> I am confused.
I'll see your confusion, David, and raise it with some of my own. We did a "Lessons Learned" video on an incident we had in a campus here last spring. You can see it at
I'm not clear in my mind if this event was a PPE issue (the student was wearing goggles) or not. As the video explains, they upgraded their PPE requirements based on the experience.
I have at least concerns with PPE as a protective strategy:
1. All forms of PPE present significant ergonomic hazards (as do fume hoods) by interfering with natural movements of the worker;
2. We don't know what we don't know about PPE and its strength as a chemical barrier (as the Wetterhahn case demonstrated);
3. The selection of PPE involves, at least unconsciously the selection of the kind of event you're envisioning as the concern to protect against; and
4. Overuse of PPE increases the likelihood of cross-contamination significantly, as it is difficult for people to detect if and when their gloves, etc. are contaminated.
Since all of these elements vary from individual to individual and situation to situation, I'm not clear that we can make general recommendations about PPE, since there will be many specific assumptions built into any such recommendations. But I agree that these factors do create the opportunity for a lot of confusion about what PPE is appropriate when. (I remember a presentation from a campus about the challenges of making PPE determinations when President Obama visited…)
Thanks for raising the issue.
Ralph Stuart CIH
Chemical Hygiene Officer
Department of Environmental Health and Safety
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