Hazards exist in every workplace in many different forms: sharp edges, falling objects, flying sparks, chemicals, noise and a myriad of other potentially dangerous situations. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) require that employers protect their employees from workplace hazards that can cause injury.

Controlling a hazard at its source is the best way to protect employees. Depending on the hazard or workplace conditions, OSHA recommends the use of engineering or work practice controls to manage or eliminate hazards to the greatest extent possible. For example, building a barrier between the hazard and the employees is an engineering control; changing the way in which employees perform their work is a work practice control.

When elimination, substitution, engineering, and administrative controls are not feasible or do not provide sufficient protection, employers must providePersonal Protective Equipment (PPE) to their employees and ensure its use. Personal protective equipment, commonly referred to as ” PPE“, is equipment worn to minimize exposure to a variety of hazards. Examples of PPE include such items as gloves, foot and eye protection, protective hearing devices (earplugs, muffs) hard hats, respirators and full body suits. Remember, PPE is the last resort in hazard control, not the first choice. Some employer may mistakenly believe PPE is the end all to be all. They might do too much, not too little

This guide will help both employers and employees do the following:

  • Understand the types of PPE.
  • Know the basics of conducting a “hazard assessment” of the workplace.
  • Select appropriate PPE for a variety of circumstances.
  • Understand what kind of training is needed in the proper use and care of PPE.

The Requirement for PPE

To ensure the greatest possible protection for employees in the workplace, the cooperative efforts of both employers and employees will help in establishing and maintaining a safe and healthful work environment.

In general, employers are responsible for:

  • Performing a “hazard assessment” of the workplace to identify and control physical and health hazards.
  • Identifying and providing appropriate PPE for employees.
  • Training employees in the use and care of the PPE.
  • Maintaining PPE, including replacing worn or damaged PPE.
  • Periodically reviewing, updating and evaluating the effectiveness of the PPE program.

In general, employees should:

  • Properly wear PPE,
  • Attend training sessions on PPE,
  • Care for, clean and maintain PPE, and
  • Inform a supervisor of the need to repair or replace PPE.

What subjects must be trained?

According to the standard, to meet the minimum training requirements, each employee receiving PPE training must be trained to know at least the following:

  1. when PPE is necessary;
  2. what PPE is necessary;
  3. .how to properly don, doff, adjust, and wear PPE;
  4. the limitations of the PPE; and
  5. the proper care, maintenance, useful life, and disposal of the PPE.

So far, we meet minimum OSHA requirements… but one very important element is missing:

6.The PPE standard does not specifically require education on “why” PPE is necessary

So, why is this element so important? Because study after study tells us the most common reason employees don’t follow rules in the workplace is because they don’t know why the rules are important.

Educate the “why” as well as train the “how”!

It’s important to understand that whenever we conduct PPE training, educating the “why” and training the “how” must always occur. If we neglect the educational component, we jeopardize the long-term effectiveness of the overall training.

The first five elements in the list describe the whatwhen, and how about PPE use. The goal is to increase both knowledge and skill so that the employee is better able to properly use PPE. The methods used to train the employee are primarily discussion and demonstration. To measure knowledge and skill, the instructor usually tests the employee by asking them to do something.

The final “why” element addresses the importance of using PPE and what the consequences of behavior (compliance and failure to comply) will be. The natural consequences include some form of resulting injury or health to the employee. The system consequences describe the nature of the discipline or recognition that will result from performance. The goal of this last element is to increase employee motivation to use PPE so that the employee is more likely to use PPE properly.

Specific requirements for PPE are presented in many different OSHA standards, published in 29 CFR. Some standards require that employers provide PPE at no cost to the employee while others simply state that the employer must provide PPE.

Please enjoy these articles, leave your comments, take good care of your PPE and stay safe.

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