Personal Protective Equipment and Health and Safety

Personal Protective Equipment and Health and Safety

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) must be worn by employees that need to be protected against risks in the workplace for their personal health and safety.  The types of clothing and equipment used will depend on the specific job description and what types of equipment and processes the particular staff member will be exposed to.

Personal Protective Equipment

Provision and maintenance of PPE:

The employer is responsible for paying for all PPE, and correct clothing (purpose and size) must be supplied to all employees. Replacement protective equipment must be readily available, and the employer is legally obliged to provide all training with regards to the proper use and maintenance of PPE.

Choosing the correct PPE:

A thorough risk assessment of all work areas needs to be performed on a regular basis.  This will determine the types of PPE required, based on the specific hazards identified.

Things to consider:

  • Is the PPE suitable for the risk involved? For example, one can’t wear goggles if full-face protection is required.
  • Does the PPE lower the overall risk?  Wearing gloves, for instance, can cause increased risk of entanglement in some cases.
  • Does the PPE fit the wearer correctly? For example, people who wear glasses are limited with their use of ear and face protection.
  • What are the demands that will be placed on the PPE? How long will it need to be worn, what strain will it take, and are there visibility requirements?
  • Is all the PPE that needs to be worn by one person compatible? For example, can earmuffs and face protection be worn together if necessary?
  • Can the risk be controlled to protect everyone in the work area (such as a machine guard) instead of just clothing for one person?
  • Does the PPE restrict the wearer (limited mobility and/or visibility), and is this restriction less hazardous than the risk it is meant to protect against?

 What does PPE include?

  • Clothing such as overalls, high visibility vests, life jackets and padded suits.  Each employee must have their own set in the correct size.
  • Respiratory protective equipment, including masks. Tasks that usually require this form of PPE include welding, areas with lots of dust, and work zones that include chemical hazards.
  • Eye and face protection, for example safety glasses and face shields. This is to protect against splashing of harmful liquids, flying debris, lasers, and gases.
  • Head protection with safety helmets. These include hard hats for falling materials, bump caps, and caps/hair nets to protect against entanglement.
  • Hearing protective devices such as earplugs and earmuffs.
  • When working at high levels, fall arrest harnesses.
  • Skin protection (gloves and fire-resistant clothing)
  • Protective footwear (safety boots and rubber boots with steel toe guards).  These are usually required in tasks such as construction, chemical handling, demolition, building repair, anywhere there is a risk of heavy falling objects, or extreme hot or cold environments.
  • Sun and heat protection when working outdoors (hats, sunscreen, shaded rest areas)
  • Disposable protective clothing for working with chemical and bio-hazards.
  • Hand and arm protection. In addition to gloves, wrist cuffs and armlets may be required (as an example, for protection when cutting glass)

Training on the use of PPE

Whenever PPE is provided, the respective employees need to be fully trained on the use of the equipment, as well as on the risks it is intended to safeguard against.  Refresher training may be necessary and this is determined by regular risk assessments.

Training needs to include the following:

  • The particular hazards present and why the PPE is required
  • How the PPE operates as well as its limitations
  • How to correctly store all PPE
  • The testing requirements before the equipment is used
  • Hygiene and cleaning procedures
  • Factors that will have an impact on the performance of the PPE (such as damage)
  • Manufacturer’s recommended replacement periods and shelf lives
  • Recognising, reporting and repairing defects

It is important to remember that the correct use of PPE is highly dependent on the particular work environment involved, as well as the person wearing it. There is no “one size fits all” approach, and time and care must be taken to ensure that each item if fully compliant with the relevant sections of the Occupational Health and Safety Act.

Posted date: 19th Oct 2017
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