Hindrances on Effective PPE

Hindrances on Effective PPE

The evolution of personal protective equipment (PPE) throughout the years is remarkable. Safety equipment — both for personal and professional use — has gone from face bandanas and suits of armor to HazMat masks and flame resistant clothing. In fact, beards were even once considered a safety defense. Firemen would grow long beards and wet them after receiving a fire call. They would then drape the hair over their mouth and nose to filter the air from smoke inhalation. However, with the advancement of self contained breathing apparatuses (SCBAs), beards have not only been replaced as a safety measure, but are now even banned from most fire departments. Beards are now believed to impact the proper seal of the mask on the fireman’s chin, limiting the fit and effectiveness of the safety device. With continual advances in health and safety technology, think about the PPE needed for your job. Examine not only if it is available and suitable, but also if you may be hindering its effectiveness.

On December 29, 1970, President Nixon signed the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 into law. The act gives the federal government the authority to set and govern safety and health standards in most organizations. This came after decades of worker injuries and fatalities, most caused by a lack of an employer safety program. In fact, it is believed that 14,000 workers were killed on the job in 1970. Since the institution of Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), work-related deaths fell to 5,147 in 2017. OSHA’s continued goal, though, is to bring that number to zero. One way to accomplish that is through PPE.

As illustrated in the Hierarchy of Controls, safety professionals agree that PPE is the last line of worker defense prior to injury or incident. Therefore, it is crucial that the PPE works without fail. Ensuring effective and efficient protection is the responsibility of both the employee and employer. As part of a 2008 Occupational Safety and Health Act, it is the employer’s responsibility to pay for all PPE necessary for workers to safely and effectively perform the required work. PPE must not only be suitable for the job, but must also be an adequate fit for the worker.

Graphic from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Additionally, employers must educate workers on the proper use of PPE, including how and when to wear the equipment, as well as associated limitations and proper maintenance and disposal.

Industrial safety retailer, Grainger, cites three primary contributing factors as to why workers forgo PPE or do not wear it correctly:

  • “It’s uncomfortable, too hot, or the wrong size.”
  • “I’ve done this task a million times, and I know what I’m doing.”
  • “I look like an idiot when I’m wearing this.”

Chances are, you have heard one of these excuses before, or have possibly even used one yourself. But do these excuses outweigh the associated consequences of injury, accident, or even death? Absolutely not! Therefore, as industry professionals, we must partner with workers to ensure that PPE is not only being worn, but being worn correctly and effectively.

PLH Group, Inc. and its team of 11 energy-related entities are combating this issue foot first. The group of companies understands that PPE is not one-size-fits-all. In fact, since the number of female workers continues to rise within PLH Group companies, management has ensured that it’s female workers are provided safety footwear specific to the fit of a woman’s foot. This not only improves work performance, but also ensures that the shoe is being worn to do its job.

Think about the PPE necessary to safely do your job. Ensure that it is not only fit for the job, but also that external factors are not limiting its effectiveness to properly defend you or your coworkers from injury or incident.