Personal Protective Equipment

Personal Protective Equipment

Personal protective equipment (PPE) refers to any device or means intended to be worn or held by a person to protect them against one or more risks that could threaten their health or safety. These equipments are used in many sectors, including construction, chemical industry, medical sector, and many others, where the risk of injuries or contamination can be high.

In this file, we will see:

Who should wear PPE?

PPE is intended to protect workers against one or more risks that may threaten their safety or health at work or during a sports activity. Here is who should wear PPE and in what circumstances:

Employees exposed to risks: All employees exposed to risks to their safety or health while performing their work are required to wear PPE. For example, a construction worker must wear a safety helmet to protect against falling objects.

Self-employed workers: Independent workers, such as craftsmen or freelancers, must also procure and use the appropriate PPE for their professional activity. For example, an independent carpenter would need to equip themselves with harnesses, lanyards, and descenders to ensure safety when working at heights.

Temporary workers and interns: Temporary workers and interns are treated the same as employees concerning the obligation to wear PPE. The user company is responsible for providing them with the necessary PPE.

Amateur and professional athletes: Whether they engage in sport as amateurs or professionals, athletes must wear PPE appropriate to their discipline. For example, harnesses and ropes in climbing, regulators in diving, helmets for cyclists, mouthguards in boxing, or knee pads and elbow pads in roller skating or skateboarding.

According to U.S. regulations , employers are required to provide necessary PPE to their employees at no cost and ensure they are adequately trained in its use.

Risk Assessment First, the employer must conduct a professional risk assessment (Document Unique d’Évaluation des Risques or DUER) to identify hazards and determine necessary prevention measures, including the provision of suitable PPE. See more details in this article.

Training and Information Employers are required to train and inform employees about the risks against which the PPE protects them, how to use it correctly, and its protection limits. This training must be adequate, understandable, and repeated if necessary.

Choice of PPE PPE must be chosen based on the results of the risk assessment. It must be suitable for the risks to be prevented, not cause excessive inconvenience, and be compatible with each other if multiple equipments are to be worn simultaneously.

Free Provision of PPE It is the employer’s responsibility to provide the necessary PPE to their employees, after assessing the professional risks they are exposed to. The employer must also ensure the correct use of these equipments. For example, in a chemical laboratory, the employer must provide safety glasses and ensure that they are worn.

Get more information on mandatory PPE equipment .

When should PPE be avoided?

Before resorting to personal protective equipment, measures should be implemented to eliminate or reduce risks at the source. This approach is in line with the hierarchy of risk control measures, which prioritizes the elimination and reduction of risks before considering individual protection.

Elimination of risks: When possible, the best approach is to completely eliminate the risk. For example, if a job involves the use of hazardous chemicals, see if it is possible to replace them with less harmful alternatives.

Substitution with less risky solutions: If elimination is not possible, seek to substitute the hazard with a less dangerous option. For example, replace a noisy machine with a quieter version to reduce the risk of hearing injuries.

Engineering controls: If risks cannot be eliminated or substituted, engineering controls must be put in place. This may include the installation of physical barriers, adequate ventilation for airborne contaminants, or ergonomic layout of workstations to prevent musculoskeletal injuries.

If none of these solutions can eliminate the risk, then indeed, PPE must be worn.

What are the main types of PPE?

They are classified into several categories, each designed to protect against specific types of risks. Here are the main types of PPE:

