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Personal Protective Equipment or PPE as it is commonly known, has been designed specifically to protect employees in the work environment. Not only is it important to protect employees but also to protect the employer from unwanted legal claims. Furthermore, PPE is often a legal requirement and it is the responsibility of the employer to ensure employees wear protective clothing and observe safety and health regulations. It is also a responsibility, which employees must take seriously.
The Employers Responsibility Towards Their Employees
Depending on the industry, employers are required to provide their employees with some basic protective clothing. This is to ensure their safety in the work environment. Despite many employees being quite resistant to such clothing because they feel it hampers their ability to work in some cases, it is often a government requirement, which must be observed.
Employers are typically also required to provide their employees with training on how to stay safe in certain hazardous environments. Again, employees may offer some resistance in this respect since they feel these training sessions also interfere with their workload. Again, this is a regulatory requirement in many cases and must be observed for the employer and the employees’ safety.
Typical Personal Protective Equipment
Common PPE found in the work environment includes items such as safety boots, harnesses, safety goggles to protect the eyes, safety helmets, clothing which is highly visible (neon colors) and gloves to protect the hands. Respiratory protective equipment or RPE refers to equipment and clothing designed to protect human airways. These items are essential to limit the risks of working in hazardous environments, which can easily lead to unnecessary injury when unaware of the dangers involved. Of necessity, many of the materials for these items will also vary dependent on the hazards present in the work environment.
The Necessity of PPE
PPE is absolutely vital in supporting safety for employees or even visitors, in the workplace. Further safety items will also offer much need training, supervision by designated health and safety officers, training manuals and safety procedures. These are all put in place to promote a safe and responsible environment and to reduce the risk of injury.
Despite the best efforts by employers and employees, certain risks may still be present that may cause injury or damage to health. These risks include but are not necessarily limited to injuries sustained from falling objects, contaminated air entering the lungs, skin being unwittingly exposed to corrosive chemicals, injuries to eyes, hands and feet.
Purchasing CE Marked Protective Clothing and Equipment
Regulation advises on the quality of PPE equipment to purchase, which goes with the CE mark. Specialist vendors will be fully aware of the requirements for specific environments and will be able to advise which products are appropriate in particular circumstances.
A further consideration when purchasing CE marked PPE is to ensure that this is provided by the employer free of charge as part of the work’s responsibilities towards their employees. Additionally, it is essential to ensure that all PPE equipment fits the wearer comfortably, as a bad fit in itself may promote the risk of injury. The optimal route to take in these circumstances is to allow the PPE user to fit their own protective clothing.
Ensure that where more than one PPE item is needed that these can be used together. Training is essential to ensuring why users need to wear such equipment. With greater understanding comes greater knowledge and awareness as to why certain items are necessary and how these are to be used. For example, it will be pointless to provide respiratory equipment and safety glasses since both cannot be safely used at together.
Another example of the necessity of training in the correct use of equipment is when and how to use and remove hand gloves. It will be pointless to use gloves to protect the skin from chemical contamination only to remove one glove and then use the bare hand to remove the other, which has been contaminated. This may well lead to skin burns or irritations, which could easily have been prevented with effective training.
Also inform the user what the limits of protection are that are offered by PPE and how to revert to a plan B to prevent injury in case the first option does not work as intended. This is the ideal time to mention that wearing PPE for certain tasks is not a choice. Even if the job is only anticipated to take a few minutes, the PPE must be used. People are inclined to take chances and it only when they are fully aware of the dangers involved, that they are more likely to observe the required health and safety procedures in place.
Taking chances in the workplace not only endangers the individual but can also threaten the health and safety of those around the irresponsible employee. It is not acceptable to place others at risk when equipment has been provided by the employer and equipment has been provided to limit risks in the work environment.
Should there be any question as to training efficacy or the efficacy of equipment provided, then it is advisable to employ the services of a specialist consultant in this field.
Proper Storage of PPE
PPE is highly specialized equipment and should be treated with respect. Store items in a safe, dry environment, which is also clean and conducive to the longevity of these products. Where items have been subjected to hazards, ensure that they are still safe to use or determine whether these items should rather be replaced.
Monitoring and Control
All PPE should be subject to regular checks. If replacements are needed then these must be ordered in advance. Where new equipment becomes available or new individuals are employed, it is the responsibility of the employer to ensure they receive the appropriate health and safety training on a continual basis.
The importance of wearing personal protective equipment at the workplace cannot be overstated. It is absolutely vital that both the employer and the employee are responsible in their approaches towards health and safety requirements and that they comply with regulation. When all parties accept responsibility for their roles, workplace risks can be kept to a minimum.