Everyday, workers face potential hazards in the workplace. Slips, trip hazards, falling objects, ergonomic hazards, mechanical hazards, chemical radiation, and biohazards are all occupational hazards. To ensure you and your workers are safe, you need to use proper protection.
Personal protective equipment (PPE) is designed to protect the wearer against safety and health hazards. These tools help prevent or reduce the severity of injury if an accident occurs. The PPE you will use will depend on the work conditions, the work environment, and the task being performed. You also need to consult with the Occupational Health and Safety Act, Regulations for Construction Projects (O. Reg. 213/91), and the Canada Labour Code for legal PPE requirements.
A strong PPE program in your workplace will help address the safety hazards in your facility. An effective protection plan must consider these three elements:
1.) Protection of workers
2.) Compliance with government laws, regulations, and company standards
3.) Technical feasibility
If you don’t have a program in place yet, now is the best time to start one. To help you get started on creating an effective PPE program, here are the four major things you need to follow:
First, you need to select the jobs, processes, or procedures you are going to assess. Do a survey of the worksite and identify hazards that workers will be exposed to while doing the work. Use a Hazard Identification Form to record all identified hazards. For each identified hazard, review and discuss ways of control and PPE options that may be used. Always remember to try and control the hazard first and see if it can be removed without resorting to using PPE .
When you have determined that PPE is needed to address the hazards, list down which PPE will be used. You need to determine the degree of protection required and the appropriateness of the equipment to the situation. Here are some guidelines on available PPE to help you in your selection:
a) Skin Protection
PPE for skin protection includes protective gloves and clothing such as vests, aprons, raincoats, coveralls, and boots. These can be made from different materials such as rubber, latex, pvc, leather, Kevlar®, and many more. But no single material can protect you from all chemical hazards. Ask your PPE product manufacturer or supplier which specific protective materials are best for the chemicals you are working with. Also check your PPE if they meet temperature conditions, or can withstand punctures, tears and abrasions.
b) Eye/Face Protection
You need to use eye and face protections if there is a possibility of injury from exposure to airborne particles or splashes of toxic or corrosive liquids. Safety glasses, chemical splash goggles, and face shields are some examples of this type of PPE. Safety glasses/goggles are worn when working with hazardous chemicals while a face shield should be used when there is a risk of splashing, leaks or dangerous reactions.
c) Respiratory Protection
Respiratory protection is needed when airborne chemicals can’t be controlled below safe exposure limits. There are two types of respirators: air-purifying respirators and supplied air respirators. Air-purifying respirators use filters or cartridges to remove contaminants while supplied air respirators provide clean air for breathing. Selection of PPE must be done by a qualified person who has assessed the work situation in your facility.
d) Fall Protection
Fall protection prevents workers in construction and other industries from deadly falls from high places. Lanyards, body harness, belts, carbiners, and straps are just some of the fall protection tools available.
e) PPE Signs and Labels
PPE signs and labels help remind workers to wear the necessary equipment. These also identify and alert workers and visitors to hazardous areas or situations.
After the assessment and selection, employers must ensure that workers are trained to properly use, maintain and store PPE. Employees must:
a) Undergo hands-on training in the fit, use, and maintenance of assigned PPE
b) Understand the limitations of PPE, and know what to do in the event of exposure or equipment failure
c) Know when to discard or replace PPE
d) Report any missing or broken device to the supervisor or person in charge
If a worker fails to meet any of these four conditions, or if the PPE requirement of the worker changes, he or she must repeat the training.
You need to keep records of every step of your PPE program – from assessment to implementation. This will help you in your annual assessment of your program, including determining if areas need improvement or if you need additional PPE for your tasks.
Using the right PPE in your workplace is very important. Though it may not totally eliminate workplace hazards in your facility, you and your workers are assured that you have the proper tools to protect from these hazards.
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