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Course 709 - Personal Protective Equipment

Safety guides and audits to make your job as a safety professional easier

Head, Hand and Foot Protection

Head Protection

Hazard Assessment
Why we wear hard hats.

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:

  • Objects might fall from above and strike them on the head;
  • They might bump their heads against fixed objects, such as exposed pipes or beams; or
  • There is a possibility of accidental head contact with electrical hazards.

Falling Objects

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:

  • working below other workers who are using tools and materials which could fall;
  • working around or under conveyor belts which are carrying parts or materials; and
  • working below machinery or processes which might cause material or objects to fall.

Electrical hazards

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.

1. Employees must wear protective helmets in which of the following situations?

a. Exposure to excessive illumination
b. Exposure to falling objects and electrical conductors
c. Whenever the employee enters a workplace
d. Whenever they are exposed to any workplace hazard

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Selection Guidelines for Head Protection

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.

Impact Helmets

Type I Hard Hat
  • Type I: A helmet of Type I is designed to provide protection only to the top of the head. It is not intended to provide impact from side impacts. (This is by far the most commonly used type of hard hat in use.)
  • Type II: A helmet of Type II is designed to provide protection against both top and side impacts.

Electrical Classes

  • Class G (General): Class G helmets are intended to reduce the danger of contact exposure to low voltage conductors. Test samples are proof tested at 2200 volts (phase to ground). However, this voltage is not intended as an indication of the voltage at which the helmet protects the wearer.
  • Class E (Electrical): Class E helmets are intended to reduce the danger of exposure to high voltage conductors. Test samples are proof tested at 20,000 volts (phase to ground). However, this voltage is not intended as an indication of the voltage at which the helmet protects the wearer.
  • Class C (Conductive): Class C helmets are not intended to provide protection against contact with electrical conductors.
Hard Hat or Bump Cap - Scott Safety

Bump Caps

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.

2. What type of helmet only protects the top of the head?

a. Type 1
b. Type 2
c. Bump cap
d. Class E

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Hard Hat Considerations

Hazard Assessment
Regularly check the condition of your hard hat.

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 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.

3. According to manufacturer recommendations, how often may hard hats that have been exposed to extreme conditions need to be replaced?

a. Every year
b. Every 2 years
c. At least every 5 years
d. At least every 10 years

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Make sure safety gloves are the correct type for the specific substance.

Hand Protection

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:

  • Absorption of harmful substances
  • Chemical burns
  • Rashes

But, hazardous chemicals are not the only worry. Employees may also be exposed to other hazards that could injure their hands.

These hazards include:

Would these gloves protect against an acid?
  • cuts or lacerations;
  • abrasions;
  • punctures;
  • thermal burns; and
  • harmful temperature extremes.

Consequently, it's crucial that employers select and require employees to use appropriate hand protection when exposed to any of these hazards.

4. Hand protection is necessary when exposed to each of the following hazards EXCEPT _____.

a. heavy objects
b. chemicals
c. punctures
d. abrasions

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Selecting Hand Protection

Hazard Assessment
Use the right gloves for the job.

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:

  • specific task(s) being performed;
  • environmental conditions present during the task;
  • frequency and duration of hand protection use while performing the task;
  • the hazards to which hand protection will or may be exposed;
  • the degree of dexterity of hand protection required for the task;
  • the degree of exposure of hand protection to the hazard; and
  • the physical stresses that will be applied to hand protection.

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.

5. All of the following should be considered when selecting hand protection for a hazardous task EXCEPT _____.

a. the frequency and duration of hand protection use while performing the task
b. the degree of exposure of hand protection to the hazards
c. the cost of the hand protection
d. the hazards to which hand protection will or may be exposed

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Some jobs required head-to-toe PPE.

Selection of Hand Protection (Continued)

When selecting gloves for protection against chemical hazards, consider the following:

  • the toxic properties of the chemical(s) must be determined; in particular, the ability of the chemical to cause local effects on the skin and/or to pass through the skin and cause systemic effects;
  • generally, any "chemical resistant" glove can be used for dry powders;
  • for mixtures and formulated products (unless specific test data are available), a glove should be selected on the basis of the chemical component with the shortest breakthrough time, since it is possible for solvents to carry active ingredients through polymeric materials; and
  • employees must be able to remove the gloves in such a manner as to prevent skin contamination.

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.

