Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) Safety Resources
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Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) Safety Resources

 

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), every employee whose job could put them in contact with health and safety hazards must have access to personal protective equipment – also known as PPE. The purpose of personal protective equipment is to reduce exposure to workplace hazards that can cause illness, injury or worse.
 

Some of the more common types of PPE Include:
 


While most workers are aware that PPE exists and should be utilized, it’s critical to educate employees about the best practices for using protective equipment by establishing a PPE training program. Every employee should be informed when PPE is necessary, what kind of PPE is needed for the job, the limitations of the equipment and how to wear it correctly.

Review the resources and products below for more information so that you can put your best steel-toe boot forward.   

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), every employee whose job could put them in contact with health and safety hazards must have access to personal protective equipment – also known as PPE. The purpose of personal protective equipment is to reduce exposure to workplace hazards that can cause illness, injury or worse.
 

Some of the more common types of PPE Include:
 


While most workers are aware that PPE exists and should be utilized, it’s critical to educate employees about the best practices for using protective equipment by establishing a PPE training program. Every employee should be informed when PPE is necessary, what kind of PPE is needed for the job, the limitations of the equipment and how to wear it correctly.

Review the resources and products below for more information so that you can put your best steel-toe boot forward.   

Products That Promote PPE Safety Best Practices

PPE Safety News:

Summer Safety Tips: Best PPE Practices When the Heat Is On

Summer is a busy season for some of our most vital industries, including construction, energy and utility

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work. These industries have at least one thing in common: They all depend on personal protective equipment (PPE) to keep workers safe. While the importance of PPE is recognized by most workers in these industries, the heat and humidity of the summer months can make PPE compliance a challenge. 

On a hot day, it can be tempting to remove a hard hat or full-body suit to feel the cool breeze. Needless to say, deviating from proper PPE protocol, even for an instant, can subject workers to a greater risk of injury or illness. 

Fortunately, there are strategies employers can use to encourage compliance with company PPE policy, even during the hottest summer days. 

Consider the following: 

  • PPE is a worker’s last line of defense against workplace injury. According to the National Institute for Safety and Health's Hierarchy of Controls, personal protective equipment ranks as the least-effective intervention, following elimination of risks, replacement of hazardous tasks, isolating risky situations from workers and altering work practices. 

    This does not make PPE the “least important” safety intervention. When all else fails, PPE is the last thing standing between a worker and a potentially serious injury. 
     
  • The historical track record on PPE compliance hasn’t been great. At a 2010 American Society of Safety Engineers conference, a survey showed 98 percent of respondents had personally observed violations of PPE standards. Earlier surveys from 2006 through 2008 showed noncompliance rates of at least 85 percent on PPE usage. 
     
  • In addition to the safety problems associated with poor PPE utilization, employers face serious penalties from OSHA when their employees don’t wear their protective gear. For more information on OSHA standards and fines related to PPE, click here

Compliance with OSHA’s PPE standards is too important to ignore. When the temperature soars, workers are more likely to want to sacrifice safety for comfort, which jeopardizes the success of their employer’s safety program. Here are a few ways to help everyone on the jobsite wear appropriate PPE, no matter how intensely the sun beats down. 

PPE Compliance Tips for the Summer Heat

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  1. Prevent PPE violations by limiting heat illness risk factors. In 2011, OSHA launched a Heat Illness Prevention campaign, addressing a then-common cause of workplace illness. The principles set forth in this program have the added bonus of helping workers stay more comfortable during hot day shifts, reducing their desire to shed safety layers. 

    Essentially, OSHA’s Heat Illness Prevention campaign can be reduced to three main factors: water, rest and shade. Employers should ensure that all employees have constant access to clean, potable water, and encourage them to continually hydrate throughout the day. Work/rest cycles should also be put in place to keep workers comfortable. Additionally, workers should have access to cool, shady areas—or, better yet, air-conditioned trailers. 
     
