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Safety First PPE

Personal Protective Equipment Requirement Guide - safety first
Free PPE Requirement Guide

Written by Steve Hudgik

Safety First is a phrase we see in signs around the workplace. Read through the OSHA monthly lists of fatalities and realize that the words "safety first" are not idle words. Workplace injuries and fatalities are unexpected and devastating. Putting safety first, both in your actions and in your thoughts, is necessary.

One aspect of putting safety first is to always use required PPE. Signs such as "Safety First - Eye Protection Required" remind us that PPE is needed. Don't ignore them, even for a moment.

What is PPE?

PPE is an acronym for Personal Protective Equipment. It includes anything that is intended to be worn or held by a person to provide protection from health or safety hazards. Examples of PPE include hard hats, safety glasses, ear protection, steel-toed boots, high visibility vests, safety harnesses and gloves.

Think safety first and you'll know that PPE must be suitable for the risk it is providing protection against. For example a N95 respirator provides protection against dust. But if you also need protection against infection you'll need a surgical N95 respirator. It provides the protection of both an N95 respirator and a surgical mask.

Free Chart to PPE Requirements

A summary of the 12 most common PPE categories

Safety First - Protection Against Head Injuries

Hard hats provide protection against falling and flying objects, head bumping and electrical injuries. They also protect against hair entanglement, preventing hair from getting caught in machine parts such as belts and chains.

Safety First - Foot and Leg Injury Protection

This type of PPE includes safety shoes, foot guards, leggings and gaiters. They help prevent injuries resulting from chemical splashes, rolling and falling objects, sharp objects - including sharp objects that can penetrate the sole of a shoe, electrical shock, slipping and abrasion.

Safety First - Protection From Eye and Face Injuries

Besides safety spectacles and goggles, personal protective equipment for the face and eyes includes visors, special helmets, spectacles with side shields, and face shields. These help to protect workers from the hazards of flying fragments, projectiles, chemical splashes, hot sparks, extreme light (welding flash), extreme temperatures, and hazardous gases.

Safety First - Hearing Loss Protection

Using earplugs (or earmuffs) helps to prevent damage to hearing. Exposure to high sound levels can result in irreversible hearing loss, as well as physical and psychological stress. Earplugs made from foam, waxed cotton, or fiberglass wool are self-forming and usually work well. If molded or preformed earplugs are used, a professional should fit workers individually. Clean earplugs regularly, and replace those that cannot be cleaned.

Safety First - Hand Protection

Workers exposed to cuts or lacerations, abrasions, chemical burns, thermal burns, harmful temperature extremes, and harmful substances that can be absorbed through the skin, need hand protection. PPE for the hands includes gloves, gauntlets, mitts, sleeves and wristcuffs.

Safety First - Protection from Body Injury

Hazards such as extreme temperatures and fire, radiation, spray from leaks, entanglement of clothing, adverse weather, exposure to body fluids or waste can all cause bodily harm. PPE for the body, such as jackets, pants, overalls, aprons, high-visibility clothing all provide protection for the body from these types of hazards. In addition to fire-retardant wool and cotton, materials used in whole-body personal protective equipment include rubber, leather, synthetics and plastic.

Safety First - Respiratory Protection

Appropriate respirators are used as the final line of protection against the adverse health effects caused by breathing air contaminated with harmful dusts, fogs, fumes, mists, gases, smokes, sprays, or vapors. Respirators generally cover the nose and mouth or the entire face or head and help prevent illness and injury. A proper fit is essential for respirators to be effective. Required respirators must be NIOSH-approved and medical evaluation and training must be provided before using a respirator.

Safety First - PPE Maintenance

More than using PPE is required. PPE must be properly maintained. This includes having appropriate replacement PPE always available.

PPE maintenance includes:

  • PPE must be properly stored
  • PPE must be kept clean. Follow the manufacturer´s recommended cleaning instructions. Do not clean and re-use disposable PPE.
  • PPE must be properly repaired by specialists with necessary training.

Safety First - PPE Signs and Labels

Signs and labels are an integral part of a "safety first" attitude. Not just the signs that have the words "Safety First" across the top. Signs and labels are used to designate PPE storage locations. They are used to provide PPE cleaning instructions. And, of course, they identify the PPE that needs to be used at each location where PPE is required.

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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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