Personal Protective Equipment, PPE
- Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) includes all clothing and other work accessories designed to create a barrier against workplace hazards. Examples include safety goggles, blast shields, hard hats, hearing protectors, gloves, respirators, aprons, and work boots.
PPE should not be used as a substitute for engineering, work practice, and/or administrative controls to prevent exposure to hazardous chemicals. For example, a respirator is not meant to be worn by an assembly line worker during his/her entire work shift; other methods such as a ventilation system or replacement of hazardous substances/processes should be utilized. However, PPE can work in conjunction with such preventative measures or when such controls are not possible.
Also keep in mind that PPE protects only the user - it does nothing to remove the hazard from the workplace. For example, a respirator may help protect the wearer from toxic fumes, but does nothing to protect others in the vicinity.
Some of the most important OSHA PPE regulations for those who work with chemicals include:
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- 29 CFR 1910.132 PPE: General Requirements. Each employer must perform a written hazard assessment, select appropriate PPE to protect workers, and a maintain a written record indicating that all such employees have been properly trained in the following before performing any job task requiring PPE:
- When PPE is necessary.
- What PPE is necessary.
- How to properly put on, remove, adjust, and wear PPE.
- The limitations of the PPE.
- The proper care, maintenance, useful life and disposal of the PPE.
29 CFR 1910.133 PPE: Eye and Face Protection. The employer shall ensure that each affected employee uses appropriate eye or face protection when exposed to eye or face hazards from flying particles, molten metal, liquid chemicals, acids or caustic liquids, chemical gases or vapors, or potentially injurious light radiation.
29 CFR 1910.134 PPE: Respiratory Protection. In any workplace where respirators are necessary to protect the health of the employee or whenever respirators are required by the employer, the employer shall establish and implement a written respiratory protection program with worksite-specific procedures.
29 CFR 1910.138 PPE: Hand Protection. Employers shall select and require employees to use appropriate hand protection when employees' hands are exposed to hazards such as those from skin absorption of harmful substances; severe cuts or lacerations; severe abrasions; punctures; chemical burns; thermal burns; and harmful temperature extremes.
Additional standards cover items such as hearing protection, foot protection etc. Many of OSHA's other standards require the use of PPE.
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- "Personal Protective Equipment for Chemical, Biological, and Radiological Hazards: Design, Evaluation, and Selection", hardcover, 348 pages, 2012. Estimated price $147.20. Info and/or order .
- "Quick Selection Guide to Chemical Protective Clothing, 6th Edition", Spiral-bound, 272 pages, 2014. Estimated price $45.60. Info and/or order.
- "Chemical Protective Clothing, 2nd Edition", hardcover, 530 pages, 2003. Estimated price $66.58. Info and/or order .
- "Aid for Decontamination of Fire and Rescue Service Protective Clothing and Equipment After Chemical, Biological, and Radiological Exposures.", Paperback, 110 pages, 2013. Estimated price $12.71. Info and/or order .
- "Industrial Hygiene Control of Airborne Chemical Hazard", hardcover, 728 page, 2006. Estimated price $135.87. Info and/or order.
OSHA requires that MSDS's list information about appropriate PPE for each substance. Pay careful attention to these as not all PPE is appropriate at all times. For example, certain gloves will do little to protect you from certain chemicals; see the glove selection guide links below for more information. Likewise, an organic vapor cartridge respirator will be useless at protecting you from an atmosphere deficient in oxygen.
In addition to using PPE appropriately, remember that every piece of PPE has limitations. For example, gloves may develop small holes and respirator cartridges generally do not indicate when they need replacement. Even appropriate PPE does not provide a 100% guarantee of safety!
Remember, the preferred methods for reducing chemical exposure, in order of general effectiveness, are:
- Substitution of less hazardous materials or processes.
- Engineering controls
- Administrative controls
- Personal protective equipment (PPE)
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See also: action level, administrative controls, engineering controls, HMIS, permissible exposure limit.
Additional definitions from Google and OneLook.
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