Raise your hand if you ever heard of personal protective equipment, or PPE, before the Covid-19 pandemic threw everything out of whack in March 2020. Most of us probably hadn’t! Outside of healthcare jobs, and maybe some specialized places where respirators or masks are required, most people didn’t think much about protective coverings, let alone how much PPE really entails.
But PPE is very important in every kind of working environment, even if not all jobs require the same amount or kind of equipment. It’s also important to remember that old bit of advice, that safety is everyone’s responsibility, and to know how to file a report at work if you see something that might be dangerous.
First, let’s look a little more closely at PPE.
A definition: According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), PPE is a general term given to any equipment “worn to minimize exposure to a variety of hazards” and can include gloves, foot and eye protection, earplugs, ear muffs, hard hats and helmets, respirators, bodysuits and coverings, or any other equipment that is designed to address and protect an employee against the hazards or risks of their particular work environment. Some PPE required in a working environment must be provided to employees by their company at no cost to them, but other items, like protective boots, can be required by the employer but are purchased at the employee’s expense.
Why is PPE important? No one wants to get hurt at work. Whether you’re working with patients in a medical facility and are at risk of being poked by a syringe, walking around a construction site with the risk of heavy metal bars or poles falling down and striking your head or injuring your foot, or working in a factory with fine airborne particles that can irritate your lungs, PPE is a way to protect yourself from injuries at work. Not all workplaces require the same kind of protective equipment. Your workplace should provide information about the specific risks inherent to your line of work and should have an up-to-date list of the PPE required for daily activities. If you change jobs, going from a position in which you’re filling orders to one in which you’re working in a more active, risky area (manufacturing parts, for example), your PPE will change.
What is your employer responsible for? In addition to providing some PPE materials (gloves, masks, etc.), your employer is responsible for providing the most current information on safety risks and hazards that could occur in your company. Employers also are required to perform regular hazard assessments to ensure all conditions are up to code, identifying and controlling any physical or health hazards; providing appropriate and adequate PPE for all employees; proper training for all employees in how to use and properly wear PPE; maintaining and replacing any PPE that is too worn to provide protection; and occasionally reviewing and updating the effectiveness of the company’s PPE program.
What are employees responsible for? Each and every employee is responsible for properly wearing and caring for PPE, in addition to attending training sessions to fully understand the risks present in their workplace. Employees also are responsible for identifying and reporting any hazards they find at work or any PPE that might be too worn out to be effective.
What does a safety check entail? Every company should have procedures in place for an environmental safety assessment and check, which should be conducted periodically throughout the year to look for maintenance issues or risks that have developed. Among the hazards that should be looked for and inspected (and the list will vary by industry and workplace): fall hazards; poke or cut hazards; chemical storage; exposure to heat or cold; exposure to fine particulates; exposure to biological hazards (germs, fluids, etc); properly insulated electrical components; secured equipment; sources of light radiation (welding, brazing, cutting, etc); unprotected or sharp edges where falls might occur; unsecured heavy objects that might fall. Companies should have a checklist to go along with their individual organization’s safety audit and assessment to make sure all hazards are accounted for and properly addressed. All employees should also receive training based on their jobs and the risks they face.
What are the most common safety standards employees should know? The safety standards pertinent to your workplace will vary, but according to OSHA, these are the ones most commonly cited:
- Fall Protection, construction (29 CFR 1926.501) [related safety resources]
- Hazard Communication, general industry (29 CFR 1910.1200) [related safety resources]
- Ladders, construction (29 CFR 1926.1053) [related safety resources]
- Respiratory Protection, general industry (29 CFR 1910.134) [related safety resources]
- Scaffolding, construction (29 CFR 1926.451) [related safety resources]
- Control of Hazardous Energy (lockout/tagout), general industry (29 CFR 1910.147) [related safety resources]
- Powered Industrial Trucks, general industry (29 CFR 1910.178) [related safety resources]
- Fall Protection Training, construction (29 CFR 1926.503) [related safety resources]
- Eye and Face Protection, construction (29 CFR 1926.102) [related safety resources]
- Machinery and Machine Guarding, general industry (29 CFR 1910.212) [related safety resources]
Everyone is responsible for keeping their workplace safe. If you see something out of line, unsecured, incorrectly stored, or otherwise out of keeping with safety standards, or if it just doesn’t look right to you, you have a responsibility to report it to your manager or supervisor and make sure that it is quickly and properly addressed. A safe workplace benefits everyone!
If you want to learn more about safety, or if you feel your work environment doesn’t take safety concerns seriously enough, it might be time to consider changing jobs. Davis Staffing can help! Take a look at the positions we have open and see if anything fits your interest, then give us a call or send us your resume. Let’s help you take your career to the next level!