Protecting employees from potential head injuries is a key element of any safety program. A head injury can impair an employee for life or it can be fatal. Wearing a safety helmet or hard hat is one of the easiest ways to protect an employee's head from injury. Hard hats can protect employees from impact and penetration hazards as well as from electrical shock and burn hazards.
Employers must ensure that their employees wear head protection if any of the following apply:
When there is a potential in the workplace for injury to the head from falling objects, the employer must make sure that each affected employee wears a protective helmet.
Some examples of work that might require helmets to protect from falling objects include:
The second situation requiring a helmet is to protect the worker from electrical hazards. Whenever an employee works near exposed electrical conductors which could contact the head, the employer must make sure that a protective helmet designed to reduce electrical shock hazard is worn by the employee.
The employer should also furnish and make sure all employees and contractors engaged in construction and other miscellaneous work use proper head protection. Engineers, inspectors, and visitors at construction sites must also wear protective helmets when hazards from falling or fixed objects, or electrical shock are present.
When selecting head protection, knowledge of potential for falling objects and electrical hazards is important. When it's determined that these hazards exist, choose the most appropriate helmet from the categories listed below.
Bump caps/skull guards should be issued and worn for protection against scalp lacerations from contact with sharp objects. However, it's very important to understand that they must not be worn as substitutes for safety caps/hats because they do not provide protection from impact forces or penetration by falling objects.
Replacing hard hats. Hard hat manufacturers recommend replacing hard hats every five years regardless of outside appearance. Work under extreme conditions, such as exposure to high temperatures, chemicals, or sunlight, may require hard hats to be replaced after two years of use. Some manufacturers recommend replacing hard hat suspensions every 12 months. It's important to review each work site to ensure that degradation of employees' hard hats is not being accelerated due to work conditions.
Painting hard hats. ANSI Z89.1-2003 Appendix A4 cautions workers be careful when painting hard hat shells since some paints and thinners may attack and damage the shell and reduce protection levels. It's important to consult the hard hat manufacturer before painting hard hats.
Wearing hard hats backwards. Hard hats may be worn reversed if "reverse donning arrow" marking is present. A non-mandatory test protocol allows hard hat manufacturers to test the helmet and mark it with the "reverse donning arrow." This means the helmet can be worn frontward or backward in accordance with the manufacturer's wearing instructions.
Check out this short audio clip by Dan Clark of the theSafetyBrief.com. Hard hat selection and care is critical to safety. It’s your brain. Keep it in a good bucket. Hear about the Types and Classes of safety helmets in this podcast. Dan Clark describes Type I and Type II hard hats, and how they are designed for impacts from the top and side.
Most companies use some type of chemicals in their workplaces. Some of these chemicals are hazardous and require PPE to protect employees against toxic effects. More than any other part of the body, our hands are most likely to contact these hazardous chemicals. Employees may be exposed to the chemical hazards listed below:
But, hazardous chemicals are not the only worry. Employees may also be exposed to other hazards that could injure their hands.
These hazards include:
Consequently, it's crucial that employers select and require employees to use appropriate hand protection when exposed to any of these hazards.
Your skin absorbs almost any chemical it contacts - water, acids, bases, solvents, oils, etc. - if its molecular weight is 500 Dalton or less. That's why it's important to work closely with a PPE supplier to select and use appropriate hand protection based on an evaluation of the performance characteristics of the hand protection.
To select hand protection, evaluate the characteristics of the task in which the hand protection is required. To do that, assess and analyze each of the following:
OSHA is unaware of any gloves that provide protection against all potential hand hazards. Commonly available glove materials provide only limited protection against many chemicals. Therefore, it is important to select the most appropriate glove for a particular application as well as to determine how long it can be worn and whether it can be reused.
Chemicals will eventually soak through or "permeate" most glove materials rendering them unsafe. Gloves can be used safely for limited time periods if specific use and other characteristics (i.e., thickness, permeation rate and time) are known. Your PPE supplier can be an excellent expert source to assist in determining the specific type of glove material that should be worn for a particular chemical.
Read the instructions and warnings on chemical container labels and SDSs before working with any chemical. Recommended glove types are often listed in the section for personal protective equipment. However, it's important to check with your PPE supplier to make sure the list is current and accurate.
When selecting gloves for protection against chemical hazards, consider the following:
Skin contact is a potential source of exposure to toxic materials; it is important that the proper steps be taken to prevent such contact. Most accidents involving hands and arms can be classified under four main hazard categories: chemicals, abrasions, cutting, and heat. There are gloves available that can protect workers from any of these individual hazards or any combination thereof.
