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Personal Protective Equipment Best Practices for Employers

For accidents that happen while on the job in dangerous industries such as construction, personal protective equipment is critical for keeping workers safe.

Personal protective equipment, or PPE, is safety gear which workers wear to protect exposed parts of their bodies such as their eyes and face, head, feet and hands. This includes common equipment which we would all recognize, such as hardhats, safety goggles, gloves and steel-toed boots.

An informal survey of PPE manufacturers conducted by Safety+Health Magazine, however, revealed that employers could be doing more, namely by performing thorough hazard assessments of their workplaces and by taking the time to train employees on how to properly use, adjust, and maintain personal safety equipment.

Hazard Assessments - What Dangers Are Present?

In order to provide employees with the equipment they need to do their job safely, employers first need to have a clear understanding of the hazards that workers may encounter in their job activities. This is done via a hazard assessment to reveal where dangers might arise and protective equipment become necessary.

One safety consultant interviewed, however, indicated that a common trend she has noticed is "the lack of a formal hazard assessment" at workplaces she has visited. Without this crucial step, employers have no way of knowing if their employees have the equipment they need to do their job safely. Hazards which should be assessed include physical dangers like sharp edges, harsh temperatures, rolling, moving or pinching objects, and electrical connections.

A proper hazard assessment, however, is not just a one-time procedure, but something which should be regularly performed. To stay proactive in creating and maintaining a safe work environment, employers should:

  • Identify hazards in the workplace which presently exist or may arise later
  • Conduct regular workplace inspections to identify potential new hazards
  • Investigate injuries, accidents, and near misses which occur to understand why they happened
  • Prescribe corrective actions to prevent incidents which could result from identified hazards

When employers follow these steps, they are on the path towards providing a safe place for their employees to work. But their job is not yet done.

Training Workers on Personal Protective Equipment

Performing a comprehensive hazard assessment and identifying all the necessary PPE is only useful, however, if employees have been properly trained on how to use, wear and maintain the provided equipment.

This is especially important in construction work where, according to one person interviewed, "many new hires have not worked in construction and may never have worn PPE." This is especially important for construction workers because they face many on-the-job dangers which could cause serious injury or even death.

Workers who have been properly trained on PPE will be able to do the following:

  • Use the equipment properly
  • Recognize when PPE is necessary
  • Know what kind of equipment to use in different situations
  • Recognize the natural limitations PPE has
  • Understand how to wear, adjust and maintain PPE

Preventing Accidents and Keeping Workers Safe

Personal protective equipment is the last line of defense workers have against on-the-job hazards. For workers in dangerous industries such as construction, these dangers are everywhere, which is why it's essential for employers to anticipate danger by performing thorough hazard assessments, acquiring and providing the appropriate PPE, and then training their employees on the proper way to use that safety equipment.

Until that is done on a regular basis, employers are not doing all they can to prevent accidents that could result in serious injuries or even death to their workers.

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