When the country first started talking about COVID-19 earlier this year, it added many new terms to our vocabulary. An important topic that might be brand new to your company is personal protection equipment, or PPE, a broad term used for types of clothing and special coverings that help reduce the risk of physical or medical harm posed by hazards.
Not all businesses will need to provide the same kind or level of PPE – medical offices and establishments will have a greater demand for masks, gloves, facial coverings, and full-body protection than, say, financial firms. But with the threat from COVID-19 still present to varying degrees, it’s a good time to learn what each piece of PPE is and how it works.
Let’s start at the top. Head protection gear is designed to protect employees from hitting their heads against hard objects or from causing damage or bruising in the event of a fall. This can include helmets, hard hats, guards, and other accessories. It can also keep hair out of the reach of machinery, which would result in entanglement and injury.
Fingers, arms, and hands are at risk of getting caught in mechanical equipment, accidentally getting stuck or burned. Hand protection gear provides a layer of insulation against electrical shocks, red-hot metal, sharp objects, and chemicals. Thick gloves provide the protection required for construction and other industrial settings; thin latex gloves are used in medical offices and health care settings to prevent the spread of germs on surfaces.
Eye and Face Protection
Your face is very sensitive and can be an easy target for several accidents, some of which can be life-altering. Protecting your face, and ensuring your workers’ faces are covered, is critical, whether it’s goggles to keep dust particles or metal shards out of their eyes or to full-face masks to prevent blindness when working with lasers or chemicals.
This is the type of PPE most of us became familiar with during the COVID-19 pandemic: Facial masks, N95 masks, respirators, and other coverings designed to keep germs out of our lungs. These masks also keep sawdust, dirt, small metal particles, and other tiny particulates from being inhaled, which can cause serious illness or something even more problematic for people who live with asthma or other respiratory conditions. Respiratory PPE also includes powered respirators, protective hoods, and monitors to provide air quality readings.
If loud noises are a regular part of the workday, your workers need hearing protection. Hearing damage can be irreparable, especially if a person is exposed to very loud noises repeatedly and for many years. Among the hearing PPE to consider and use are earplugs, noise meters, communication equipment to avoid shouting in loud areas, and acoustic foam and other materials that can help dampen and deaden loud noises.
Slips and falls aren’t the only work hazards that your employees need to be mindful of, as some equipment or products can risk physical damage to an employee’s foot. If your employees work in a very hot or cold environment, insulated boots can provide a layer of protection from the elements; rubber-soled boots or shoes can protect against electricity and chemicals.
When working with metal, heat, or out in the elements, full-body protection might be required, depending on the project. It should fit close to the body to avoid risking becoming entangled in other machinery, but not so tight that it restricts breathing. It’s also wise to have reflective strips on body covering, regardless of whether workers are outside at night – anything that can draw attention to them in a busy area will help keep everyone safe. Body PPE includes life jackets for jobs on the water, insulated equipment and clothing for outdoor work, safety harnesses, heavy aprons for welding or work with chemicals, and high-visibility clothing for dimly lit areas.
Height and Access Protection
Less common but still important is equipment to protect against falling from heights or when accessing restricted locations is worth stocking if your employees need them. Employees might need to be trained on using this equipment, both upon initial hiring and possibly periodically throughout their career. The protective equipment itself must also be inspected regularly to ensure it has maintained integrity and will be useful if needed. Height and access PPE include body harnesses, systems to catch someone if they fall, lifting and lowering harnesses, rescue lifting, and emergency energy absorbers.
Keep Your Workers Safe
If the world of PPE is confusing to you, or you want to make sure you’re fully protecting your employees, contact Action Group Staffing. We’re standing by and ready to help you navigate the new working world, from providing advice on PPE to helping you find top talent to add to your team. Contact Action Group Staffing today, and let’s get started.