards listed below.
To control hazards, a hierarchy of controls has been used as a means of determining how to implement feasible and effective controls. ANSI Z10-2012, Occupational Health and Safety Management Systems, encourages employers to employ the hierarchy of hazard control strategies listed below.
The idea behind this hierarchy is that the control methods at the top of the list are potentially more effective and protective than those at the bottom. Following the hierarchy normally leads to the implementation of inherently safer systems, ones where the risk of illness or injury has been substantially reduced. Let's take a closer look at the hierarchy of control strategies.
Elimination and Substitution. Elimination and substitution, while most effective at reducing hazards, also tend to be the most difficult to implement in an existing process. If the process is still at the design or development stage, elimination and substitution of hazards may be inexpensive and simple to implement. For an existing process, major changes in equipment and procedures may be required to eliminate or substitute for a hazard.
These strategies are considered first because they have the potential to completely eliminate the hazard, thus greatly reducing the probability of an accident. Redesigning or replacing equipment or machinery may be expensive, but remember that, according to the National Safety Council, the average direct and indirect cost of a lost work time injury is $34,000 and $1,115,000 to close a fatality claim.
Below are examples of these two strategies.
Engineering Controls. Workplace hazards may be corrected using engineering controls which may be thought of as replacing or redesigning machinery, equipment, and tools, and/or substituting materials. When elimination or substitution is not possible, engineering controls are the "first line of defense" against injury/illness, because they also have the potential to completely eliminate a hazard. Elimination, substitution and engineering controls do not rely on human behavior to be effective. For instance, rather than requiring employees to wear respiratory protection which must be monitored, inspected, trained, managed, it's much more effective to install a ventilation system that does not require any of those management activities.
Warnings. Although ANSI gives this strategy its own category, OSHA considers warning signs and other devices as administrative controls. They help to protect only by warning employees about the need to use PPE.
Administrative Controls. Administrative controls can be accomplished with the stroke of the pen. It involves changing or redesigning work procedures, rescheduling breaks, and changing the number of workers doing a job, to reduce the frequency and duration of exposure to hazards in the workplace.
Using administrative controls alone is not as effective as engineering controls because, in most cases, they only reduce exposure - they don't eliminate, substitute or engineer out the hazard. And even more importantly, administrative controls rely on human behavior (which introduces many variables in the long run) that must be continually managed.
Personal Protective Equipment. The important thing to remember here is that PPE alone should not be relied on to provide protection against hazards, but should be used in conjunction with administration and other controls.