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Part 1: OSHA Guidelines for Personal Protective Equipment
By Jeffery C. Camplin
February 2011 -
Personal protective equipment (PPE) is essential for keeping front-line maintenance and engineering technicians safe on the job in institutional and commercial facilities. But these products — including gloves, goggles, face shields, and boots — can only deliver the desired protection if managers specify them properly and ensure technicians use them appropriately.
To ensure technicians are as safe as possible, managers need to address a series of important issues. These include: performing a workplace assessment to identify and control physical and health hazards; identifying and providing appropriate PPE for employees; training employees in the use and care of the PPE; maintaining PPE, including replacing worn or damaged products; and periodically reviewing, updating and evaluating the effectiveness of the PPE program.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires a manager to furnish "a place of employment which is free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to his employees." As a result, managers need to identify and address workplace hazards, and PPE is one component in reducing technicians' exposure to these dangers.
But OSHA regulations — including Standard 1910.132 regulating the use of PPE — specify that using PPE must be the last option for controlling workplace hazards. Managers first must use engineering and administrative controls to reduce or eliminate hazards before relying on the use of PPE. When managers determine these controls are not feasible or effective in reducing hazardous exposures to acceptable levels, then they must determine if PPE would better protect their workers.
Managers can identify workplace hazards by performing a job-hazard analysis. The analysis should consider the basic hazard categories — impact, penetration, compression or roll-over, chemical, heat, harmful dust, light, and radiation.
PPE to protect workers includes: head, eye, and face protection; respirators; hand and foot protection; protective clothing; and protection from electrical hazards. OSHA requires PPE for employees exposed to hazards created from processes or hazards in the work environment. These hazards include chemical or radiological sources or mechanical irritants that could cause injury or impair the function of any part of the body through absorption, inhalation, or physical contact.
Area walk-throughs can help managers identify sources of hazards, including:
Managers also can review injury and accident data to identify potential problem areas.
PPE: Make Protection a Priority
Part 2: Rely on Guidelines When Specifying Personal Protective Equipment
Part 3: Personal Protective Equipment: Focus on Arc Flash
Part 4: Training for Personal Protective Equipment