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The importance of personal protective equipment (PPE) in workplace safety

Profit from enhanced PPE and workplace safety knowledge with Lumiform. Discover the numerous benefits of PPE and the negative effects of improper use.

What is PPE (Personal Protective Equipment)?

At some point in your professional career, no matter the industry, you will come across the term PPE (personal protective equipment). PPE exists as a security measure between the employer and the task they’re performing to protect them from possible bodily harm. Although some hazards at hand are more dangerous than others, it is vital to follow protocol and always wear the required PPE to keep you and others safe regardless of the severity of the risk factor.

We were reminded of the importance of PPE when COVID-19 was at its peak and hospitals were struggling with mask, glove, and dressing gown shortages globally adding an extra layer of stress and nerves to our healthcare workers who were already on the brink of burnout.

This taxing situation candidly highlighted the significant impact PPE has across all industries. No matter the workplace, your PPE is crucial to the safety and security of employees and consumers alike.

Some topics we're going to be focusing on in this article include:

1. How PPE use can prevent short AND long-term damages

2. How COVID-19 severely impacted the healthcare industry's access to PPE

3. PPE laws and legalities for business owners

Continue reading for tips on boosting employee workplace safety, lowering legal risks, and defending your company and its revenues.

female healthcare professional wearing mask tightening her scrub cap

PPE for Chronic Injury

PPE comes in a wide variety, ranging from often-used items like medical gloves to considerably more extreme gear such as the hazmat suit. Some employees with more lenient PPE can get into the undesirable habit of frequently neglecting protection as they grow accustomed to the job or their workplace. The main concern with this is that they are not only endangering themselves, but other people as well, because as is evident, risk factors carry the possibility of injury.

The possibility of long-term issues resulting from incorrect or nonexistent PPE use, however, is something that is less frequently thought of but equally as dangerous. Employees might not give them much thought in the moment, but, for example, prolonged exposure to loud noises or air pollutants can cause severe problems like hearing loss or sickness.

Noise-induced hearing loss is something that can be preventable by proper PPE use. According to the website healthyhearing.com, US adults between the ages of 20 and 69 suffer hearing loss caused by noise. Although it is unconfirmed that all of these sufferers acquired their hearing loss on the job, PPE can and is encouraged for use in daily life outside work!

The number of people who experience hearing loss globally might be significantly reduced by using safety headphones/earplugs (a form of PPE) when engaging with potentially harmful noise levels, such as during loud concerts or when mowing the lawn. Despite the numerous benefits of wearing PPE while engaging in recreational activities that call for them, it is more realistic to impose PPE in the workplace, as individuals are generally more negligent on their own time.

Airport employees, construction workers, and musicians are some occupations that do not have the luxury of avoiding these potentially dangerous volume levels because it is a required component of their work. These individuals are among the 22 million American workers annually exposed to hazardous noise at work, as stated by this CDC report.

The good news, according to OHS Canada, is that noise-induced hearing loss is entirely avoidable with proper PPE. With that in mind, choosing the best PPE for your occupation is a separate issue as there are countless different options, making it challenging to determine which is best.

To help aid in this task, Work Gearz put together a list of some of the top noise safety PPE tested by real professionals in the field so you can feel confident in your choice and safety. Along with your PPE, use Lumiform’s Noise Risk Assessment Template for ultimate security.

COVID-19's Attack on the Healthcare System

Hospitals and healthcare facilities had to prepare for greater demand than usual when the first wave of the Coronavirus effectively shut down the world. They quickly became stressed and overcrowded as beds filled faster than they could clear them. PPE use increased as more people became ill. The tremendous global demand for these products caused distributors to run out before they could replenish orders, leaving hospitals in shambles.

PPE has never been more crucial for doctors and nurses who served at the front line of our healthcare systems than it was amid the pandemic. They spent every waking moment of their workday exposed to the virus, necessitating frequent disposal and replacement of their PPE between patient visits. This necessity became unfeasible when access to PPE grew heavily limited inside and outside healthcare facilities with the rising demand for masks, gloves, and other PPE items.

