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Understanding is half the battle

September 19, 2010
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Under regulations from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), today’s companies must meet specific requirements in regards to providing adequate and acceptable personal protection equipment (PPE).

Safety items, such as gloves, protective eye wear, fire retardant clothing, hard hats, face shields, ear protection, etc., fall into the PPE category.

In addition to requiring the use of these safety products, OSHA has also established regulations that give specific rights to the employee, in regard to the availability and education on the use of these protective products.

As workers’ compensation claims and the litigation fees that follow them continue to rise, it is increasingly important that today’s employers first understand the safety regulations concerning PPE, and secondly, develop strategies to help eliminate hazards and better protect themselves and their employees from personal and economic injury.

Step by step
In order to be in compliance with the necessary requirements that OSHA has instituted, a business must first conduct a hazard assessment.

This primarily consists of an audit of the workplace, identifying existing hazards, determining if any would constitute the implementation of PPE, and highlighting potential risk conditions that might include falling objects, open blades and equipment, hazardous chemicals, extreme heat, harmful inhalants and radiation.

The findings and results from the survey would need to be put into writing and also kept on file should an employee or his or her legal representation inquire.

Also, ongoing assessments of working conditions would need to be scheduled, conducted and filed as per the initial audit.

A company must also ensure that the PPE being used — whether company-issued or employee’s own equipment — on its property is the right type of equipment for the specific tasks.

The protective gear must provide a level of protection that is above the minimum requirements, must properly fit the worker, clear of defects of damage, and that it is cleaned and inspected on a regular basis.

Training and compliance
Companies must provide adequate training on PPE as well, according to the OSHA regulations.

Typical education courses consist of teaching employees when and what type of protective equipment is necessary for a certain job function.

Also, it is important to convey how to properly use the equipment, how it prperly fits, and determine when the product’s lifespan has expired.

The frequency of training varies, but all new employees should undergo extensive safety training.

Any time there is new machinery added, all employees should receive training.

When working conditions are modified, training should also occur.

Wearing PPE can occasionally be uncomfortable or awkward, but advances in these products in recent years have addressed many of these issues.

However, employees still often complain that these items get in the way of doing their jobs.

Additionally, another watch-out, in regards to employee compliance, is monitoring any false sense of security that can sometimes arise in the wearer’s mind, believing that he/she can be more careless if PPE is in use.

Although PPE cannot completely protect a company’s employees at all times, and indeed protects only the individual who is utilizing the products, the alternatives can be costly and dire.

As an employer, it is up to you to provide the safest working environment possible, and that starts by minimizing the hazards and risks involved in your particular business or facility.
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