Health and Safety News

Occupational health and safety news and guidance

The importance of choosing the correct PPE (personal protective equipment) for environmental protection

Photo shows a worker wearing personal protective equipmentWorkers wear personal protective equipment (PPE) to reduce their exposure to various occupational hazards. This includes such items as full body suits, work trousers, aprons, gloves, and foot, head and eye protection. Its use is one component of a safety program using a number of techniques to ensure that the work environment it both healthy and safe. However, use of such equipment does not make the hazard any less serious, and it does not provide long-lasting or complete protection.

What can be done

With PPE, eliminating and controlling hazards becomes a top priority, and this may be done at the source of the hazard or along the path that leads to the worker. Since a variety of methods can be used, those that best suit a particular situation are the ones to focus on when setting up a program.

Controlling hazards

Doing this at their source is the wisest choice because they will either be removed from the workplace or separated from the worker. This may involve replacing a material with one that is non-hazardous, adding safety features to the equipment currently being used, buying new equipment or redesigning a particular process. To continue a work process if a hazard cannot be eliminated or controlled sufficiently, PPE should be the next step.

Protecting workers

This involves complying with related laws and regulations and in-house standards, along with technical feasibility. A viable strategy includes analysing the hazards, evaluating applicable control techniques and combining several solutions to be effective. Note also that the latter should be re-examined often to ensure a safe work environment.

Pre-contact control

This is the primary and most significant approach. It involves introducing processes or materials that are safer for the worker, eliminating hazardous processes, retrofitting the equipment in use, or purchasing equipment that is safer to use. In addition, this type of control can be gained by protecting workers with machine guarding, exhaust ventilation, work safety standards and improved equipment maintenance.

In the pre-contact stage, a number of hazards can be foreseen and avoided with proper engineering, but some may not be evident until an accident takes place. Identification of hazards is essential in order to reduce or eliminate them at their source.

Point-of-contact control

This safety measure, which is secondary to pre-contact control, is generally accomplished by using PPE at those times when the primary controls in place are less than effective.

What PPE does

It helps to lessen workers’ contact with or exposure to harmful chemical, physical, biological or ergonomic agents. For instance, if workers wear hearing protection that reduces the possibility of hearing damage if the device they choose is intended for their type of noise exposure and it is used correctly.

Getting the right results

Workers should be told why PPE is necessary and trained in using it as well. The way in which it is introduced will affect both the program’s acceptance and effectiveness. Also, worker compliance will be less than desirable if a particular device is uncomfortable, unattractive or distributed to workers with little or no explanation.


Written by Lisa Smith – Lisa has many years experience as a freelance writer on many subjects and is currently representing APL Clothing – A UK supplier of quality PPE and workwear.

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