The pandemic brought about a mental health crisis as well, with the epidemic leading to burnout in nearly 50% of healthcare workers. Burnout has an impact on workers' ability to perform, which in turn affects the patients they care for. Hospitals were suffering greatly due to this, and they weren’t even able to adequately protect themselves. Other industries can refuse unsafe work if proper PPE isn’t presented, but healthcare workers legally cannot, making these shortages very problematic.

Fortunately, the virus has become considerably more manageable and these shortages have diminished over time. Even so, mask use continues to be prominent in many people's daily lives.

According to a Forbes survey from April of this year, 44% of Americans still wear face masks in public spaces – this is a perfect example of how PPE is essential in and outside the workplace. For those who need/choose to wear this PPE, Wired has compiled a list of their top 17 mask picks for quality and comfort.

The Laws of PPE as a Business Owner

An astounding 98% of workers have observed their coworkers fail to wear the required PPE at work. This number raises serious concern as it demonstrates how little employers know or care about the safety of their workers or their obligations under the law to provide PPE in the workplace. Negligence in this area might put employee safety in danger and result in litigation and other legal issues, things that are entirely avoidable with the right knowledge and business practices.

It is your duty as the business owner to determine what PPE is necessary for your workplace, pay for it, and supply it to your employees. It is also crucial to give any training necessary for the PPE's safe and effective use. As a business owner, you should give this top priority not only for the benefit of your employees but also because failing to do so jeopardizes the integrity of your entire enterprise.

Unfortunately, carelessness occurs more often than you may imagine, even at large corporations. For example, Amazon faced a lawsuit back in 2020 for failing to provide its employees with proper PPE amid the Coronavirus. The lawsuit was made bigger and more significant by the fact that it appeared to particularly target the company's Black and Latinx employees. Despite this terrible incident, it did make individuals more aware of the value of PPE and respect in the workplace.

It may seem obvious to prevent these possible problems by making sure your crew is equipped with the essential PPE, but frequently, factors like corporate greed can intrude on fundamental human decency and lead to these horrible situations. If not only to comply with the law, PPE is a key factor in protecting employees in the workplace, and, by extension, your organization as a whole.

One fantastic way to instill the importance of PPE and get your employees on board is by introducing a PPE Program. What constitutes a quality PPE Program and what is required to launch one in your organization are both explained in-depth and insightfully by CCOHS. One of the crucial points they covered was the importance of monitoring the program via inspection of the processes and procedures—a task that is made easy and efficient with the free app from Lumiform!

Running a business is difficult enough; the legal requirements for PPE make things even more stressful. Keeping track of workplace safety is made easier and more accessible with Lumiform's PPE Checklist Template. This and the other 12,000+ premade templates Lumiform provides make maintaining the safety and security of your company that much easier. It’s never worth it to gamble on the safety of your business and its employees – stay on the right track by ensuring PPE use with Lumiform today.

orange protective headphones in front of a power saw lying on a bench

Key PPE Knowledge Take-Aways

PPE is undoubtedly one of the most crucial elements in job safety in all sectors of industries worldwide. This fact was made especially apparent in the last three years with COVID-19 and the toll it took across all workforces, halting some jobs altogether!

Some key points to remember when practicing safe PPE use in your business are as follows:

  • PPE for risks that cannot be seen, such as loud noise levels, is equally as crucial as PPE for risks of physical harm
  • Lack of planning for unanticipated natural occurrences, such as a pandemic, amply demonstrates the critical need for having access to PPE
  • Business owners need to prioritize PPE and employee safety to guarantee the overall success of their company

Pairing this essential knowledge with the countless resources Lumiform has to offer might mean the difference between employee welfare and disaster. Make safety a top priority, take all precautions necessary, and instill the cruciality of PPE in the workplace.

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