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Make P.P.E. A V.I.P. in your Safety Program

Why should PPE only be used as a last resort?

PPE has its limitations because:

  • PPE only protects the wearer.
  • It is ineffective if not working or fitted properly
  • Theoretical levels of protection are seldom reached in practice.
  • The use of PPE always restricts the wearer to some degree.
  • The psychological effect of PPE may be such that the individual wearing the PPE feels more protected than he or she actually is.

Shortcuts can be very tempting, especially when you’re on a deadline. When the end of the day or week is approaching, employees may be eager to get a job over with as quickly as possible so they can finish up and go home. That’s understandable, but shortcuts breed danger and are a leading cause of accidents.  Before any decision is made to begin or to expand a PPE program, it is important to understand the underlying principles of protection strategies.

There are three elements that must be considered:

  • protection of workers
  • compliance with applicable laws / regulations and internal company standards
  • technical feasibility

In practice, only a few strategies are available. These include:

  • engineering controls
  • material substitution
  • process change
  • revised work practices
  • equipment change
  • administrative controls
  • use of personal protective equipment

A good comprehensive strategy considers the hazards, evaluates all possible control methods, integrates various approaches, and reexamines them frequently to ensure a safe work operation. It does these things by requiring that conscious decision-making, evaluation, and reevaluation be done at various stages throughout the program.

That mean although the forth element in safety PPE needs to be always front and center. Understand the following about his/her PPE: a) When it is necessary to wear PPE. b) What PPE is necessary. c) How to properly don, doff, adjust, and wear the PPE. d) The PPE’s limitations. e) Proper care, maintenance, useful life and the disposal of the contaminated PPE.

Why should PPE only be used as a last resort?

PPE has its limitations because:

  • PPE only protects the wearer.
  • It is ineffective if not working or fitted properly
  • Theoretical levels of protection are seldom reached in practice.
  • The use of PPE always restricts the wearer to some degree.
  • The psychological effect of PPE may be such that the individual wearing the PPE feels more protected than he or she actually is.

Personal Protective Equipment is crucial to prevent injury, so make sure you wear it… and wear it properly! This includes:
– Goggles and face protection to protect from flying particles, chemicals or caustic liquids.
– Gloves to prevent cuts, scrapes, punctures, burns, chemical absorption or temperature extremes.
– Hard hats to safeguard against falling objects.
– Safety shoes for work areas where heavy objects could be dropped and injure the feet.
– Ear muffs or ear plugs to protect against hearing damage in noisy workplaces. PPE should only be used:

  • as an interim (short term) measure before controls are implemented;
  • where pre-contact control technology is not available;
  • where pre-contact controls are inadequate;
  • during activities such as maintenance, clean up, and repair where pre-contact controls are not feasible or effective;
  • during emergency situations.

 

When must PPE be used?

  • The fundamental principle is that personal protective equipment (PPE) should only be used as a last resort.
  • The safety and health of employees must be first safeguarded by measures to eliminate workplace risks at source, through technical or organisational means (e.g by substituting hazardous chemical ) or by providing protection on a collective basis (e.g providing scaffolding instead of harnesses).
  • Collective protective measures covering numbers of employees in a workplace must have priority over protective measures applying to individual employees.
  • If these measures are not sufficient, only then should PPE be used to protect against the hazards that are unavoidable.

FOR THE EMPLOYER: Providing the safety equipment isn’t enough — you must make sure that your workers know how to use it properly. Provide adequate PPE training.*

At your work place or business, Personal Protective Equipment Policy (PPE) is to minimize injury to employees through the proper use and care of personal protective equipment. The Program is most effective if administered and enforced by supervision at each facility or department where employee protection is required. It is designed to insure that employees receive the correct PPE that they need, in the right size or style, understand its care, use and disposal and that it is readily available to them.

Periodic job surveillance shall be conducted to identify changing needs for the use of PPE. Changes that may effect the need or use of PPE may include changes in the process, changes in the equipment (or material), changes in chemicals, changes in personnel, changes in the surrounding environment and changes in the way tasks are performed. When such changes are identified, Risk Management and Safety should be notified to further assess the need for PPE.

The following factors shall be considered when selecting PPE: -Chemical hazards -Physical hazards -Task requirements -Potential for PPE failure -Maintenance requirements -Interferences -PPE durability -Duration of use -Regulatory requirements/certification -User’s size and physical abilities (for fit, comfort and individual needs) -User acceptance.

All employees who are required to use PPE shall receive adequate and documented training. Training shall include the following elements: 1. When it is necessary to wear PPE. 2. What PPE is necessary. 3. How to properly don, doff, adjust, and wear the PPE. 4 The PPE’s limitations. 5. Proper care, maintenance, useful life and the disposal of the contaminated PPE.

Personal protective equipment shall be stored, maintained and inspected in an appropriate manner by each employee. If any personal protective equipment becomes damaged it shall be replaced. In addition, sizes must be considered when ordering or requesting personal protective equipment.

The first step in the development of a PPE program is to identify the particular hazards at the worksite. Some of these may be obvious, but an onsite inspection should still be performed. Work practices, job procedures, equipment, workplace layout, and individual factors may play a deciding role in the type of controls recommended for a certain job. Recognizing potential hazards should include reviewing the manufacturing or other processes, maintaining an inventory of physical and chemical agents encountered routinely or periodically, examining all the different job activities of a work area, and studying the existing control measures. Every effort should be made to control all hazards, where possible, at the source.

Particular attention should be paid to job requirements that may have important consequences for the PPE selected because some types of hazards require multiple PPE solutions. For example, working with chlorine requires respiratory and eye protection because chlorine irritates both the respiratory system and GHS Safety Data Sheets (SDSs) as part of the inspection, as they indicate the types of hazards associated with specific materials. In Canada, various standards exist and the most recent should be used for guidance in the selection process. Two of the more common standards include the Canadian Standards Association (CSA) and the Bureau de normalisation du Quebec (BNQ). For example, the CSA Standard Z94.3-07 “Eye and Face Protectors” outlines types of eye protectors recommended for particular work hazards. It classifies eye protection according to the hazard. It allows the wide variety of PPE on the market to be slotted into various categories. A review of the plant survey and these categories will help in the choice of the proper eye protection for each specific job hazard.

Terry Penney

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