  2. Choose PPE that’s designed for comfort and breathability. Not all PPE is designed for comfort in high-temperature applications. Say you need a chemical-protective suit for an outdoor job; look for products built to dissipate body heat during use, such as protective coveralls from 3M™. 

    Some of these models, such as the 3M™ Protective Coverall 4510, use a breathable laminate on polypropylene fabric to protect skin while allowing heat to escape. It’s also a good practice to look for PPE that is light in color, which will reflect heat rather than absorb it. In some applications, heat-protective gloves and/or sleeves can help workers handle sun-heated materials in comfort.
     
  3. Provide cooling accessories for existing PPE. Rather than replacing workplace PPE, employers can invest in cooling accessories that workers can wear beneath or attached to existing items. For instance, Protective Industrial Products (PIP) offers a full range of EZ-Cool tank tops and vests that dissipate heat through evaporative cooling. Users need only soak the garment in water for a minute or two, wring out the excess and enjoy up to a full shift’s worth of cooling activity. 

    Neck shade attachments for hard hats are also available. Even a simple solution, like an evaporative cooling towel from PIP, can considerably improve the comfort of PPE on a sunny day. 
     
  4. Plan for brightness as well as heat. In the construction industry, OSHA standard 1926.102 requires employers to “ensure that each affected employee uses appropriate eye or face protection when exposed to eye or face hazards from flying particles, molten metal, liquid chemicals, acids or caustic liquids, chemical gases or vapors, or potentially injurious light radiation.” Standard 1910.133 echoes this rule in industries other than construction. 

    For most employees, compliance with this regulation is accomplished through the use of safety eyewear. When the summer sun is shining, this eyewear should also be built to limit glare, eliminate fogging and protect the eyes from damaging UV rays. 

    The 3M™ Solus™ 1000 eyewear series includes a Scotchgard™ anti-fog coating, absorbs 99.9 percent of UV rays, and is available with a variety of lens tints. PIP offers a full range of safety glasses with infrared-filtering lenses that block UV rays while protecting eyes from flash burns associated with welding arcs. 
     
  5. Train employees and supervisors to recognise the symptoms of heat-related illness. Training is an essential part of any OSHA-compliant PPE program. In fact, general industry standard 1910.132(f)(1) states that, “The employer shall provide training to each employee who is required by this section to use PPE.” 

    Similarly, training for heat safety can help prevent illness and injury from outdoor work during the summer months. OSHA recommends educating teams on the hazards associated with summer heat, including the factors that lead to heat-related illness, symptoms of these illnesses and procedures for prevention and response. Learn more about heat-related illness on the job here, courtesy of OSHA.

While this list is far from complete, it provides an introduction to a few low-cost, high-impact techniques that can help keep workers safe during the summer months. When it comes to PPE compliance, a little bit of planning can go a long way. 

How to Improve PPE Compliance

Personal protective equipment (PPE) can save lives. Still, it’s not uncommon to walk onto a jobsite and find workers engaged in potentially dangerous tasks without adequate protection. 

But just how prevalent is PPE noncompliance? While sources differ on exact rates, one survey reports nearly 90 percent of respondents stating they have observed workers not using PPE in dangerous situations. 

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This is a risk for both workers and their employers, who are responsible for maintaining a safe workplace under Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations. For most industries, the relevant OSHA standard is 29 CFR 1910.132, which states, in part, that PPE “shall be provided, used, and maintained in a sanitary and reliable condition wherever it is necessary…” 

In the construction industry, employers should look to 29 CFR 1926.28(a): “The employer is responsible for requiring the wearing of appropriate personal protective equipment in all operations where there is an exposure to hazardous conditions…” 

How can an employer boost PPE compliance rates amongst workers? Research has revealed some of the top reasons why workers fail to use PPE. Here are some of those barriers to compliance, along with suggestions for overcoming them. 

  1. Available PPE is uncomfortable. In one leading study on PPE noncompliance, researcher Rizwan Farooqui and his colleagues asked a group of construction workers why they might choose not to use PPE. Nearly 60 percent of the respondents pointed to discomfort as the top reason they’d fail to use required protective equipment. 

