Grounds care workers are exposed to many types of hazards. To select appropriate PPE, managers need to evaluate occupational hazards based on geographic region, season, and the amount of time they spend outside. Physical hazards can include extreme heat and cold, noise, lightning, and ultraviolet (UV) radiation. Biological hazards can include vector-borne diseases, venomous wildlife and insects, and poisonous plants.
Common PPE use associated with grounds work includes:
Hand protection. Managers should specify gloves based on the task to be performed. Various glove styles provide hand protection from a range of hazards, including cuts, scrapes, chemical and thermal burns, and vibrating equipment.
Eye protection. Face shields or goggles protect worker's eyes from dust and flying particles. To reduce the risk of cataracts from sun exposure among grounds workers, managers should consider wraparound sunglasses with UVA and UVB protection.
Foot protection. High-top, lace-up shoes and boots with traction soles and steel-reinforced toes provide the needed support and protection for workers' toes, feet and ankles.
Hearing protection. Appropriate hearing-protection devices, such as ear muffs and ear plugs, provide protection from noise produced by equipment. Managers should be aware that providing hearing protection triggers OSHA's requirements for a written hearing-conservation program and potential hearing tests for employees.
PPE should not be the first or only strategy for reducing workers' exposures to hazards. They can eliminate or reduce many hazards so workers do not need PPE. Eliminating the need for PPE lowers the burden placed on employees and reduces costs associated with buying the products, training employees, and maintaining equipment.
But OSHA regulations do require that employers provide the appropriate PPE when hazards cannot be eliminated or sufficiently reduced. So the proper selection and use of PPE is a critical aspect of a manager's role in protecting front-line technicians, reducing injuries, and ensuring regulatory compliance.
Jeffery C. Camplin is president of Camplin Environmental Services Inc., a safety and environmental consulting firm in Rosemont, Ill.
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