Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is vital to whole-body safety in the workplace. Ensuring safety in the workplace requires efforts to provide work-place safety training and education on emergency procedure to all employees. Suitable supervision of employees at all times is also paramount to workplace safety.
Even when every effort has been taken to provide training in the maintenance of a safe working environment, there exist certain unavoidable risks. These risks include:
- Damage to the lungs from the inhalation of contaminated air or dangerous chemicals
- Injury of the head or feet as the result of falling objects
- Injury to the eyes as the result of airborne particles or splashes from bodies of corrosive chemicals
- Injury or damage to the skin as the result of coming into contact with corrosive chemicals
- Risk of exposure to the elements; for example sunburn or frostbite
In these cases PPE, or Personal Protective Equipment, is needed in order to negate the risk.
Personal Protective Equipment is available to meet every need:
- Respiratory equipment such as gas masks or Self-contained Breathing Apparatus, or SCBA, should be available when the lungs are at risk.
- Hard hats and steel-toed boots should be worn at all times on construction sites and in situations where there is evident risk.
- Protective eyewear such as goggles should be made available to all. In instances where there is risk of prolonged bright light exposure, tinted goggles must be provided.
Occupational health and safety risks to the skin can be divided into four categories:
- Chemical agents pose a threat when allowed to make contact with the skin. Contact can be defined as: direct contact with contaminated surfaces, skin contact as the result of the deposition of aerosols, the immersion of the skin in chemical liquids or contact with the skin as the result of chemical splashes.
- Physical exposure to extreme temperatures, ultraviolet and/or solar radiation can be damaging to the skin over time.
- Mechanical trauma to the skin can occur in the form of friction burns, abrasions, lacerations and contusions.
- Finally, biological agents such as parasites, microorganisms, and other organic materials can have damaging effects on the skin.
Any form of PPE that acts as a barrier between the skin and the agent of exposure can be considered skin protection. Barrier-method protection can include gloves, lab coats or facial shields/masks.
It is the responsibility of the employer to properly educate the employee, and provide access to the necessary PPE, unless otherwise stated in the employee contract, in an effort to ensure workplace safety.