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Safety Equipment

Written by Steve Hudgik

Free Safety Inspection Workbook

Safety equipment, known as personal protective equipment (PPE), is required by OSHA to reduce employee exposure to hazards when engineering and administrative controls are not feasible or effective in reducing exposure to safety hazards to acceptable levels. Employers are required to determine if safety equipment should be used to protect their workers.

If safety equipment is to be used, a PPE program should be implemented. This program needs to address the hazards that are present; the selection, maintenance, and use of all safety equipment; the training of employees; and monitoring of the safety program to ensure it is effective in protecting people.

OSHA standard 29 CFR 1910.132 requires employers to assess the workplace to determine if hazards are present, or are likely to be present, which necessitate the use of safety equipment. Employers must first institute all feasible engineering and work practice controls to eliminate and reduce hazards before using PPE to protect against hazards

Examples of PPE include:

  • Eyes - safety glasses, goggles
  • Lungs - Respirators
  • Faces - face shields
  • Heads - hard hats
  • Feet - safety shoes
  • Hands and arms - gloves
  • Bodies - vests
  • Hearing - ear plugs, earmuffs

Safety Equipment - Eye and Face Protection

Thousands of people are blinded each year from work-related eye injuries that could have been prevented with the proper selection and use of eye and face protection. Eye injuries alone cost more than $300 million per year in lost production time, medical expenses, and worker compensation.

Eye protection is used to protect the eyes from flying particles, molten metal, liquid chemicals, acids or caustic liquids, chemical gases or vapors, or potentially injurious light radiation. The most common types of eye protection are:

  1. Flexible fitting goggles with regular ventilation
  2. Flexible fitting goggles with hooded ventilation
  3. Cushioned fitting goggles with a rigid body
  4. Metal frame spectacles with side shields
  5. Plastic frame spectacles with side shields
  6. Metal-plastic frame spectacles with flat-fold side shields
  7. Eyecup type welding goggles, with tinted lenses
  8. Eyecup type welding goggles, tinted plate lens
  9. Coverspec type welding goggles, tinted plate lens
  10. Face shield (available with a plastic or mesh window that can be tinted or transparent)
  11. Welding helmets

Safety Equipment - Respirators

A respirator is a protective device that covers the nose and mouth, or the entire face or head, to guard the wearer against hazardous atmospheres. Respirators are required when people need to work in environments with insufficient oxygen or where hazardous or harmful dusts, fogs, smokes, mists, fumes, gases, vapors, or sprays are present.

Respirators may be:

Tight-fitting - these may be half masks, which cover the mouth and nose, or full face pieces that cover the face from the hairline to below the chin.

Loose-fitting - these are hoods or helmets that cover the head completely.

In addition, there are two major classes of respirators:

Air-purifying - these use filters to remove contaminants from the air.

Atmosphere-supplying - these use an uncontaminated source to provide clean, breathable air.

Safety Equipment - Head Protection

You must provide head protection for your employees if:

  • Objects might fall from above and strike them on the head.
  • They might bump their heads against fixed objects, such as exposed pipes or beams.
  • They work near exposed electrical conductors.

The head protection that is used must be appropriate for the hazards that are present. In general the head protection must:

  • Resist penetration by objects.
  • Absorb the shock of a blow.
  • Be water resistant and slow burning.
  • Come with instructions explaining proper adjustment and replacement of the suspension and head band.
  • Comply with ANSI Z89.1-1986 (if purchased after July 5, 1994) or ANSI Z89.1-1969 (if purchased before this date).

Safety Equipment - Foot and Leg Protection

Foot and leg protection is used to protect against hazards such as:

  • Heavy objects such as barrels or tools that might roll onto or fall on employees' feet.
  • Sharp objects such as nails or spikes that might pierce the soles or uppers of ordinary shoes.
  • Molten metal that might fall on or splash onto feet or legs.
  • Hot or wet surfaces.
  • Slippery surfaces.

Types of foot and leg protection safety equipment:

  • Leggings: are used to protect the lower legs and feet from heat hazards, like molten metal or welding sparks.
  • Metatarsal Guards: are metal or plastic guards strapped to the outside of shoes to protect the instep area from impact and compression.
  • Toe Guards: fit over the toes of regular shoes to protect the toes from impact and compression.
  • Safety Shoes: these include impact-resistant toes and heat-resistant soles that protect against hot work surfaces. Some safety shoes have metal insoles to protect against puncture wounds.

