If you have a giant stack of the best Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), but don’t use it, or just as important, don’t use it properly, are you trying to become an OSHA statistic? Knowing how to protect yourself from occupational hazards is a critical part of your job.
A Real Life PPE Correction
A few years ago, I was taking my annual HazWOPER 8-Hour Refresher class and a fellow student shared his story about PPE.
Part of his job was to open and close valves that allowed aviation fuels to flow to pumps used to fill airplane fuel tanks. While conducting this task, he was often exposed to fuel vapors. After complaining about the headaches and dizziness that he was experiencing, his employer had him fit tested for a respirator. However, even with the proper-fitting respirator, he still had the same symptoms of overexposure.
Why didn’t the respirator control the exposure? As a health and safety professional, the answer was obvious to me! I asked him, “What type of cartridge are you using?”
His reply, “I am using what was given to me.” Two days later he called me to tell me that he had been given HEPA filters – the WRONG cartridge for his petroleum vapors. Instead he should have been using organic vapor cartridges. Without correction, this COULD have been become a very dangerous problem – just because of the wrong cartridge in the right respirator!
Proper Protection: Where Do You Start?
A perfect place to start understanding how to protect yourself is to know what you are dealing with on the job.
1) What are the potential hazards? Is there more than one? Not sure? Ask questions! Make sure that you understand the hazards and risk before you are satisfied?