    The solution to this may seem simple, but it’s extremely important: Ensure that PPE fits workers properly. Choose equipment that’s designed for comfort and breathability where appropriate and provide cooling vests and shading accessories to prevent overheating when workers are outdoors in the heat. Higher-quality PPE that fits employees properly can lead directly to improved compliance rates.
     
  2. Lack of sufficient PPE at the jobsite. A total of 24 percent of Dr. Farooqui’s respondents complained that employers did not provide enough PPE for all workers. Employers who run short on PPE are placing workers at risk and increasing their own exposure to costly OSHA fines and penalties. In short, too much PPE is far better than too little. Be sure to stock PPE inventories for maximum staffing, even during slower seasons when you need fewer workers per shift. 
     
  3. Inconvenient access to PPE. Some workers told Dr. Farooqui’s team that PPE wasn’t easy to access at the jobsite. Avoid this complaint by storing PPE as close as possible to tasks that require it. Portable storage lockers and bins can help ensure that PPE is always nearby when workers need it.

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  4. Absence of reminders. A recent study of PPE use in the wastewater industry recommends “cues to action,” such as posters and verbal reminders, to help workers prioritize PPE compliance. These reminders should focus on the clear benefits of PPE use and the dangers associated with lapses.  


Perhaps the most important thing employers can do to boost PPE usage among their workers is to invest in training, including supplementary education. After all, the OSHA standards both for general industry and for construction require employers to provide such training. 

When training employees on successful PPE use, it’s helpful to think of the process not as a one-time event, but as an ongoing reorientation toward safety best practices. By emphasizing the benefits of personal protective equipment through training and reminders — and by providing sufficient amounts of products that are comfortable and easy to access — employers can take an important step toward building a culture around safety.

OSHA PPE Violations and Fines — And How to Avoid Them

In 2017, employees at a large-scale corn-milling facility in Wisconsin noticed an alarming and unmistakable odor: smoke. Two staffers quickly traced the smell back to a basement fire, a significant hazard in an environment thick with explosive particles.  

Before the workers could fully evacuate, multiple explosions tore through the facility. Five workers were fatally injured. Three sustained injuries requiring hospitalization. Nine more were treated for serious injuries.   

This tragedy was compounded by the fact that some of these injuries could probably have been prevented. A later OSHA investigation (which is being contested by the employer) found a total of 19 violations of occupational safety standards. One in particular stands out — the employer was found by OSHA to have failed to provide personal protective equipment (PPE) “wherever it is necessary by reason of hazards of processes or environment,” as required by standard 1910.132: General requirements for PPE in general industry.

Personal Protective Equipment and OSHA Violations

The story above is not as rare as you might hope, especially in regards to problems with PPE compliance. Among the top 10 most-frequently cited OSHA standards between October 2017 and September 2018, PPE makes two appearances.

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The fourth-most cited standard on that list is 29 CFR 1910.134, which covers respiratory protection in general industry. The 10th-most cited regulation is 29 CFR 1926.102, regarding eye and face protection in the construction industry. 

Depending on the severity, these lapses in PPE protocols can lead to OSHA fines between $13,260 and $132,598 per violation. At the date of this article, the corn-milling company mentioned above received a fine of $126,749 for violations associated with standard 1910.132. (This was part of a total assessed penalty in the amount of $1,837,861.) 

Clearly, avoiding fines is not the only reason to follow OSHA guidelines. Maintaining a safe workplace and protecting your workers’ safety are universally desirable goals. Luckily, it isn’t terribly costly or difficult to maintain a safe, OSHA-compliant PPE program for employees in every industry. 

