Top PPE Safety Tips in the Workplace
Ppe Safety

Approximately 2.3 million people have workplace-related accidents yearly in the United States. Think about that for a minute, around half the US population gets into a hazardous situation on their jobs. 

You may have heard of personal protective equipment (or PPE), but you may not have considered its importance to your workplace safety. PPE can help prevent and mitigate various accidents while at work. 

But you must understand PPE before it can protect you from harm. PPE safety is vital to keeping your work progressing smoothly and protecting you and your fellow workers. 

If you’d like to know more about PPE safety, keep reading. We will discuss a few PPE requirements and safety tips to help protect against hazards in the workplace. 

What Is PPE?

The first tip to PPE safety is understanding personal protective gear and its purpose. PPE is equipment that workers wear to protect themselves from workplace hazards like illnesses and injuries. 

“Workplace hazards” include slips, tripping, falling objects, radiological, chemical, electrical, and mechanical hazards. For example, debris from woodworking counts as a workplace hazard. 

Slippery substances on the floor also count as workplace hazards. Anything that can cause injury or harm is a danger to you and others while on the job. 

Understanding Types of PPE

You can classify PPE into four categories: face and eye, respiratory, skin and body, and hearing. Some jobs require PPE to be a whole body affair, while some may require simply hard hats and earplugs. 

One way to know how much PPE you’ll need is to perform a workplace hazard assessment. A hazard assessment helps you understand when you’ll need PPE. We’ll discuss workplace hazard assessments later in the article. 

A Brief Overview of PPE

There are different types of PPE for various types of worksites. Construction workers wear hard hats in case of falling objects. Meanwhile, insulated boots are standard while working with electrical items. 

You need to understand your worksite and each type of PPE. Safety glasses and goggles protect your eyes from dust and particulates. Wrap-around goggles protect your eyes from the sides.

Various jobs require exposure to loud noises that can damage or completely ruin your hearing. Noises 70dB or louder can lead to hearing loss. Earplugs or muffs go a long way to mitigating hearing damage. 

Respirators and masks help prevent you from breathing harmful toxins, gases, viruses, and bacteria. Respiration PPE includes full-face respirators, gas masks, N95 respirators, and gas and surgical masks. 

Some models of wrap-around goggles help reduce vapor or liquid penetration. Gloves can prevent your hands from getting cut or burned by sharp objects and harsh chemicals. 

Laboratory coats and AR/FR clothing protect you from chemical spills, splashes, fire, and arc flash hazards. However, you have to choose the correct type of apparel and gloves. 

The material has to match the job you’re working on and the types of chemicals you’re handling. Cut-resistant gloves are best for construction work, and chemical-resistant gloves are best when working with chemicals.

Know When PPE is Required

OSHA outlines many PPE requirements, so it’s best practice to follow their guidelines. Locations where flying debris, dust, and potential chemical splashing require safety goggles. 

You should use a hard hat and steel-toe boots on construction sites or wherever falling hazards are an issue. Respirators are necessary for areas with chemical, flame, and burn hazards. 

Use gloves and lab coats if contacting dangerous acids, bases, and other corrosive substances. Wear highly reflective gear if you’re in low visibility areas. 

Implement a PPE Program

Any workplace that requires PPE is responsible for ensuring all employees know how to use the gear safely. PPE can’t provide workplace safety if no one knows how to use it, after all. 

PPE safety includes knowing what each type of PPE does, where it’s best used, and when to use the equipment. You should have a PPE safety program that trains workers on how to use PPE correctly. 

The program should also include how to inspect your personal protection equipment and when workers should request (or purchase) new gear. It’s a good idea to provide checklists to supervisors. 

There should also be a couple of people overseeing the training program and regular checks to ensure everyone knows how to utilize PPE correctly. 

Maintain Equipment Properly

If your PPE is ill-maintained, it’s useless even if workers know how to use it. Workers and the workplace should regularly inspect any provided PPE. Employees that provide their gear also need it reviewed by their jobs.

All PPE must meet the American National Standards Institute’s safety standards. The ANSI is responsible for issuing regulations that ensure all work gear conforms to regulated standards to keep employees safe. 

