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The extreme importance of personal protective equipment

Personal protective equipment is an invaluable workplace safety tool. It's important to understand the health benefits and legal necessity of providing PPE to your employees, and important to know how to get the most from that PPE

What is PPE (Personal Protective Equipment)?

No matter your industry, you will likely come across the term PPE (personal protective equipment). PPE is an added layer of security that protects employees from potential harm when performing tasks. Although some hazards are more dangerous than others, it’s vital that your workers always wear the required PPE to keep themselves and others safe.

PPE entered the mainstream when COVID-19 was at its peak and hospitals struggled with mask, glove, and dressing gown shortages. Not having adequate protection added an extra layer of stress to an already incredibly tense situation.

Though most visible in healthcare, PPE is important to a range of industries. For example, construction and factory workers need to wear PPE to protect themselves from debris, dust, and even noise. And hospitality workers should wear PPE to avoid contaminating food and drinks served to guests.

What qualifies as PPE?

Black and white image of a woman in PPE that includes goggle, a face mask, and a visor

PPE is a broad term that includes a variety of items, from typical safety equipment like medical gloves to more specialized gear like hazmat suits. Some employees who are not required to wear PPE can develop a habit of frequently neglecting protection as they grow accustomed to the job or their workplace. This leads to them endangering themselves and others, since they are increasing everyone’s exposure to risk factors.

There are also long-term issues that can arise from using PPE incorrectly or not at all. For example, prolonged exposure to loud noises or air pollutants can cause severe problems like hearing loss or sickness. These types of hazard aren’t always obvious until they’ve cause significant damage.

Noise-induced hearing loss is a very common problem when you don’t have PPE. Around 40 million US adults between the ages of 20 and 69 suffer noise-induced hearing loss. While there can be several causes, job hazards are a major one.

The number of people who develop hearing loss would be significantly reduced by wearing noise-related PPE like headphones or earplugs when exposed to dangerous noise level, such as during loud concerts, or when operating machinery. While it’s difficult to control what people do on their own time, you can easily require PPE in the workplace.

Airport employees, construction workers, and musicians are particularly in need of personal protective equipment, since excessive noise is part of their work. They are among those most consistently exposed to noise hazards.

The good news is that noise-induced hearing loss is entirely avoidable with proper PPE. You have lots of options when it comes to what PPE to provide, depending on the exact situation. Several companies make headphones and earplugs for use by workers.

Black woman putting on a head covering and face mask as PPE

PPE that business owners must provide

An astounding 98% of workers notice their coworkers forgetting to wear required PPE at work. This demonstrates how little employers know or care about workplace safety, despite a legal obligation to protect workers by providing them with PPE. Endangering employees this way could result in litigation and other legal issues, which are easily avoided.

As a business owner, it’s your duty to determine the necessary PPE, order it, and supply it to your employees. It is also crucial that you train employees to use their PPE properly. This keeps workers safe from harm and you safe from regulatory consequences. It may seem easy to prevent these problems by making sure your crew has access to PPE, but forgetting to do so is quite common.

A great way to introduce and get employees on board with using PPE is by introducing a PPE Program. A quality PPE program consists of:

  • Regular hazard and risk assessments
  • Selecting appropriate corrective measures
  • Selecting the right PPE
  • Educating employees on the use of said PPE
  • Support from management
  • Maintaining and auditing the program

Keeping up with your safety obligations is easier with workflow automation software like Lumiform. Between custom checklists that you create and a library of over 12,000 premade templates, Lumiform makes conducting the regular hazard inspections required by your PPE program simple. You can also track the PPE you have in stock and easily know when it’s time to replace old equipment. Using the mobile app helps give your employees a stake in their safety by empowering anyone to perform an inspection, online or offline.

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