Working in construction or in the manufacturing industry comes with risks.  You are outside working in all weather conditions, handling toxic chemicals and balancing on scaffolding for stability.  Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is the cautionary garments worn by workers to minimize their exposure to serious workplace injuries and keep construction sites safe.  These injuries and illnesses can result from coming into contact with chemical, electrical, mechanical and physical hazards.  This can include gloves, safety goggles, safety shoes, earplugs, hard hats, masks, vests and respirators.

Workers need to be supplied with the proper PPE to ensure that they can do their duties safely.  Equipment should be designed for safety, thoroughly cleaned and properly stored.  If they equipment doesn’t fit properly, it could do harm to your workers exposing them to dangers on the jobsite.  Your organization is required by OSHA to provide PPE for their workers and monitor that it is used properly.

Demonstrations of how to properly wear the equipment should be shown regularly to your employees.  This will teach them who needs to use the equipment when it is necessary, how to properly put it on and the proper care and maintenance of the PPE provided.  The PPE training program should be monitored to make sure that it remains effective for your employees.

This doesn’t just include having a large supply of safety equipment.  You need to make sure that an effective PPE program is put into place at your organization.  Here are five tips that will help you plan and design an effective program to help improve the safety of your workers.

  1. Perform a Hazard Assessment

Potential hazards your workers face could be health-related such as overexposure to harmful dusts, chemicals and radiation or physical such as:

  • Moving objects
  • Fluctuating temperatures
  • High intensity lighting
  • Rolling or pinching objects
  • Falls from height
  • Electrical connections
  • Sharp edges

Conduct a site inspection

To identify these and other hazards, you will need to conduct a very thorough hazard assessment with the first being a physical survey of your workplace.  Here is a list of potential hazards to look for:

  • Sources of electricity
  • Machinery in motion
  • Tripping or falling from height
  • Processes involving a lot of movement
  • High-temperature heat sources
  • Hazardous chemicals
  • Harmful dusts
  • Sources of light radiation (welding, furnaces and high-intensity lights)
  • Falling or dropped object hazards
  • Objects sharp enough to cause cuts, stabs or punctures
  • Biological hazards

Analyze the Data

Organize and analyze the data gathered after the physical inspection is complete.  This will be used to help determine the type of PPE that will be required for your worksite.

Reassess Regularly

You should reassess your workplace a few times a year in case there have been any changes in equipment or operating procedures.  This should also include a review of the company’s injury and illness records to notice if there have been any area of concerns.  Your current PPE should be evaluated noting the condition and age of the equipment.

Document the Hazards Properly

Documentation of the hazard assessment should include a written certification with the following listed:

  • Which workplace was evaluated
  • The name of the person conducting the assessment
  • The date of the assessment
  • The document certifying the completion of the hazard assessment

2.  Eliminate Hazards and Identify When and Where PPE is Needed

When dealing with hazards, you should follow the Hierarchy of Hazard Controls:

  • Elimination
  • Substitution
  • Engineering and administrative controls
  • PPE

Controls are usually placed:

  • At the source (where the hazard comes from)
  • Along the path (where the hazard travels)
  • At the worker

Areas

Controlling a hazard at its source is the first choice you should make because this will eliminate it from the workplace in general or isolate it from the worker.  This may require:

  • Substituting a harmful material with a nonhazardous alternative
  • Isolating hazards
  • Ventilating work spaces
  • Adding safety features to existing equipment
  • Redesigning work processes
  • Purchasing equipment
  • Implementing administrative controls (better work practices, training and housekeeping)

PPE is the last line of protection when all other methods are not available or possible for your workers.

How Do I Begin Planning a Protection Strategy?

The main elements of a protection strategy are:

  • The protection of workers
  • Compliance with applicable laws, regulations, standards and guidelines
  • Compliance with internal company requirements
  • Technical feasibility

A good strategy considers the hazards, conducts a risk assessment, evaluates all possible control methods, integrates various approaches and reexamines the controls frequently to make sure that the hazard continues to be controlled.

When Should PPE Be Used?

PPE is used to reduce the exposure or contact to physical, chemical, ergonomic or biological agents.  A hazard is not gone when PPE is used but the risk of injury will be reduced significantly.  PPE should only be used:

  • As an interim measure before controls are implemented
  • Where other controls are not available or adequate
  • During activities such as maintenance, clean up and repair where pre-contact controls are not feasible or effective
  • During emergency situations

3.  Selecting the PPE

All PPE clothing and equipment should be safe in the design and construction.  When selecting appropriate items for their workers, employers should take the fit and comfort of the PPE into consideration.  OSHA requires that many categories of PPE be equivalent to standards developed by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI).

Existing PPE must meet the ANSI standard at the time of its manufacture or provide protection equipment equivalent to PPE manufactured to the ANSI criteria.  Any employee who provides their own PPE must make sure that it conforms to OSHA requirements and ANSI standards.

4.  Training Employees in the Selection, Use and Care of PPE

It is the employer’s responsibility to make sure that their employees are fully trained and knowledgable on how to select, use and care for the PPE that is provided for them.  All fall protection equipment must meet AINSI standards and be assembled in the proper way to provide the protection that is required.  Fall protection equipment must be inspected by the qualified personnel before using and by a fully trained technician at least once a year.

5.  Inspecting, Maintaining and Cleaning PPE

All PPE must be maintained and cleaned to either ANSI or NIOSH (National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health) standards.  When safety equipment is designed, the directions for how it is to be used in the field is sent to NIOSH for approval. Parts, components and reassembly of the equipment must be identical to the original version that NIOSH approved.

All inspection, maintenance and cleaning processes should be completed by a qualified worker or technician.  Your employer should be aware of inspection and maintenance requirements for every PPE that is used on site.  They need to maintain thorough records of the equipment and must be signed off by a fully trained technician.

Providing the right PPE for your employees is required but having an effective PPE program will make sure the safety gear provides ultimate protection for your workers.  Frontier Industrial Corp puts their employees safety first and guarantees that all of their PPE is the highest quality and up to date with OSHA’s policies.

Article adapted from: https://www.safeopedia.com/5-tips-for-designing-an-effective-ppe-program/2/6871