Personal Protective Equipment
Workers have a right to a safe workplace. The law requires employers to provide their employees with safe and healthful workplaces. The OSHA law also prohibits employers from retaliating against employees for exercising their rights under the law (including the right to raise a health and safety concern or report an injury).PPE is defined as the Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations as: ‘All equipment (including clothing affording protection against the weather) which is intended to be worn or held by a person at work which protects them against one or more risks to their health and safety’.
Personal protective equipment is equipment worn to minimize exposure to serious workplace injuries and illnesses. These injuries and illnesses may result from contact with chemical, radiological, physical, electrical, mechanical, or other workplace hazards. Personal protective equipment may include items such as gloves, safety glasses and shoes, earplugs or muffs, hard hats, respirators, or coveralls, vests and full body suits.Waterproof, weatherproof, or insulated clothing is subject to the Regulations only if its use is necessary to protect employees against adverse climatic conditions that could otherwise affect their health and safety.
All personal protective equipment should be safely designed and constructed, and should be maintained in a clean and reliable fashion. It should fit comfortably, encouraging worker use. If the personal protective equipment does not fit properly, it can make the difference between being safely covered or dangerously exposed. When engineering, work practice, and administrative controls are not feasible or do not provide sufficient protection, employers must provide personal protective equipment to their workers and ensure its proper use.If items of Personal Protective Equipment are required they must be provided free of charge by the employer.
Under the OSH law, you are entitled to a safe workplace. Your employer must provide a workplace free of known health and safety hazards. If you have concerns, you have the right to speak up about them without fear of retaliation. You also have the right to:• Be trained in a language you understand• Work on machines that are safe • Be provided required safety gear, such as gloves or a harness and lifeline for falls• Be protected from toxic chemicals• Request an OSHA inspection, and speak to the inspector• Report an injury or illness, and get copies of your medical records• See copies of the workplace injury and illness log• Review records of work-related injuries and illnesses• Get copies of test results done to find hazards in the workplaceSafety and Health Complaint.
If you believe working conditions are unsafe or unhealthful, you may file a confidential complaint with OSHA and ask for an inspection. If possible, bring the conditions to your employer’s attention.Protection from Retaliation.It is illegal for an employer to fire, demote, transfer or otherwise retaliate against a worker for using their rights under the law. If you believe you have been retaliated against in any way, file a whistleblower complaint within 30 days of the alleged retaliation.
Many OSHA standards require employers to provide personal protective equipment, when it is necessary to protect employees from job-related injuries, illnesses, and fatalities. With few exceptions, OSHA requires employers to pay for personal protective equipment when it is used to comply with OSHA standards. These typically include: hard hats, gloves, goggles, safety glasses, welding helmets and goggles, face shields, chemical protective equipment and fall protection equipment.Suitability of PPETo be able to choose the right type of PPE, the hazards involved in the task or work environment must be considered carefully.
PPE must also meet the needs of the individual.The following factors should be considered when assessing the suitability of PPE:• Is the PPE appropriate for the risk involved and conditions at the place where exposure may occur? e.g. goggles are not suitable when full-face protection is required•
Does the PPE prevent or adequately control the risks involved without increasing the overall risk? e.g. gloves should not be worn when using a pillar drill, due to the increased risk of entanglement•
Can the PPE be adjusted to fit the wearer correctly? e.g. if a person wears glasses, ear defenders may not provide a proper seal to protect against noise hazards• Has the state of health of those using it been taken into account?• What are the needs of the job and the demands it places on the wearer? How long will the PPE need to be worn? What are the requirements for visibility and communication? •
If more than one item of PPE is being worn, are they compatible? For example, does a particular type of respirator make it difficult for eye protection to fit properly?Information, instruction and training on PPE useWhere PPE is provided, employees must be provided with adequate information, instruction and/or training on its use. The extent of information, instruction and/or training will vary with the complexity and performance of the kit. For example, a full Breathing Apparatus kit will require more training to use properly than a disposable face mask.Information and instruction should cover:• The risk(s) present and why the PPE is needed• The operation (including demonstration), performance and limitations of the equipment • Use and storage (including how to put it on, how to adjust and remove it) • Any testing requirements before use • Any user maintenance that can be carried out (e.g. hygiene/cleaning procedures) •
Factors that can affect the performance of the equipment (e.g. working conditions, personal factors, defects and damage) • How to recognise defects in PPE, and arrangements for reporting them •
Where to obtain replacement PPE,In addition to initial training, refresher training may be required from time to time. Supervisor checks on the use of PPE may help determine when refresher training is required.
Duties of employees regarding PPEThe Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations place duties on employees to take reasonable steps to ensure that PPE provided is properly used. The Regulations also place the following duties on employees:•
PPE must be worn and used in accordance with the instructions provided to them •
Employees must take all reasonable steps to ensure that PPE is returned to the accommodation provided for it after it has been used (unless the employee may take PPE away from the workplace e.g. footwear or clothing) •
PPE must be examined before use• Any loss or obvious defect must be immediately reported to their supervisor •
Employees must take reasonable care for any PPE provided to them and not carry out any maintenance unless trained and authorised.
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