  1. Head Protection: Safety helmets are designed to protect against head injuries caused by falling objects, collisions with fixed obstacles, or falls. For example, a construction helmet protects workers from falling debris.
  2. Eye and Face Protection: Safety glasses, face shields, and welding masks protect against chemical splashes, flying particles, radiation, and sparks. Glasses with side protection are used in workshops to protect against particles.
  3. Hearing Protection: Hearing protections, such as earplugs and noise-cancelling helmets, are used to prevent hearing loss from high noise levels. At an airport construction site, for example, staff use helmets to protect against the noise of planes.
  4. Respiratory Protection: Filter masks, air-supplied respirators, and powered air-purifying respirators offer protection against dust, smoke, vapors, and toxic gases. FFP2 masks are commonly used in industries to protect against fine particles.
  5. Hand and Arm Protection: Safety gloves, which may be made of leather, rubber, nitrile, or other materials, protect against cuts, burns, chemicals, and electric shocks. Cut-resistant gloves are essential for handling glass or sharp metals.
  6. Body Protection: Protective clothing, such as overalls, aprons, and jackets, is designed to protect against thermal, chemical, electrical hazards, and weather conditions. Disposable suits are used in chemical industries to protect against splashes.
  7. Foot and Leg Protection: Safety shoes, equipped with protective toe caps and anti-puncture soles, protect against falling objects, cuts, chemicals, and electrical hazards. Rubber boots are essential for working in wet or chemically active environments.
  8. Fall Protection: Safety harnesses, lanyards, and fall arrest systems protect against the risks of falls from height. Here we present PPE based on the body area they protect. However, they are more often grouped by risk family or by profession.

Which professions use PPE?

Personal protective equipment (PPE) is used in many sectors to protect workers against specific risks to their work environment. Here are some professions that commonly use PPE, along with the types of equipment typically employed:

  1. Construction: Workers in this sector are exposed to various hazards, such as falls, moving objects, noise, dust, and chemicals. Commonly used PPE includes safety helmets to protect against impacts, protective gloves against cuts or abrasions, safety glasses for the eyes, hearing protections like earplugs, safety harnesses to prevent falls, and safety shoes with steel toes.
  2. Healthcare: Healthcare professionals are exposed to biological and chemical risks. Standard PPE in this sector includes surgical masks or FFP2 to protect against infections, gloves to avoid contact with blood and other bodily fluids, waterproof gowns or aprons to protect the skin and clothing, and protective glasses or visors for the eyes.
  3. Chemical Industry: Workers are likely to be exposed to hazardous substances. The required PPE may include watertight suits to avoid contact with chemicals, chemical-resistant gloves, sealed glasses, and gas masks or respirators to protect against inhalation of toxic vapors.
  4. Agriculture: Farmers and agricultural workers face hazards such as moving machinery, chemicals such as pesticides, and dust. They often use robust boots, gloves, dust masks or respirators for pesticides, and hats or caps to protect from the sun.
  5. Metallurgy and Welding: This sector presents risks of burns, sparks, and ultraviolet radiation. Typical PPE includes welding masks with UV protection, heat-resistant gloves, leather aprons to protect against sparks and molten metal splashes, and safety boots.
  6. Electricity: Electricians must protect themselves against electrocution risks. Standard PPE includes insulating gloves, safety shoes with insulating soles, and arc-flash protective clothing.

What should be checked before buying PPE?

The standards and regulations related to PPE are strict and are designed to provide maximum protection for workers. They include requirements for design, manufacturing, and use, ensuring that the equipment meets high standards of quality and safety.

Compliance with Standards: Ensure the PPE complies with the relevant Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standards. OSHA requires that PPE be adequately maintained and fit properly. The specific standards can depend on the type of PPE (e.g., respirators, gloves, eye protection) and are often aligned with the standards set by organizations like the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) and the American National Standards Institute (ANSI).

Certification Marks: Look for certification marks or labels that indicate the equipment has been tested and meets specific performance standards. For example, NIOSH certification for respirators or ANSI labels for eye and face protection.

Fit and Comfort: Check that the PPE fits properly and is comfortable enough for long-term use, as improper fit can compromise protection. This may involve fitting sessions and training on how to wear the equipment correctly.

How to maintain and check PPE?

Visual Inspection A visual inspection should be performed before each use of the PPE. It is the responsibility of the PPE user. They look for signs of wear, tears, cracks, or any other damage that could compromise the integrity of the equipment. For example, for a safety harness, they check for no pulled threads, failing seams, or damaged buckles.

Periodic Checks In addition to inspections, periodic checks should be performed by competent persons. These checks are more thorough and may require specific tests, such as checking the effectiveness of filters in respiratory masks or inspecting the seams of harnesses.

Equipment Register It is necessary to maintain a safety register for all your PPE, which records the purchase dates, inspection dates, inspection results, repairs carried out, and end-of-life dates. This allows you to monitor the condition of the equipment and ensure it is always in good working order.

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