Essential Health and Safety Equipment in the Workplace

From preventing injury with eye, head, and face equipment to proper safety products, explore the importance of personal protective equipment.

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Injuries on the job are a common occurrence, but most can be prevented with the proper use of the right health and safety equipment.

When it comes to personal protective equipment in your place of business, which products should you use?

Read on for a comprehensive list of some of the most crucial equipment needed to ensure the safety of yourself and your employees.

Personal Protective Equipment Defined

In order to reduce exposure to hazards, injuries, and illnesses in the workplace, proper PPE or personal protective equipment is needed.  Many injuries and illnesses are a result of direct contact with chemical, electrical, mechanical, or other workplace-related hazards.

Depending on your industry, there is a wide range of PPE items you may need. Some of the most basic equipment can include things like gloves, safety glasses, and protective foot and ear products. Hard hats, full-body suits, and respirators may also be required depending on the scenario.

The purpose of using personal protective equipment is to prevent workers from getting hurt while on the job. When combined with the correct work practices and good safety training, this can be an effective way to reduce or even eliminate the number of injuries or illnesses at work.

As an employer, you may be required to provide your employees with the PPE they need to get the job done safely. Determine what is necessary, which kinds of PPE are necessary, and then explain how to wear the equipment to your employees. Proper training and proper usage is key to accident and injury prevention.

When it comes to guidelines, OSHA has several different lists and information available. They can also help you determine which PPE items you might need for your specific industry.

Eye and Face Protection

The eyes and face are some of the most vulnerable parts of the body that need protection in a busy workplace. Whether it's working with chemicals or performing construction, proper equipment is required to keep the eyes and face safe from injury.

High-quality safety glasses are ideal for most environments, and they can protect the eyes from getting debris, dust, and other small objects in them. For welding and other heavy-duty jobs, a face shield is recommended.

Foreign objects can easily get into the eys as a result of grinding or cutting material, working with concrete, or even while mixing chemicals. Flying particles that get into the eyes can cause irritation, pain, and even blindness in extreme cases.

Brands like 3M offer quality protective eyewear that's suitable for a wide range of environments. People who work near energized electrical systems should always wear eye or face protection as well as anyone who uses nails, screws, or hydraulic equipment. In almost every industry, eye and face protection are required to keep employees safe.

Hand Protection

Since you probably work with your hands almost all day, it's no surprise that you need to make sure they're protected from injury.

Whether it's from touching dangerous chemicals or getting burned, safety gloves are crucial to ensure that your hands stay safe from injury. All safety gloves should fit comfortably and snugly so they don't come loose or slip off entirely. It's also crucial to note that there are different forms of hand protection depending on the job you do.

Heavy-duty rubber gloves work best for concrete work since shards of the material can scrape the hands or penetrate fabric material. Special welding gloves should be used for welding at all times, and should never be substituted for a different type of glove.

Insulated safety gloves are best for those who work in the electrical field. These gloves can protect you from shock, and they're also tough so that wires won't penetrate them and cut into the skin.

If you work in a cleanroom or in the medical field, latex gloves are usually required. These gloves protect your hands from germs and protect others, and they still allow for precise mobility of the fingers so you can accomplish the task at hand.

Cleanroom and medical gloves should always be disposable and should never be re-used due to health and safety regulations and for your protection. If you are allergic to latex, nitrile gloves are an acceptable substitute.

Hearing Protection Products

If you work in a place with a lot of heavy equipment and machinery, constant exposure to loud noises can wreak havoc on your hearing. In fact, hearing loss is a common issue among workers in a variety of industries. Without the proper hearing protection, your ears can become damaged over time, resulting in hearing loss.

For most situations, a quality pair of earplugs can keep you safe while you're on the job. Most earplugs are made of a soft foam that expands to fit snugly inside the ear canal. Try disposable earplugs to prevent the spread of germs and to ensure that every pair is in excellent condition when you put them in.

Corded earplugs are a great option to keep them nearby at all times. These earplugs make it easier to take them out and put them back in the ears quickly as needed. They're also a better choice if you work on ladders or at higher elevations in case an earplug were to fall out.

Aside from earplugs, another form of hearing personal protective equipment includes earmuffs. These heavy-duty ear protectors are recommended for long-term use if working in loud environments.

Look for earmuffs from 3M that offer a multi-positional feature so you can move them around. This feature provides comfortable wear, and it helps to ensure that your ear is properly sealed and the muff is perfectly aligned over the ear canal. Whichever format you use, hearing protection should be comfortable and snug for the best results.

