Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) has become one of the most discussed topics in the news today. Most households completely unaware of the acronym are now intimately aware of what the acronym stands for. However, PPE covers a very wide range of equipment designed to protect people and workers.
From head to toe, there is PPE designed to protect the human body from a variety of different hazards, for example:
- Head protection: helmet, hard hat, face mask, cold weather gear
- Eyes: safety glasses, goggles, welder’s mask or goggles for flash protection
- Ears: ear plugs, ear muff hearing protection, sound cancellation head phones
- Breathing: dust mask, particle mask, respirator, scuba
- Torso: coveralls, fire rated turnout gear, cut resistant vest, bullet proof vest, chainsaw bib over coat, cold weather base layer, fall protection harness.
- Arms: welder’s arm protection, cut resistant arm sleeves
- Hands: work gloves, disposable gloves, cut resistant gloves, electrically resistant gloves, fire or heat resistant gloves.
- Legs: work pants, cold weather base layer, coveralls, fire rated turnout gear, chainsaw chaps.
- Feet: work shoes, slip resistant shoes, steel toed shoes, electrically resistant shoes.
Each of these myriad of PPE are designed for specific or combinations of different hazards and are typically designed to perform up to an engineering standard or industry accepted standard of care. Most PPE can’t be sold or called a safety product or device without being rated or graded and tested to objective criteria.
PPE typically provide either on product instructions and warnings on how to use and maintain the PPE and/or come with a manual. PPE are rated or graded for the number of uses the PPE is capable of. Some PPE are designed to be one-size fits all (or most), while other PPE requires fitting custom to the individual or in groups and range of sizes.
The most common reason people are reluctant to wear PPE is comfort or fit. Because PPE is designed to protect parts of the human body, as a by-product PPE tend to affect that very part of the body the PPE was intended to protect. For example, safety glasses provide protection for a person’s eyes, but can affect the person’s field of view or fog up in certain situations. Steel toed boots protect a person’s feet, but can reduce a person’s tactile feel of the floor or walking surface.
Sometimes human factors can affect whether or not PPE is worn. Workers may believe (reality or not) that the PPE may not work or isn’t that effective or creates a greater hazard. In these situations, an engineering and human factors analysis may need to be performed to understand whether or not PPE can/should be worn. If not, what are the alternative administrative or engineering controls necessary to mitigate the hazard. Note: PPE is considered at the bottom of the Hierarchy of Safety and should be considered when all other hazard controls have been exhausted.
ARCCA has the multi-discipline background to assist with incidents involving PPE including containment and energy analysis, path of travel, biomechanical analysis of injuries, warning and instructions, compliance, foreseeable and unforeseeable use or misuse.