Personal protective equipment is addressed in specific standards for many industries. When appropriately used, PPE acts as a barrier between infectious materials such as viral and bacterial contaminants and your skin, mouth, nose, or eyes (mucous membranes). Therefore, OSHA requires that many categories of personal protective equipment meet or be equivalent to standards developed by the American National Standards Institute. Learn the different types of Personal Protective Equipment and how to use them properly.
What is Personal Protective Equipment?
PPE or Personal protective equipment is a source of protection for emergency and recovery workers. It minimizes exposure to hazards that cause serious workplace injuries and illnesses and reduces the risks to acceptable levels when engineering and administrative controls are not feasible. These may result from contact with chemical, radiological, physical, electrical, mechanical, or other workplace hazards. Personal protective equipment may include safety glasses, gloves, earplugs or muffs, respirators, vests, and full-body suits.
What Are The Different Types of Personal Protective Equipment?
Depending on the job type, there are many different types of PPE for the body. Therefore it is essential to know what equipment is out there to use and to help keep you safe. The following types of PPE are available:
Eye and Face Protection
Personal protective equipment for the eyes and face is necessary when workers are exposed to eye or face hazards from bodily fluids, chemical splashes, acids, chemical hazards, molten metal, light radiation, flying particles, and other hazardous substances. Eye protection is achieved by wearing eyewear and a face shield specifically designed to reduce the risk of exposure to hazardous materials. The primary types of eye protection — each of which has its limitations, including:
- General safety glasses
- Laser safety glasses
- Chemical splash goggles
- Impact goggles
- Face shields (for complete face protection)
- Surgical Mask
An appropriate selection of protective gloves is essential to protecting workers’ hands. However, it would be best if you only used gloves under the specific conditions they are designed for. It is also important to remember that gloves degrade over time, so you should replace them as necessary to ensure adequate protection. Healthcare personnel and lab workers should use the information below and manufacturer compatibility charts to choose the type and style of protective gloves. Then, depending on the industry and sector you work in, you can select from gloves for different applications:
- Leather, Canvas, or Metal Mesh Gloves to protect against cuts, burns, and punctures.
- Fabric and Coated Fabric Gloves to protect against dirt, chafing, and abrasions.
- Insulating rubber gloves to protect against electrical hazards.
- Chemical and liquid resistant gloves
Hazards that affect the entire body include temperature extremes, chemical hazards, radioactive materials, arc flash, infectious materials, sparks or flames, falls, and sharp objects. When wearing body protection, ensure clothing fits you properly and store them in well-ventilated, clean, dry, and out of direct sunlight. Examples of body protection include
- Laboratory coats
- Vests and jackets
- Surgical gowns
- Full body suits
Protecting your hearing is vital for workers in an environment with high-sound levels where it’s not feasible to reduce the level of noise or duration of exposure. Plain cotton protection is never an acceptable PPE as the hearing protection should provide an adequate level of protection, hygiene, and comfort to its user. Typical hearing protection devices include:
- Pre-molded Ear Plugs
- Formable or Foam Ear Plugs
- Ear Muffs
- Hearing Bands or Canal Caps
Potential hazards that may lead to foot and leg injuries include falling or rolling objects, crushing or penetrating materials, hot, corrosive, poisonous substances, electrical hazards, static electricity, or slippery surfaces. Different footwear protects in different ways. You cannot avoid the risk of slipping, so attention must be given to slip-resistant soles and replaced before the tread pattern is worn. There are several types of safety footwear.
- Safety boots or shoes
- Wellington boots can also have steel toe caps.
- Anti-static and conductive footwear protects against static electricity.
Respiratory equipment is only used as a “last line of defense,” which requires individual assessment and training by the environment, health, and safety personnel. However, proper fitting and use are crucial to respirator efficacy, so environment, health, and safety require all individuals who believe their job tasks need respiratory protective equipment to contact environment, health, and safety. Therefore, the following steps will be taken:
- A workplace hazard assessment will determine if the task requires respiratory protective equipment.
- If respiratory protection is necessary, the employee will be given a medical evaluation questionnaire and a supplement to the medical questionnaire outlining the findings of the hazard assessment.
- When the employee is approved to wear a respirator, the appropriate respirator will be selected, and the employee will be fit-tested.
- During fit-testing, the employee receives training on the appropriate methods to store, handle and sanitize the respirator.
- Once initial fitting and training are completed, the employee must enroll and attend yearly training.
How to Use PPE Properly?
PPEs should be safely designed, constructed, and maintained cleanly and reliably. It should fit you comfortably because you could be dangerously exposed if it doesn’t. Employers are also required to train each worker to use PPE to know when it is necessary. To ensure that PPE fully serves its function, workers must understand its proper use, maintenance, when to wear and take it off, limitation, and disposal to protect the worker and the people they serve in the case of healthcare workers.
If Personal Protective Equipment is needed, employers should implement a PPE program that addresses the hazards present and the selection, maintenance, and use of PPE. You also enroll in CPR and First Aid training classes to learn these things properly. Training employees and monitoring the program to ensure its ongoing effectiveness. Training centers such as CPR Select offer group training for workplace employees.
Disposal of PPE
Personal Protective Equipment must be disposed of correctly. In a healthcare setting, PPE from non-infectious patients can be disposed of in “offensive” waste or clinical or infectious waste streams. PPE from infectious patients must go into clinical infectious waste streams, usually for incineration. This waste may be autoclaved and sent for alternative treatment like shredding and landfill. Yellow waste bags may also be used. PPE from cytotoxic management must go into the cytotoxic waste stream.
The hierarchy of controls recommends PPE as the last defense level to prevent occupational injuries, illnesses, infections, and fatalities. If you’re an employer, you are in charge of the safety of your employees and make sure they have a healthy working environment. Be familiar with the safety risks within your sector and the measures you can take to counteract these risks.
- PPE is worn to minimize the risks and hazards associated with various working conditions.
- Protecting emergency response and recovery workers from physical, chemical, and biological hazards is necessary.
- Eyes and face protection are necessary when you are exposed to hazardous substances.
- It would be best if you only used gloves under the specific conditions they are designed to.
- When wearing body protection, ensure clothing fits you properly and store them in well-ventilated, clean, dry, and out of direct sunlight.
- Respiratory equipment is only used as a “last line of defense,” which requires individual assessment and training by the environment, health, and safety personnel.
- PPEs should be safely designed, constructed, and maintained cleanly and reliably.