Foot and Shin Protection

Wearing proper footwear can mean the difference between a normal day and one that ends in serious injury. Without the right work shoes, you could end up slipping and falling, or a heavy object could damage your foot.

Make sure you choose shoes or boots that have slip-resistant soles to help keep you from falling if you walk over a wet or slippery surface. Puncture-resistant soles are also important since they can protect the bottom of your feet if you step on a nail, screw, or other sharp objects.

Many employers require steel-toed boots or boots that have some form of a safety covering over the toe area. This simple addition to work boots can prevent people from getting their toes crushed while they work near heavy equipment and falling objects that could cause serious injuries.

Some localities actually require workers to wear the proper type of safety footwear. If someone is caught without it, they could be subject to severe penalties, and your company may even be subject to a fine.

Welders should wear additional protection over their feet and shins to prevent splatter from burning the skin. This extra protection is typically made of durable leather and fits easily over the top of shoes or boots and clothing.

If you work outside in extremely cold temperatures, boot liners are recommended. These liners will keep the feet warm and prevent things like frostbite from happening when you're out in the field. Boot liners are also a good way to help wick moisture away from your feet and to help prevent your work boots from rubbing onto the top of your feet and the back of your heels and shins.

As a rule of thumb, always wear safety shoes or boots that include slip-resistant soles, strong toe protection, and protective soles to prevent the bottoms of your feet from getting impaled by sharp objects. Protective footwear should be comfortable and lightweight enough to allow you to do the job with ease.

Respiratory Protection

When it comes to health and safety in the workplace, respiratory protection cannot be overlooked. Some industries require working with a variety of potentially harmful substances like gases, chemicals, or dust that can cause illness or injury if they're breathed into the lungs.

Each type of respiratory protection offers a specific level of coverage for employees. The type you choose will mostly depend on your specific industry along with any regulations and other requirements.

Face masks can help to filter dangerous air particles from the air before you breathe them in. They come in several designs including quarter masks, half-mask respirators, and full-face respirators that offer protection for the entire face.

A disposable dust mask can keep you safe from annoying particulates and dust like drywall and concrete dust. A quarter mask typically includes a cartridge or a cloth filter, and it fits from the top of the nose to the top of the chin. A half-mask respirator fits from underneath the chin to above the nose.

With a half-mask respirator, one or two cartridges are used to help filter the air, and they can be thrown away once they're worn out. You can use approved cartridges to protect you from things like organic vapors, dust, pesticides, fumes, ammonia, acid gases, and a combination of some or all of these items.

With a full-face mask, you'll get twin cartridges or chin or back-mounted air canisters. These canisters are specifically designed for various contaminates, so make sure you use the correct canister for the material you're working with. When you use respiratory protection, it can keep your lungs free and clear of airborne particulates and contaminants.

For more extreme environments, you may need to use supplied air for an acceptable level of respiratory protection. This form of PPE pumps clean oxygen into a special respirator to ensure that you're only breathing in completely clean, filtered air. A powered respirator is usually required in a hazmat situation or other environment where contaminants can cause extreme illness or injury.

Stay Safe at Work

Using the proper health and safety equipment can mean the difference between a safe work environment and a dangerous one. Every employee should be fully trained on how to use their safety equipment, and when to request a replacement.

Old, worn-out equipment should be destroyed and immediately replaced by new equipment. Check on your employees daily to make sure that they're wearing all of the safety equipment required by your business and by current regulations and safety standards.

Conduct regular training sessions so that you know everyone is following the proper protocol. Be aware of new developments in personal protection equipment so you can provide your workers with the best tools possible to help them get the job done in a safe manner.

Focus on the eyes, hands, and feet when you're thinking about safety on the job. Hearing and respiratory protection are also crucial to keep everyone safe in specific environments. Whether it's a physical or electrical hazard or the potential for exposure to biohazards and airborne particulates, you need the right safety equipment to help prevent injury or illness to your employees.

Keep it Safe

Use this guide to help you determine which types of personal protective equipment are right for your needs. From footwear and gloves to safety glasses and respirators, each item plays a crucial role in keeping people safe on the job.

Make sure your workers are fully trained on the proper use of safety equipment and keep up with the latest rules so that you can have peace of mind.

For the latest in safety equipment for personal protection and a whole lot more, visit our website and contact us today with any questions.

Health & safety in the workplace is a responsibility shared by both the employer & the employee. Reduce risk, guard against hazards & safeguard against harm.

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