Gloves should be replaced periodically, depending on frequency of use and permeability to the substance(s) handled. Gloves overtly contaminated should be rinsed and then carefully removed after use. With this in mind, there are two important characteristics of gloves to consider.
Permeation rate: The permeation rate measures the length of time it takes a given material (glove) to become saturated by the chemical through absorption.
Breakthrough or Penetration rate: The penetration rate measures the speed with which a given chemical breaks through the layer(s) of the glove to contact the skin.
Gloves should also be worn whenever it is necessary to handle rough or sharp-edged objects, and very hot or very cold materials. The type of glove material to be used in these situations includes leather, welder's gloves, aluminum-backed gloves, and other types of insulated glove materials.
Careful attention must be given to protecting your hands when working with tools and machinery. Power tools and machinery must have guards installed or incorporated into their design that prevent the hands from contacting the point of operation, power train, or other moving parts. To protect hands from injury due to contact with moving parts, it is important to:
Check out this short audio clip by Dan Clark of the theSafetyBrief.com. Safety gloves and skin protection can help fingers last a lifetime. Hear about many types of work gloves and how to treat your hands in this podcast.
Below is a guide to the most common types of protective work gloves and the types of hazards they can guard against:
When selecting chemical resistance gloves, be sure to consult the manufacturer's recommendations, especially if the gloved hand will be immersed in the chemical.
|Natural rubber||Low cost, good physical properties, dexterity||Poor vs. oils, greases, organics. Frequently imported; may be poor quality||Bases, alcohols, dilute water solutions; fair vs. aldehydes, ketones.|
|Natural rubber blends||Low cost, dexterity, better chemical resistance than natural rubber vs. some chemicals||Physical properties frequently inferior to natural rubber||Same as natural rubber|
|Polyvinyl chloride (PVC)||Low cost, very good physical properties, medium cost, medium chemical resistance||Plasticizers can be stripped; frequently imported; may be poor quality||Strong acids and bases, salts, other water solutions, alcohols|
|Neoprene||Medium cost, medium chemical resistance, medium physical properties||NA||Oxidizing acids, anilines, phenol, glycol ethers|
|Nitrile||Low cost, excellent physical properties, dexterity||Poor vs. benzene, methylene chloride, trichloroethylene, many ketones||Oils, greases, aliphatic chemicals, xylene, perchloroethylene, trichloroethane; fair vs. toluene|
|Butyl||Specialty glove, polar organics||Expensive, poor vs. hydrocarbons, chlorinated solvents||Glycol ethers, ketones, esters|
|Polyvinyl alcohol (PVA)||Specialty glove, resists a very broad range of organics, good physical properties||Very expensive, water sensitive, poor vs. light alcohols||Aliphatics, aromatics, chlorinated solvents, ketones (except acetone), esters, ethers|
|Fluoro- elastomer (Viton)||Specialty glove, organic solvents||Extremely expensive, poor physical properties, poor vs. some ketones, esters, amines||Aromatics, chlorinated solvents, also aliphatics and alcohols|
|Norfoil (Silver Shield)||Excellent chemical resistance||Poor fit, easily punctures, poor grip, stiff||Use for Hazmat work|
The employer must make sure that each affected employee uses protective footwear when working in areas where there is a danger of foot injuries due to:
Protective footwear purchased after July 5, 1994 must comply with ANSI Z41-1991, ANSI Z41-1999, or ASTM F-2413-2005, "Standard Specification for Performance Requirements for Protective Footwear" (before July 5, 1994 - ANSI Z41.1-1967) or must be demonstrated by the employer to be equally effective.
Footwear that meets established safety standards will have an American National Standards Institute (ANSI) label inside each shoe.
These shoes are designed to protect feet from common machinery hazards such as falling or rolling objects, cuts, and punctures. The entire toe box and insole are reinforced with steel, and the instep is protected by steel, aluminum, or plastic materials. Safety shoes are also designed to insulate against temperature extremes and may be equipped with special soles to guard against slips, chemicals, and/or electrical hazards.
Safety boots offer more protection when splash or spark hazards (chemicals, molten materials) are present.
As mentioned in the previous section, safety shoes and boots should provide protection from impact, compression, and punctures.
There are many types and styles of protective head, hand and foot gear. It's important to realize that a particular job may require additional protection other than those discussed in this module.