By Rehan Iqbal
PPE stands for personal protective equipment, and not everyone realizes they need it for their jobs. Do you know what PPE to wear for your profession and why you need to wear it?
If you’re not sure, think about potential hazards you might encounter when at work. For instance, you could end up having chemicals splashed in your eyes. Otherwise, you could drop a heavy tool on your toes.
Protective equipment provides safety when you touch, see or hear potentially hazardous objects. As a result, wearing PPE prevents injuries, and it can even prevent fatal accidents.
What Does PPE Clothing Protect?
PPE clothing protects you from slips, falls, pollution, fires, rain, snow and more. The type of clothing you wear depends on whether you work inside or outside.
Some professions may require more PPE than others. However, the protective equipment you wear usually includes clothing that covers the hands, head, eyes and feet. Non-slip soles on the bottom of the feet also make the standard PPE clothing list for preventing slips, trips and falls.
What Kind of PPE Should you Wear?
The PPE you should wear includes hats, gloves, shoes and clothing required by your local health department. Your employer should provide you with information as to the kinds of waterproofing, weatherproofing and injury proofing materials your clothing should have.
The Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) also provides information on protective clothing that resists flames, weather elements and water. OSHA usually suggests tactical clothing and shoes sold by American Standards Institute (ANSI) providers, by the way.
Other PPE includes aprons, hairnets, shoe covers or disposable arm sleeves. It depends on your profession what kind of protective clothing you need to wear though.
Types of PPE Required By Profession
Most employers offer information on the type of PPE you should wear. If they don’t, ask them. The materials you wear should resist water and burns as well as shield sensitive areas, such as your mouth and eyes.
Construction workers have to wear long sleeve shirts and long pants. They also must wear heavy-duty safety-toed boots or shoes with non-slip soles.
Full face shields, chemical splash goggles and a high-visibility vest also are typically part of their PPE outfit. Builders and road repair workers also must wear a hard hat. In addition, they wear protective gloves with non-slip grip material to prevent tripping and earplugs (or earmuffs) to prevent hearing loss.
Construction workers usually can’t get away with wearing shorts or skirts either. They also must not wear sleeveless shirts or tank tops. Their skin needs to stay covered at all times, which lessens the chance of deep wounds, bruises or broken bones in the event of an accident.
Food service employees typically have to wear a hairnet or a cap. This prevents tucks in the hair and prevents loose strands from falling out into people’s meals. Beard nets provide a similar function as hairnets do, which is to prevent choking and infections because of hair in a person's food.
When preparing cold food, such as salads or sandwiches with condiments, they also must wear protective plastic gloves. This stops food prep workers from touching and contaminating people’s food, which they shouldn’t do even if they do wash their hands.
Some restaurants may make kitchen employees wear heat-resistant gloves on their hands. Otherwise, this PPE for the hands is nearby in case workers decide to use it. It can prevent burns when frying meat, cooking deep fried foods, or when handling hot pots and pans.
Anyone who serves food in a restaurant or hospital, nursing home or other group setting typically wears long pants too. This prevents burns, scrapes or other injuries that happen while cooking or preparing food.
Employees serving food onsite at a diner or long-term care facility also wear non-slip shoes. This prevents them from a complete fall if they do happen to trip while in a hurry serving multiple guests.
You also can wear aprons to further prevent burns from hot spills. Aprons prevent you from ruining your clothing as well.
Sometimes, people working in food-service also have to take out trash to a dumpster located onsite during business hours. In certain instances, they may be told to wear attachable non-slip soles that have “cleats” on the bottom of them. The non-slip attachable soles can prevent food service or convenience store workers from slipping on ice.
Workers taking out trash also should wear a high-visibility safety jacket with reflective colors. The high-visibility jacket (or vest) prevents customers pulling in or out of a driveway from hitting an employee. It also avoids business liability while preventing injuries or death.
Production workers may wear some of the same equipment that construction workers wear. For instance, they may have chemical splash goggles that protect the area around the eyes, including the sides of the face. They also protect all the way down to the nose, unlike standard safety glasses that just cover the face.
Sanitation and Janitorial
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) provides a thorough guide for people handling discarded waste. This information is for people who may have to handle full trash cans. This may happen if they don’t have automated pick-up machines on their garbage trucks.
The CDC sanitation guide also applies to workers who clean inside a production plant. These sanitation rules apply to other settings too, including hospitals, doctor’s offices or restaurants.
Anytime you’re handling garbage, you need to protect your body with plastic gloves and face shields. Some production sites may just require smaller safety glasses though. However, if you have access to the larger ones that cover more of your face, we recommend using those.
The point is, you need to make sure you stay covered when handling waste at all times. The importance of protecting yourself increases even more when handling bio waste.
In case you’re wondering, bio-waste is blood (even if dried), sweat or other bodily fluids. Traces of it sometimes end up in syringes, disposable wipes and packages. It also includes any fluids that dripped onto the floor or other surfaces.
Removing bio-waste requires a specific protocol, which quarantines the waste from the area around it when removing it. This requires the thickest gloves you have and making sure your face and body are covered as well as possible. Then, you must use your PPE while disposing of bio waste into a trash receptacle.
Fall Prevention PPE
Regardless of your profession, you might spend time in the air. You don’t have to suspend yourself six feet from the ground before benefiting from fall prevention though. Still, fall prevention PPE has become mandatory at least at this height.
Guardrails, harnesses, safety monitors and a “buddy system” when working on scaffolding or “up high” could save you. This includes times when standing on an electronic lift, otherwise known as a "scissors lift" or "Genie."
If you're not sure what this means, think of mountain climbing gear. The PPE for a job in a high place is similar to that.
How do you Wear PPE?
How you wear your PPE matters just as much as what you wear. For instance, it won’t do you much good to wear long pants if your hems drag across the floor. Make sure you choose the right length of pants for your legs, not covering more than the top of your shoe or boot if you don't want to trip and fall.
You also want to make sure your PPE allows you some ability to move your arms, legs and shoulders. On the other hand, it shouldn’t be so loose that it falls off and won’t protect you anyway.
If, at any time, your clothing or other PPE doesn’t fit right, contact your supervisor immediately. What’s more, pay attention to the latest guidance considering protective equipment for your profession.