6. The length of time it takes for a glove to be saturated by a chemical through absorption is called its _____.

a. breakthrough rate
b. permeation rate
c. penetration rate
d. absorption rate

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Should this worker be wearing gloves?

Hand Protection When Working With Tools

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:

  • ensure that guards are always in place and used;
  • always lock-out machines or tools and disconnect the power before making repairs;
  • treat a machine without a guard as inoperative; and
  • do not wear gloves around moving machinery or parts, such as drill presses, mills, lathes, and grinders.

Check out this short audio clip by Dan Clark of the 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.

7. Do not wear gloves when exposed to _____.

a. cleaning agents
b. moving parts
c. bloodborne pathogens
d. sharp edges

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Glove Guide

Below is a guide to the most common types of protective work gloves and the types of hazards they can guard against:

  • Disposable Gloves: Disposable gloves, usually made of light-weight plastic, can help guard against mild irritants.
  • Fabric Gloves: These gloves are made of cotton or fabric blends. They're generally used to improve grip when handling slippery objects. They also help insulate hands from mild heat or cold.
  • Leather Gloves: These gloves are used to guard against injuries from sparks or scraping against rough surfaces. They are also used in combination with an insulated liner when working with electricity.
  • Metal Mesh Gloves: These gloves are used to protect hands from accidental cuts and scratches. They are used most commonly by persons working with cutting tools or other sharp instruments.
  • Aluminized Gloves: These gloves made of aluminized fabric are designed to insulate hands from intense heat. These gloves are most commonly used by persons working molten materials.
  • Chemical-Resistant Gloves: These gloves may be made of rubber, neoprene, polyvinyl alcohol or vinyl, etc. The gloves protect hands from corrosives, oils, and solvents. The glove chart on the next page may serve as a guide to the different types of glove materials and the chemicals they can be used against.

8. Which type of gloves are used to improve grip when handling slippery objects?

a. Disposable gloves
b. Fabric gloves
c. Chemical resistance gloves
d. Leather gloves

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Chemical-Resistant Glove Chart

When selecting chemical resistance gloves, be sure to consult the manufacturer's recommendations, especially if the gloved hand will be immersed in the chemical.

Type Advantages Disadvantages Use Against
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

9. When selecting chemical resistance gloves, be sure to consult the manufacturer's recommendations, especially if _____.

a. the gloved hand fits tightly against the glove
b. the gloves have not been used before
c. the gloves will be used by more than one person
d. the gloved hand will be immersed in the chemical

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Foot Protection

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:

  • falling or rolling objects;
  • objects piercing the sole; and/or
  • where feet are exposed to electrical hazards.

Criteria for Protective Footwear

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.

Protection from above and below.

Steel-Reinforced Safety Shoes

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

Safety boots offer more protection when splash or spark hazards (chemicals, molten materials) are present.

  • When working with corrosives, caustics, cutting oils, and petroleum products, neoprene or nitrile boots are often required to prevent penetration.
  • Foundry or "Gaiter" style boots feature quick-release fasteners or elasticized insets to allow speedy removal should any hazardous substances get into the boot itself.
  • When working with electricity, special electrical hazard boots are available and are designed with no conductive materials other than the steel toe (which is properly insulated).

10. According to OSHA's PPE standard, the employer must make sure that affected employees use protective footwear when working in areas containing which of the following hazards?

a. Piercing, falling or rolling objects
b. Excessive moisture
c. Tripping hazards
d. Contaminated soil

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Selection Guidelines for Foot Protection

Hazard Assessment
Has this ever happened to you?

As mentioned in the previous section, safety shoes and boots should provide protection from impact, compression, and punctures.

  • Impact protection. Safety shoes or boots with impact protection would be required for carrying or handling materials such as packages, objects, parts or heavy tools, which could be dropped; and, for other activities where objects might fall onto the feet.
  • Compression protection. Safety shoes or boots with compression protection would be required for work activities involving skid trucks (manual material handling carts) around bulk rolls (such as paper rolls) and around heavy pipes, all of which could potentially roll over an employee's feet.
  • Puncture protection. Safety shoes or boots with puncture protection would be required where sharp objects such as nails, wire, tacks, screws, large staples, scrap metal etc., could be stepped on by employees causing a foot injury.

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.

11. When should a worker wear boots with impact protection?

a. Sharp objects could be stepped on
b. While carrying or handling heavy materials
c. When working around skid trucks
d. They should wear them at all times

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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