Something to keep in mind is PPE has expiration dates. Outdated PPE may not meet modern safety standards.

Sometimes PPE becomes damaged from specific incidents. Your work should establish guidelines for inspecting PPE and what to do if gear needs replacing. 

Choose PPE Based On Comfort

You may not think it, but comfort is one of the most critical factors in choosing your PPE. If you purchase improperly sized gear, then it’s not going to protect you very well, 

You need PPE that adjusts as needed. Gear that’s too big or too small is uncomfortable, distracting, and leaves openings for hazardous materials to harm you.

Obtain Employee Support

Workplace safety only works when everyone works to promote safe conditions. PPE safety training is mandatory; everyone – including management- should participate.

Advertise training sessions so all workers know to participate and hold meetings regularly. Employers must hold workers accountable for PPE usage once they agree to attend. 

Follow Guidelines for Sharing PPE

Sharing PPE isn’t generally advised due to the potential for spreading germs and other harmful viruses and bacteria. It’s best to designate PPE per person and order multiple sets to keep workers from having to share.

Sanitation is essential in the wake of the SARS-CoV-2 (or Coronavirus)—appropriate sanitation materials include 10% bleach, Lysol, and 70% alcohol solutions.

The best way to adhere to PPE safety standards is to keep people from sharing. But if workers must share, each set of safety gear needs sanitation to keep them safe from illnesses.

You can find a list of acceptable sanitizers on the EPA’s website. We also have a list of PPEs that should never be shared:

  • Laboratory Coats and Gowns
    • Each staffer should have at least three coats to themselves
    • You should label coats and gowns
    • Don’t put your coat or gown back on a shared rack after use
    • Keep your coat away from your and other people’s property
    • Arrange for coats to be laundered or decontaminated
    • Do not take coats home for laundering
  • Eye and Face Protection (Face shields, safety goggles, and goggles)
    • Some face shields and goggles are reusable if not compromised
      • No cracks, tears, or visible wear
    • Ensure each worker has their own eye and face protection
    • All face and eye PPE needs sanitizing if shared among workers
    • Use 70% alcohol disinfectants (no ethanol cleaners)
    • Some disinfectants need rinsing with soap and water after use
  • Gloves (Disposable, Autoclave, Cryogenic, Reusable, and Glovebox)
    • Disposable Gloves
      • Lab, core, or animal facility gloves should be disposed of
      • Be sure to use the correct waste disposal unit
      • Non-lab gloves can go into regular trash units
    • Heat Resistant Autoclave Gloves
    • Cryogenic Gloves
      • Consider wearing disposable gloves underneath
    • Reusable Gloves
      • Consider wearing disposable gloves underneath
    • Glovebox Gloves
      • Disinfect according to manufacturer specifications
      • Consider wearing disposable gloves underneath

PPE Doesn’t Replace Environmental Safety Controls

PPE is essential in mitigating workplace hazards, but it doesn’t replace safety controls like fume hoods, biosafety cabinets, chemical showers, glove boxes, etc. Don’t expect your PPE to do all the work of protecting you. 

You must employ a safe workplace and personal habits as well. Don’t smoke near flammable objects; keep your work area clean and clutter-free. PPE requirements can’t compensate for you and your surroundings. 

You should always pay attention to your surroundings, follow the rules, and understand that PPE has limitations. Remember, a hard hat can protect you from falling objects, but it’s not an everything-proof shield. 

Always review the specifications and limits of any PPE you use. It’s a bad idea to use workplace protection without fully understanding it. 

Want To Improve Workplace PPE Safety? 

The most crucial factor in improving PPE safety and avoiding workplace hazards is understanding personal protective gear. If you know what PPE is and how and when to use it, you can stay safe in all types of worksites. 

If workers are sharing, you must keep your PPE in good condition and sanitized. But perhaps the most crucial part of PPE safety is training employees on how to use their gear. 

Remember, PPE requirements require that you instruct workers on how to use their PPE. If you’re looking for additional ways to keep workers safe, look to KHA Solutions. Contact us for assistance to make your job a safer place.