Avoiding OSHA Violations Pertaining to Personal Protective Equipment

The OSHA standards that describe PPE requirements vary by industry. Generally, employers in the construction industry will need to consult regulations found in section 1926, while most other employers should look to the 1910 standards for details on PPE. Separate standards address PPE in shipyards, marine terminals and the longshoring industry. Relevant OSHA regulations for most industries include: 

In the construction field, employers planning PPE programs should consult, at minimum, the following standards: 

Most employers, regardless of particular industry, can build an OSHA-compliant PPE program by following six steps, adapted largely from a recent OSHA document

  1. Complete a hazard assessment at the workplace. 
  2. Build a list of all PPE required to keep employees safe in the conditions present at the workplace. 
  3. Provide all of the required PPE (with a few notable exceptions — for instance, employers need not provide base clothing, and if an employee loses or intentionally damages PPE, that employee may be required to replace the item). 
  4. Conduct detailed training to ensure all employees know how to use and maintain PPE. 
  5. Ensure maintenance, care and cleaning for PPE, including replacement for items that have become worn, damaged or otherwise outlived their service lives. 
  6. Continual reappraisal and modification to the PPE program to ensure future effectiveness among changing conditions.

Choosing Effective, OSHA-Compliant Personal Protective Equipment

Given that employers must provide most PPE for their employees, the burden of choosing appropriate equipment falls on them. Only purchase PPE that complies with OSHA-incorporated ANSI standards. For instance, eye and face protection must meet requirements laid out in ANSI/IZEA Z87.1

Employers must also provide PPE in sizes that will properly fit their employees. PPE should be designed for maximum comfort to encourage compliance. When in doubt, speak to a product specialist at Graybar. These PPE specialists can help employers obtain OSHA-compliant equipment from leading manufacturers like PIP, who have a proven history of quality, affordability and strict adherence to relevant safety standards and regulations.  

By creating a robust PPE program, every employer can avoid OSHA PPE violations and associated fines — and, more importantly, protect workers’ safety.

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How to Choose PPE for Electrical Safety

Personal protective equipment (PPE) is sometimes the only thing standing between an electrical worker and serious injury. The simplest item, like an arc-rated rubber glove or an insulating sleeve, can ensure every employee goes home safely at the end of the day. 

In order to realize the benefits of PPE, workers need to know what PPE to wear, when and under what circumstances. Employers must provide the equipment and training on proper usage. Everyone must do their part to create a culture of safety, in which wearing the right PPE becomes a habit. 

Fortunately, there’s no shortage of guidance in the industry. Two overlapping authorities can help us choose PPE for electrical work. First, there are the relevant OSHA regulations for construction and for general industry. Then there's NFPA 70E: Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace. Due to the detailed, systematic nature of the NFPA electrical safety codes, we'll start there. 

What NFPA 70E Says About Choosing Electrical PPE

The NFPA offers not one but two systems for determining what sort of PPE will give employees adequate protection from shocks and burns. The Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace instructs managers to choose one method and go with it (instead of combining the two methods). 

The first method is to simply consult the tables in part 130.7 of the NFPA 70E. In the 2018 edition of the code, Table 130.7(C)(15)(a) details the category of PPE electrical workers should wear when working various voltage levels in AC systems. Table 130.7(C)(15)(b) offers the same information for DC systems. 

Finally, users must consult Table 130.7(C)(15)(c), which describes the four categories of PPE as detailed in the previous two tables. All of these resources are available in Article 130 of the 2018 NFPA 70E codes, which you can access for free from the NFPA website.

The second method requires engineers to complete an Incident Energy Analysis. This test calculates the energy that an arc flash could inflict on a worker in terms of calories per centimeter squared, specifically in the context of a given task. With the results of the analysis in hand, users can consult Table 130.5(G), located in Article 130 of NFPA 70E, to determine the PPE workers must wear while performing that task.    

The “table method” has the advantage of being quick and relatively straightforward. The Incident Energy Analysis method, on the other hand, provides more detailed PPE choices. 

Regardless of the method used to choose PPE, Tables 130.7(C)(15)(a) and 130.7(C)(15)(b) provide arc-flash boundaries for common electrical systems. This is the radius within which all who enter must wear the designated PPE. 

