Personal protective equipment (PPE) is designed to protect the user against harm to:
the eyes and sight;
the ears and hearing;
other parts of the body by contact; and,
To prevent inhalation and ingestion of harmful substances (though this very important topic is dealt with in a separate toolbox talk).
The use of personal protective equipment
It is important to remember that the use of PPE is part of a sequence of protection against harm. Thus:
First ask if the job needs to be done at all or can it be done in a safer way to eliminate the hazard.
Then ask can physical or other measures be put in place to protect against the hazard.
If none of these is possible, or if protection is still needed, then use PPE.
The use of personal protective equipment
PPE must be:
clean, serviceable, readily available, fit for purpose and substance-specific;
used by workers whenever it is specified.
The organisation is responsible for providing and maintaining supplies of PPE at all times and for managing PPE cleaning and recycle services where appropriate.
The individual is responsible for keeping any PPE issued on a personal basis in a clean and serviceable condition and for requesting replacement when necessary.
Types of PPE
Goggles for eye protection;
Visors for face protection which also give some eye protection;
Ear muffs and plugs to protect the hearing;
Helmets to guard the head against falling objects;
Bump caps to guard the head against impact with hard objects.
Types of PPE (continued)
Full body PVC suits to protect against chemical attack, ingestion and absorption through the skin;
Overshoes to prevent picking up contamination on shoes and transferring it offsite;
Wellington boots to avoid contamination of the feet and lower leg and waders to protect the upper leg;
Masks to prevent inhalation of toxic materials.
Case study 1
A fitter was carrying out maintenance involving opening up a 27% caustic soda line.
The line had not been properly drained or depressurised.
Caustic soda was released from the line into his face and he was permanently blinded in one eye.
He did not have goggles on.
Case study 1 – lessons learned
All the goggles in the supply box were so dirty they could not be clearly seen through.
Management were at fault in not keeping a clean supply available.
The fitter should have refused to do the job until he had a clean pair of goggles.
Case study 2
A number of workers in a noisy area (compressors) were found to have impaired hearing.
They had all been provided with ear muffs but had not always worn them.
This was because they also sometimes needed to wear a hood with an airline over their heads to protect against a chemical.
They could not wear the muffs comfortably under the hood.
Case study 2 – lessons learned
Fortunately, nobody had serious damage to their hearing. The conditions were picked up early by routine medical testing.
Ear plugs were issued to replace the muffs. These could be worn without difficulty.
Workers should always tell management if PPE is in any way inadequate.
Management should be constantly vigilant to ensure that PPE is used; and, ‘if not, why not?’
Case study 3
Radioactive contamination was found in carpets and furnishings in offices outside the plant and in homes.
The levels were very low and presented no hazard.
Case study 3 – lessons learned
The contamination could only have come from the plant on people’s clothing or on their person.
Wearing of PPE is designed to protect the wearer and, in some cases, other people, when augmented by good washing, and other hygiene measures.
If people’s clothing was contaminated, the either the PPE was ineffective, not worn correctly or not washed thoroughly.
The Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992 provide advice and regulatory requirements on:
- maintenance and replacement
of PPE and a range of other factors relevant to this subject.
Whilst IChemE has made every effort to ensure the accuracy of the information contained in this training presentation, it remains the responsibility of those responsible for the operations to ensure that the regulations and guidance issued by the authorities are consulted, that an appropriate risk assessment is carried out and that appropriate procedures are stipulated and followed.