Worker Safety: Costly Pitfalls
Part 2: OSHA Regulations for Personal Protective Equipment
OSHA Regulations for Personal Protective Equipment
By David Casavant - February 2010 - Maintenance & Operations
Managers can provide employees with a safe workplace by making tools and equipment safer — engineering controls — and by training the employees to perform their work more safely through the use of administrative controls. But sometimes these methods do not remove all the risk inherent in certain tasks. To further protect the employees, OSHA recognizes and encourages the use of PPE.
PPE can take many forms, but OSHA regulations cover the following areas:
- eye and face protection —standard 29 CFR 1910.133
- respiratory protection —standard 29 CFR 1910.134
- head protection —standard 29 CFR 1910.135
- foot protection —standard 29 CFR 1910.136
- electrical protective devices —standard 29 CFR 1910.137
- hand protection —standard 29 CFR 1910.138.
To determine the appropriate PPE for a specific task, OSHA requires organizations to perform an assessment. According to general requirement 1910.132(d)(1), the employer shall assess the workplace to determine if hazards are present or are likely present, which necessitates the use of PPE. The assessment must be formal, and the employee must certify it, according to 1910.132(d)(2).
Many organizations are doing a good job of providing PPE for workers, but too many managers are doing a poor job of providing and documenting required PPE training. When providing maintenance and engineering technicians with PPE, managers must address: when using PPE is necessary; the types of PPE required; the proper ways to adjust and wear the equipment; the limitations of the PPE; and the proper care, maintenance, useful life, and disposal of PPE.
Organizations must go beyond simply providing employees with PPE. Managers must properly maintain the equipment, they must train employees on its proper use, and managers have to enforce its required use.