Protect Your Employees with Personal Protective Equipment

March 29, 2016

Every occupation has its hazards, but some are more dangerous than others. Workers in these occupations are vulnerable to many potential injuries and illnesses. To safeguard against injury, they need these types of personal protective equipment.

Respirators protect the wearer from breathing in harmful substances that can damage the lungs, such as toxic chemicals, smoke and pollutants. Some, such as a gas mask, filter out harmful particles and gases. Others provide the wearer with breathable air from a different source, such as an oxygen tank. Workers should use respirators in situations were ventilation is poor or when other controls cannot reduce or eliminate the hazard.

Skin protection equipment guards the body from injury or damage caused by contact with something else. Skin damage can result from being splashed by chemicals that cause irritations or burns; exposure to external agents, such as extreme heat or sun rays; mechanical trauma that burns, punctures, scrapes or bruises the skin; and contact with biological agents such as irritating plants or parasites. Protective coats, pants, gloves,  and footwear are all forms of skin protection.

Eye protection reduces a variety of hazards to the eyes. Eye hazards include:

  • Solid particles, such as sand, dust, wood chips, metal and concrete
  • Irritants in smoke and chemicals
  • Welding torches and ultraviolet rays
  • Severe impacts with other objects

Safety glasses, goggles, face shields, full face plate respirators, and shaded welding shields can all be effective forms of eye protection.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that 22 million American workers each year are exposed to dangerous noise levels. The vast majority of hearing damage cases come from manufacturing environments. These workers should wear hearing protection equipment, including earplugs and earmuffs, such as the kind worn by airport employees on tarmacs.

In some occupations, workers wear uniforms and outfits as protective clothing and ensembles. Firefighters wear such clothing over their entire bodies to protect themselves from heat, flame, and airborne toxins. Police officers wear bullet-proof vests. Beekeepers wear hats with protective veils attached, long sleeves, pants, and gloves to prevent bee stings. Construction workers wear hardhats, gloves, boots and safety googles to reduce cuts, crushed toes, eye and head injuries.

Personal protective equipment can prevent injuries or make those that occur less severe. Work gloves can prevent cuts. Safety harnesses attached to buildings can prevent falls from heights. Hats and long sleeves can prevent sunburns. Masks can keep workers from inhaling spray paint particles.

However, PPE can also have disadvantages. Workers may find it uncomfortable to wear heavy clothing in hot conditions. Stopping the performance of a task to obtain a protective item can be inconvenient. Other items may be cumbersome to work with - gloves and visors can get in the worker's way and make completing the task take longer.

Despite these drawback, personal protective equipment, when used correctly, prevents countless injuries and makes those that occur less severe. U.S. laws and regulations require many of them. Employers should ensure that their workers protect themselves with the right equipment.

To learn more, discuss concerns with an agent.

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