Personal protective equipment (PPE) is equipment worn to minimize exposure to various workplace hazards. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires employers to provide workers with PPE when engineering, work practice and administrative controls are not enough. Some common types of PPE include:
- Body suits
- Face shields
- Hard hats
- Safety glasses
- Shoes/ specialty foot protection
OSHA requires employers to perform a hazard assessment of their workplaces to identify existing and potential hazards. OSHA logs and other injury and accident data can provide additional insight into problem areas. OSHA has identified several hazard categories, including:
- Harmful dust
- Light radiation
If a hazard cannot be eliminated through the use of engineering controls and other precautions, it may be necessary to utilize PPE to protect workers from injury and illness. Employers must provide and maintain the proper PPE for each employee and employees must be trained on how to properly use their PPE.
OSHA also recommends that a PPE program be implemented to address the types of equipment that will be used; how hazard assessments will be conducted; who is responsible for addressing the hazards; topics addressed during employee training about PPE; how the equipment is to be cared for; and what employees should do if their PPE becomes damaged.
Payment for PPE
OSHA requires employers to pay for all PPE that is used to comply with OSHA standards. OSHA does not tell employers what PPE they must provide; employers must evaluate their workplaces and decide what types of PPE are necessary. There are some circumstances in which employers are not required to pay for PPE, such as:
- Everyday work clothing and shoes
- Hair nets and gloves used by food workers
- Intentionally damaged PPE
- Lifting belts
- Non-specialty protective footwear
- Non-specialty safety eyewear
Common Types of PPE
Several OSHA standards may apply for any workplace, including general industry PPE standards, construction PPE standards, and PPE requirements in shipyards and marine terminals. Some common forms of PPE required by OSHA include:
Eye and face protection: OSHA reports that thousands of workers are blinded from work-related eye injuries each year, costing more than $300 million in Workers’ Compensation, lost productivity and medical expenses. Employers may need to provide eye and face protection to protect workers from workplace hazards.
Fall protection: Employers must take reasonable steps to prevent employees from being injured due to falls in the workplace. Depending on the workplace, employers may need to provide safety harnesses and lines, hand rails, guard rails and/or toe-boards.
Respiratory protection: OSHA reports that approximately five million U.S. workers are required to wear respirators. Compliance with OSHA standards can prevent workers from developing health problems such as lung impairment, cancer and other terminal conditions.
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