Safety Equipment - Hand and Arm Protection

Gloves and arm protection are used to protect the hands and arms. The nature of the hazard(s) and the work to be performed will determine the type of gloves and arm protection that needs to be used.

There are a number of different types of gloves, with each designed to protect against certain types of hazards. These include:

  • Durable work gloves made of metal mesh, leather or canvas. These are sturdy gloves intended to provide protection from cuts, burns, and sustained heat.
  • Fabric and coated fabric gloves. This type of glove is made from a variety of materials. Cotton gloves protect against dirt, slivers, chafing, and abrasion. Cotton flannel gloves coated with plastic provide general-purpose hand protection as well as being slip-resistant. Coated fabric gloves are used for tasks ranging from handling bricks and wire rope to handling chemical containers in laboratory operations.
  • Chemical and liquid resistant gloves made of rubber (latex, nitrile, or butyl), plastic, or synthetic rubber-like material such as neoprene protect workers from burns, irritation, and dermatitis caused by contact with oils, greases, solvents, and other chemicals
  • Insulating rubber gloves provide protection from electrical shock.

Safety Equipment - Body Protection

Workplace hazards that could injure employees' bodies include the following:

  • Intense heat
  • Splashes of hot metals and other hot liquids
  • Impacts from tools, machinery, and materials
  • Cuts
  • Hazardous chemicals
  • Contact with potentially infectious materials, like blood
  • Radiation

The types of available body protection devices include:

  • Vests
  • Jackets
  • Aprons
  • Coveralls
  • Surgical gowns
  • Full body suits

The types of materials use for protective clothing include:

  • Paper-Like Fiber. Disposable suits made of this material provide protection against dust and splashes.
  • Treated Wool and Cotton. Protects against dust, abrasions, and rough and irritating surfaces. Clothing made from this material is usually fire resistant.
  • Duck. Protects employees against cuts and bruises while they handle heavy, sharp, or rough materials.
  • Leather. Often used against dry heat and flame.
  • Rubber, Rubberized Fabrics, Neoprene, and Plastics. Provides protection against certain acids and other chemicals.

Safety Equipment - Hearing Protection

Hearing protection is required when:

  • the employee's noise exposure exceeds an 8-hour time-weighted average sound level (TWA) of 90 dBA (dose of 100 percent). This is required by OSHA's noise standard 29 CFR 1910.95.
  • an employee has been exposed to an 8-hour TWA of 85 dBA (dose of 50 percent) and who has measured hearing loss.

Common types of hearing protection include various styles of ear plugs and earmuffs.

Safety Equipment - Summary

OSHA requires that a safety equipment (PPE) program be implemented to systematically assess the hazards in the workplace and select the appropriate safety equipment to protect workers from those hazards.

As part of this safety equipment program, you must do the following:

  • Assess the workplace for hazards.
  • Implement engineering controls and work practices to control or eliminate these hazards to the extent possible.
  • Select the appropriate PPE to protect employees from hazards that cannot be eliminated or controlled through engineering controls and work practices.
  • Inform and train employees about why the PPE is necessary and when it must be worn.
  • Train employees on how to use and care for the selected PPE and how to recognize PPE deterioration and failure.
  • Require your employees to wear the selected PPE in the workplace.

Safety Equipment - Labels and Signs

Labels and signs are an integral part of using safety equipment. They provide warning and reminders when safety equipment is needed. They identify safety equipment and provide checklists for inspection and proper use of PPE. They warn people, who are not using required PPE, away from safety and health hazards.

The best way to get the labels and signs you need is by having a DuraLabel printer. With DuraLabel you not only get the best printers, you get the best supplies, support and service. For example, DuraLabel has the only tough-tested vinyl that is backed by a five year warranty of the labels you make. And with DuraLabel all current customers always get free support – there is never a need for a service contract.

Call 1-888-326-9244. today and ask about a DuraLabel printer for making your safety and health signs.

The information presented in this document was obtained from sources that we deem reliable; Graphic Products does not guarantee accuracy or completeness. Graphic Products, Inc. makes no representations or warranties of any kind, express or implied. Users of this document should consult municipal, state, and federal code and/or verify all information with the appropriate regulatory agency.

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