Both of the above methods of choosing PPE require access to NFPA 70E, which you can find on the NFPA website. 

OSHA Standards on PPE in Electrical Work

Safety standards from OSHA echo the underlying principles of NFPA 70E without going into as great detail. In general industry (that is, not construction), employers should consult 29 CFR 1910.335(a)(1)(i) to ensure proper PPE usage and full compliance with legally-binding OSHA regulations.  

This standard, located within Subpart S of Part 1910, states, “Employees working in areas where there are potential electrical hazards shall be provided with, and shall use, electrical protective equipment that is appropriate for the specific parts of the body to be protected and for the work to be performed.” 

Standard 1910.335 goes on to address specific conditions: “Employees shall wear nonconductive head protection wherever there is a danger of head injury from electric shock or burns.” This standard also states, “Employees shall wear protective equipment for the eyes or face wherever there is danger of injury to the eyes or face from electric arcs or flashes or from flying objects resulting from electrical explosion.” 

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But what other kinds of PPE are the standards talking about? 

PPE Class Ratings in the OSHA Standards

For details, we’ll need to shift our attention to Subpart I of the OSHA regulations; specifically, standard 1910.137, Electrical Protective Equipment.

This section describes six classes of insulating gloves and sleeves as well as non-clothing protective equipment, such as rubber blankets and line hose. Compare this to NFPA 70E, which only considers insulating clothing to be PPE proper and addresses rubber blankets and other such equipment in a separate chapter.

In the construction industry, electrical protective equipment is detailed in standard 1926.97. These rules mirror the class ratings for PPE found in 1910.137. Classes include 00, 0, 1, 2, 3 and 4. The higher the number, the higher the voltage the PPE is rated to withstand. 

Ozone-resistant PPE is labeled Type II and items that don’t resist ozone are considered Type I. 

Providing Appropriate PPE for Electrical Workers

Arc-rated, OSHA-compliant PPE is available from manufacturers like Protective Industrial Products (PIP), which offers the full range of NFPA-designated insulating and fire-resistant clothing. This includes gloves, sleeves, hoods, jackets, hard hats and arc shields in a variety of sizes. 

Speaking of sizes, correct sizing for PPE is crucial. Employers must ensure that they provide PPE that fits their employees precisely. When PPE is too loose, it interferes with work and can fall off at a crucial moment. When it’s too tight, workers can’t fit into it in the first place and their movements may be restricted. There’s also the employee’s comfort to consider because uncomfortable PPE can tempt the wearer to disregard protocol and go without. 

Strict Use of Code-Approved PPE Improves Safety

According to NFPA 70E, PPE is literally the electrical worker's last line of defense. The document’s hierarchy of risk control lists the order in which stakeholders should attempt hazard-removal techniques and PPE comes in last, meaning PPE is the final protection employees can rely on to save them from electrical hazards at work. 

That means PPE is your safety net. Don’t walk the wire without a net — instead, follow the rules set by OSHA and the NFPA to ensure safe, injury-free electrical work with every shift. 

Disclaimer: This content does not constitute legal or professional advice for a particular case. When in doubt, consult a NFPA-certified electrical safety compliance specialist.

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OSHA's New Silica Regulations: Is Your Organization Ready?

On June 23, 2016, OSHA issued two new standards designed to protect workers from inhaling harmful crystalline silica. The deadline for compliance with the standards is September 23, 2017. Is your organization ready? What is Crystalline Silica? Crystalline silica is a basic component of soil, sand, granite, and many other minerals. All three forms may become respirable size particles when workers chip, cut, drill, or grind objects that contain crystalline silica. Crystalline silica has been classified as a human lung carcinogen. Additionally, breathing crystalline silica dust can cause silicosis, which in severe cases can be disabling, or even fatal. The respirable silica dust enters the lungs and causes the formation of scar tissue, thus reducing the lungs’ ability to take in oxygen. There is no cure for silicosis.

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