If your employees slip up in using personal protective equipment, the results can be dangerous, if not deadly.
Among many health and safety professionals, PPE comes in last place—behind engineering controls and work practice or administrative controls – because it only addresses hazards indirectly and has the most potential failure points.
One of these potential points involves interaction between the worker and equipment, when employees make critical mistakes in the care, use, and replacement of PPE.
- Mistake No. 1: Improper care. For example, a worker takes her foam earplugs out to consult with another worker about a problem, and then rolls the earplugs again with dirty hands before reinserting them. At the end of the day, she leaves the earplugs inside her hard hat and re-uses them the next workday.
- Mistake No. 2: Misuse. A worker wearing a fall protection harness leaves the harness loose, but pulls the lanyard tight. Another worker who uses a respirator at work decides to grow a beard.
- Mistake Number 3: Failure to replace PPE as needed. Let’s say that a supervisor whose workers are supposed to use a new pair of chemical protective gloves each day, decides he will save his department money by telling workers to use each pair of gloves for a week before replacing them. After all, they still look fine after a week. Equipment should be changed 1) after each shift, it it’s disposable (gloves protective clothing, etc.). 2) whenever it shows signs of wear and tear or damage. 3) on schedule, if it’s reusable and must be replaced before exceeding its useful life. and 4) after a save, for single-use PPE, such as hardhats, fall protection harnesses and lanyards.
A word to the wise …