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Personal protective equipment (PPE) is designed to protect workers from getting seriously injured while working. PPEs can be face shields, hard hats or safety glasses, but they can also be garments such as gloves, vests, coveralls, earplugs, or devices such as respirators.
Although PPE requirements will vary depending on the industry and materials each industry handles, both employers and employees are responsible for using PPEs properly, regardless of industry. It’s important for your safety, and those of your co-workers, to report problems with the equipment to your employers.
Meanwhile, employers are required to identify workplace hazards and use PPEs, as well as other methods, to reduce hazards. Employers must also train and require workers to wear and maintain PPEs in a sanitary and reliable condition. But this is not enough. Using a PPE doesn’t eliminate work hazards; it only helps prevent injury due to work hazards. Injuries can occur if the PPE is not worn or maintained properly, or if the PPE fails. For example, hard hats on a work site are required to help prevent head injuries from falling equipment. Requiring workers to wear hard hats doesn’t eliminate the risk of equipment falling. Likewise, if the hard hats are not properly maintained, workers are equally at risk of getting a head injury from a falling item as if they were not wearing a hard hat. This is why it is also necessary for employers to implement engineering and administrative controls to help reduce risks of serious injuries in a given work environment.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is not the first organization to create standards of care for workers. Besides OSHA’s PPE requirements, the American National Standards Institute, Inc. (ANSI), ASTM International (ASTM), and the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) also publish standards for the manufacture, testing and use of PPE.
So make sure your work environment is up to standards. This could help prevent you from a life-changing injury.
Be safe in the New Year, and if you know someone with a serious work injury or have questions about workers compensation in D.C., Maryland or Virginia, order one of our free guides on workers compensation or the book, Protect Your Rights: The Ultimate Guide to D.C. Workers’ Compensation.