Workplace injuries cost companies over $250 billion dollars annually (www.osha.gov/dcsp/products/topics/businesscase/). Most of these injuries could have been prevented with proper training, and the use of personal protective equipment which is required to be used when every possible attempt to resolve the hazard has been exhausted.
It is also part of the employer’s duties to assess workplaces to identify hazards and require the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) as per OSHA standard 29 CFR 1910.132. Be way ahead of your current management or future employer by ensuring your own rights to a safe workplace. Listed below are the protective equipment you should be donning at work if you work in the construction or general industries:
Safety eyewear – Safety glasses, chemical resistant goggles, laser protective eyewear protect the eyes and potentially the face. You need to wear safety eyewear if you or another employee performs a task that produces airborne dust or particles. These tasks could include sawing, cutting, blasting, sanding, grinding, hammering or punch operations where projectiles could fly in your way. You also need to wear safety eyewear such as splash resistant goggles or laser protective eyewear if you regularly face occupational exposure to hazardous chemicals and irritants, or intense light or lasers.
Face shields – Welding hoods and face shields protect the eyes and face from hazards. Facial protection and covers are essential to protect your skin from extreme heat, hazardous liquid or irritants. You should be wearing protection if your job entails you to handle hazardous liquid chemicals, weld or smith metals, and paint or sandblast surfaces or pour hazardous substances.
Ear plugs and ear muffs – You need these equipment if you are exposed to loud continuous noise on a regular basis at work. The noise may come from machines like grinding or sanding machines, vast ventilation fans or motors, or sound systems. Once noise levels reach above 85 DB a written hearing conservation plan needs to be completed to protect employees from hearing damage, which is an OSHA recordable injury.
Gloves – You should wear gloves if you handle hazardous or sharp materials that can cut you or cause chemical burns on your skin. The same goes for activities where you may come in contact with materials containing blood-borne pathogens or electrically-charged materials.
Hardhats and Helmets – Head injuries should be avoided at all costs as a simple injury can leave you handicapped for life or kill you. You should wear head protection gear if you work in environments where objects may come falling over your head or swinging toward you.
Respirators – You need to wear respirators to aid your breathing if you work in extreme environments like sewers, chemical plants, or if your job requires you to sandblast a surface. You also have to wear respirators if you work in confined spaces where there’s limited ventilation. Always check with your employer and consult your Respiratory Protection Plan at work.
Protective Clothing – You should wear vests, overalls and whole-body suits that cover your skin or protect you if you often handle harmful substances, tools or work in locations with rough terrain or sharp surfaces, and extreme heat.
Safety Harnesses and Fall Protection – You should wear fall arrest or PFAS (Personal Fall arrest System) if you work 6 feet above or above unprotected sides and edges in construction. In leui of PFAS, guardrails, safety nets, and monitors can be used. Consult the OSHA regulation (29 CFR 1926.501) for fall protection regulations in construction to be in compliance. If asked to climb a steep location use fall arrest systems or for example utility workers using body belt positioning devices. Handrails should be on staircases with four or more risers. Ladders have to be inspected before use and removed from the job site if damaged.
Ergonomic Equipment – Ergonomics derives from the Greek words “ergon” which means work and “nomoi” which means natural laws. As its etymological meaning suggests, ergonomics is all about improving one’s work habits so they can develop a better connection to their work. Needless to say, without workplace ergonomics, workers can find it phyiscally and psychologically inconvenient to perform their tasks, leading to burn out, fatigue and sickness. OSHA.gov provides helpful advice to employers on how to choose ergonomic equipment to minimize workplace injuries and illnesses.
The OSHA Office of Training and Education has published a Personal Protective Equipments assessment checklist on the agency’s official website to help employers and workers improve workplace safety and health. Workers, on the other hand, can make use of the checklist to ensure that they’re being provided with the right protective equipment and guarding tools to protect themselves, and whether employers are committing safety violations against them or not.