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Environmental Health and Safety Blog | EHSWire

PPE: Dress for Success = Dress for Survival

Posted by Shivi Kakar

Nov 21, 2010 9:15:00 PM

Does your company keep employees protected by dressing them in the appropriate safety PPE?  by: Capt. John DeFillippo, CHMP, EMT-B

When some of us head to the “office” the decisions we make about what to wear go way beyond fashion…our very lives could depend on our wardrobe choices. For many workers, Personal Protective Equipment, or PPE, protects them from slight and serious workplace injuries or illnesses resulting from contact with chemical, radiological, physical, electrical, mechanical, or other hazards. Here’s a rough guide to occupational “Dress for Success” (and survival!).

Let’s start with the head.

A properly fitting, ANSI-rated hard hat will do more than protect you from falling stuff. They’re rated to provide protection against electric and chemical hazards as well. By the way, you have to wear your hard hat correctly if you want it to protect your noggin:  Do not wear it backwards. Do not wear another hat underneath (except a proper hardhat liner).  Any stickers have to be removable so that the hard hat can be inspected for integrity.

Next, Move Down to the Eyes

According to OSHA, Not all eye protection is the same. Start by looking at the ANSI-89 rating on the specs. Does the rating match your job function?  And, don’t let style issues affect your decision whether or not to wear them. Safety glasses used to be big, unattractive, and were often uncomfortable. Not anymore! There are styles and sizes for everybody and most “well-dressed” workers have at least two pair:  sunglasses and clear. Keep in mind that eye injuries, including permanent blindness, occur on the job every day. According to OSHA, “eye injuries alone cost more than $300 million per year in lost production time, medical expenses, and worker compensation”. Don’t let it happen to you.

Face Protection

OSHA considers face protection separate from eye protection - one is never a substitute for the other. This OSHA powerpoint is a great overview of eye and face protection requirements. Find out if your job (grinding and pressure washing for example) requires a face shield.

Don’t Forget Your Ears!

Your hearing is a delicate tool that, once damaged, cannot be repaired. Did you know that most cases of hearing loss in the US are the result of occupational exposure? Hearing protection, like respiratory protection, can get a little complicated so if you’re confused, ask an expert. EHS experts like Emilcott can perform quantitative noise analysis and provide best recommendations to protect hearing for your worksite. To start, a good rule of thumb is that if you need to raise your voice in normal conversation, you probably should be wearing hearing protection.

Body Protection

Protection for the body varies greatly depending on the hazard(s) encountered. At a minimum,   make sure you can be seen! High visibility garments are required by OSHA and DOT when working around traffic and are a good idea all the time.

Last (But Not Least), Your Feet

Safety footwear is required by OSHA if your feet are subject to injury. They also must be ANSI- approved -- look for the markings on the shoe or boot to be sure. 

The Final Word

Keep these points in mind the next time you get dressed for work:

    • While individual PPE items may not go “out of style”, they do go out of date. Check your gear to make sure it’s still within the expiration date.

    • Once your PPE has protected you from an injury, replace it.  It did its job and you don’t know how it will hold up a second time.

    •  And, finally, get the good stuff. Those cheap boots may seem like a bargain until your feet start hurting.

By the way, the Dress for Survival list above, with the exception of respirators (a blog in itself!), is considered “minimum PPE” on most sites. You need proper protection for each body part just to get in.  Don’t know what to use?  For every job, there are specific OSHA requirements that are designed to keep you safe – your health and safety office or EHS group should be a resource for information as well as monitoring the worksite for safety needs. 

Does your company keep employees protected by dressing them in the appropriate safety PPE?  Have you ever done a self-evaluation, head to toe, of what you are wearing and if it adequately protects you from the job hazards that you may encounter?  Has your safety clothing ever protected you and how?

Topics: OSHA, indoor air quality, Personal Protective Equipment, health and safety, General Industry H&S, General EHS, Construction H&S, Emergency Response, H&S Training, Hazardous Waste Management, Compliance, worker safety, Occupational Health, Fire Safety

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