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PPE: Is Your ‘Simple Solution’ Too Good to Be True?

Originally posted by Chris Kilbourne on http://safetydailyadvisor.blr.com

Most of us have encountered a deal that was too good to be true. Could your approach to workplace safety and PPE also be too good to be true?

Take a look at these “simple solutions” to workplace hazards, and consider whether you may need to look a little more closely.

Disposable Foam Earplugs. If your workplace is noisy, your workers need earplugs—right? And plenty of suppliers will sell you disposable foam earplugs by the bucketful. Problem solved!

Too Good to Be True? If you haven’t put a complete hearing conservation program in place, it could be. If your workplace is noisy, you need to find out first how noisy it is, with either personal noise exposure sampling (called “dosimetry”) or area monitoring. To ensure that workers are not suffering hearing loss, you also need to perform baseline audiograms and annual follow-ups for any employees who are required to wear hearing protection.

Disposable Safety Glasses. Like disposable foam earplugs, disposable safety glasses are readily available, relatively inexpensive, and seem to solve the problem of worker eye protection with minimal fuss. Problem solved!

Too Good to Be True? Disposable impact-resistant eyewear may be a good solution for some workers in an environment where the major eye hazard is large particles, flying objects, or an environment where glasses need frequent replacement. But what about workers who need corrective eyewear? Many styles of inexpensive safety glasses do not fit over corrective eyewear. Also, contact lenses may not be safe in some environments in which workers will be exposed to dust, hazardous chemicals, or radiation. Don’t leave workers with corrective eyewear out of your protective eyewear program.

Voluntary Respirators. Under the respiratory protection program standard, you can provide respirators to workers at their request, for voluntary use, without creating a full-blown respiratory protection program. You don’t even have to provide the respirators; you can simply let them use their own. Problem solved!

Too Good to Be True? Voluntary respirator use is an option only in workplaces that don’t expose employees in excess of permissible exposure limits. So make sure you know what workers are exposed to, and its concentrations in workplace air, before deciding you don’t need a full-blown respiratory protection program. Another mistake not to make: if workers are using any type of respirator other than a dust mask, you must create enough of a written program to ensure that workers are medically able to use a respirator, and that the respirator is properly cleaned, stored, and maintained.

Chemical-Resistant Gloves. If workers could get chemicals on their hands, it seems obvious enough to give them chemical-resistant gloves—which are available by the bag at any hardware store. Problem solved!

Too Good to Be True? Many gloves may be labeled “chemical resistant,” but several different materials are used to make chemical-resistant gloves, and each offers different levels of resistance to different chemicals. Don’t select gloves based on a chemical-resistant label. Instead, contact glove manufacturers directly for a permeability chart, which will show you how each material performs—natural rubber latex, neoprene, nitrile, PVC, PVA, and Silver Shield all have different degradation rates for different chemicals. To prevent exposures, it’s worth your while to spend a little extra time and money selecting the right glove.