While knowledge is the key to avoiding injuries on a jobsite, having the right personal protective equipment (PPE) is a pretty close second. While you can have all the know-how and awareness in the world, they aren’t called accidents for nothing. The right PPE can help you to survive incidents that you can’t dodge, deflect, or prepare for.
Equipment that helps to minimize exposure to hazards in the workplace that can lead to injuries or illnesses is considered personal protective equipment. These hazards include:
- Physical hazards such as object impact
- Flying objects of all sizes, ranging from large to minute, such as sparks and dusts particles
- Molten metals
- Liquid chemicals, acids, and caustic liquids
- Chemical gases and vapors
- Light radiation
Selecting the appropriate protection is dependent upon the industry that you work within and the hazards that the worker is expected to be exposed to. OSHA spells out the minimum requirements, but as with any safety equipment, meeting the minimal requirements is rarely sufficient – whenever possible, you should be aiming to exceed them, for safety as well as peace of mind.
When it comes to face protection, the visor, or face shield, is key. It protects the entire face from debris, liquids, and sparks.
Visors come in two forms – plastic, or metal. Metal visors are mesh, allowing for the impact resistance of metal but with the ability to see through them and see what you are doing. The advantage to this is that they are breathable, and do not fog up. On the flip side, by being mesh instead of solid plastic, it is possible for dust or liquids to work their way through.
Plastic shields extend from the eyebrows to below the chin, and span across the width of the head, generally going from ear to ear. These protect against dust, splashes, and sprays of liquids, but because of the plastic material, they do not provide optimal impact resistance. That is why it is generally recommended that these are paired with the eye protection below for protection against impact hazards. Plastic shields can be tinted for better visibility, but the full plastic mask can also fog up at times.
The hard hat is a ubiquitous piece of PPE that is typically standard on every jobsite and most manufacturing facilities. They protect the worker from falling objects, head injuries through contact with fixed objects such as exposed pipes or beams, and from injury through head contact with electrical hazards. When you’re protecting your head, you need to have extensive demands.
A hard hat MUST:
- Be able to resist penetration by objects
- Be able to absorb the shock of the blow
- Be water- and liquid-resistant
- Be fire retardant
- Provide ventilation and adjustability for proper fit and comfort
Hard hats are sorted into three separate classes that spell out the minimal protection offered:
- Class A – provide the highest impact and penetration resistance, but have reduced electrical resistance, up to only 2,200 volts
- Class B – provide the best electrical protection – up to 20,000 volts – but merely provide protection from impact and penetration hazards
- Class C – the lowest class, offering lightweight comfort and impact protection but no protection from electrical hazards
You can’t do your job if you can’t see, and eye protection is integral to keeping your sight. As the CDC reports, nearly 2000 U.S. workers sustain a job-related eye injury every day – so there are plenty of hazards to be dealt with. While face and head protection generally is mainly used to deflect flying objects and prevent substances from contacting the face, or prevent penetration of the skull, eye protection has to deal with slightly different issues.
Like head and face protection, eye protection has to deal with impact issues and splash problems. However, the hazards of chemical vapors and potentially injurious light radiation mentioned above are uniquely dangerous to the eyes, as well as small particulate matter and debris that floats around the jobsite or facility. These can get in the eye and cause damage, but don’t require head or face protection.
Safety glasses, sometimes referred to as safety spectacles, are the base PPE for eye protection. These are essentially just glasses with impact-resistant lenses. Side shields can be added to provide angular protection, in addition to the standard frontal protection of these glasses. Some safety glasses provide IR protection as well.
Safety goggles are the next step up, and offer additional protection against smaller hazards and fluid hazards. While safety glasses sit on the nose and ears, safety goggles fit the face around the eye area, creating a protective seal around the eyes. Dust and particulate matter that can float in behind the lenses of safety glasses will be kept out. The seal prevents fluids from working their way behind the lenses and into the yes as well. Goggles are often made to fit over corrective lenses, if both are needed.
Job-specific PPE: Welding
The welding shield (or helmet) combines face and eye protection. With the unique issues that come with welding, you need unique PPE. These shields use vulcanized fiber or fiberglass to protect the face from impacts, including flying metal debris, sparks, and slag chips. At the same time, the filtered lens provides eye protection by providing levels of shade for the eyes that prevents burns from infrared or intense radiant light that is produced in the welding process. Many come with a lens that is variable, with a flip-up shade and a clear plastic protective lens.
No Exceptions, No Exemptions
The key to getting the most out of PPE is consistency. It’s no good having the equipment available and on site if it isn’t in great condition, or you don’t demand 100% compliance from your workers. That means no exceptions if someone “forgot” to bring it with them, and no exemptions for a job that “will only take a few minutes.” Accidents happen when you are least prepared or overconfident that the PPE isn’t needed.
Finding the right PPE for your industry or jobsite may seem difficult, but Team PowerPak is here to help. Our Exclusive Rockland Safety line protects the heads, eyes, and faces of your workers, while ensuring you are at or above OSHA standards.
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