Reviewing PPE and Making Better Decisions
Buying personal protection equipment (PPE) for your facility isn’t always as easy a job as it sounds. The days of just purchasing some hard hats and calling it good are long in the past, and with so many different items to consider, it is important that you have a good understanding of exactly what you need, and why.
With that in mind, review the following frequently asked questions about PPE and how it should be used in your facility. This will help to give you a more complete understanding about what types of things you should know so that you can make better decisions whenever purchasing this type of equipment.
Common Questions Regarding PPE
Q) Is PPE a good First line of Defense?
A) This is a common misconception that many people have. Personal protection equipment is actually supposed to serve as the last line of defense. Facilities should do everything they can to make it so the PPE is never actually used.
If you have a hard hat on, for example, the goal is still to help ensure nothing ever falls and hits you on the head. The hard hat is only there to provide protection in the event that all your other efforts have failed.
Q) Where should I Store PPE?
A) Once you have the personal protection equipment for your facility, you will need to find a good place to store it. The following guidelines will help you to make the right choice based on the situation and the type of PPE you are storing:
- If it is equipment that is worn on the worksite every day, it should be kept near the entrances or other areas that will help to serve as a reminder to the employees that they need to be wearing it.
- Some PPE is only used during emergencies. If that is the case in your facility, it should be stored in an easy to access area that is likely to be near the location of any emergency.
- Other PPE is used only for very specific tasks that are known, but not often performed. Things like working in confined spaces, for example. When this is the case, storing the equipment near other tools that are used for that type of job is a good idea.
The basic answer to this is that PPE should be stored as close to the places where it will be used as possible. This will help ensure people use it when needed, and that it will be there when necessary.
Q) What does OSHA say about PPE?
A) For many companies, staying in compliance with OSHA regulations is one of the most important things they need to do. This regulatory agency has an almost endless list of different rules and regulations, so it can be difficult to keep up on them all. While PPE is mentioned in many of the regulations, it is OSHA 3151-12R that lays out the specific requirements for PPE. Taking some time to read through this regulation is something all safety managers should do.
Q) Who is Responsible for Paying for PPE?
A) Some companies make the mistake of thinking that they can pass on the expenses of personal protection equipment to the employees. This is an especially common practice for equipment that has to be used by one individual every day since it is typically purchased just for them.
The fact is, however, that according to OSHA, employers must pay for most types of PPE. There are some limited exceptions to this, but the general rule is that employers need to foot the bill for this type of equipment. You can read more about this requirements, including the specific exceptions, in the OSHA release on this subject, HERE.
Q) Should an Employer Require PPE to be used even if it is not required by OSHA?
A) There are many cases when OSHA or other regulatory agencies do not require the use of PPE, but employers feel that it is still a good idea. In these situations, the employers certainly have the right to require the use of this type of equipment.
To determine whether or not you want to force the use of PPE, objectively weigh the benefits against any problems or inconveniences it may cause. Take some time to listen to the view points of the employees and see if it makes sense to put in this type of requirement. In some cases, it may be sufficient to provide the PPE, but make it optional. Other times, it is a good idea to make it mandatory to help ensure everyone is kept safe.
Q) Is Training Required for Personal Protection Equipment?
A) Whenever providing PPE to your employees, it is a good idea to also provide them with training. This will help ensure that they know how and when these items are to be worn. For simple items like hard hats and steel toed boots, the training can just take a minute or two. For more complex items like breathing masks and full protection suits, it is a good idea to go into more depth with the training.
The most important thing is that you want to make sure that the equipment is able to be used properly so that the employees aren’t actually exposed to more danger when they are using it.
Q) How do I keep PPE in proper working order?
A) Just like any other equipment, PPE can be damaged or get broken over time. It is important to make sure that all the PPE in the facility is in good working order, or it may actually cause more harm than good. Worn down equipment can give people a false sense of security that could lead to significant injuries.
With this in mind, it is a good idea to inspect these items on a regular basis. The following are some key times when a good inspection should be done:
- After an Incident – If the PPE is actually used at some point, it should be inspected after the event is over. For example, if something falls and strikes a hard hat, it should be looked at to see if it is still in good enough shape to provide sufficient protection.
- On specific Dates – Setting an inspection schedule for each item is a good way to ensure it never goes too long without being looked at. Some items should be inspected monthly, while others can go annually. Setting a date for each item and sticking to it will help you to avoid problems.
- Set number of Uses – For equipment that is used on a regular basis, it can be a good idea to inspect it after every 50 uses, for example. Determine what number would be best, and then begin tracking their uses.
One of the best ways to keep track of any of these things is to simply use your industrial label maker (like this one) to print off the information from the previous inspection, and stick it right to the item. If that doesn’t work, you can place the label on the storage area where it is kept. These labels can make it very easy to keep track of all the inspections that have been done.
The point to this is that all PPE needs to be inspected in order to make sure it will still provide the protection that it is designed to. If there are any problems, it can be replaced or repaired before it leads to any injuries.
While these frequently asked questions can give you a good starting point, it is always good to take the time to learn as much as you can about the specific PPE that you have in your facility. The better the understanding you have, the better you can help keep everyone in the facility safe.
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