Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Personal Protective Equipment Basics

Part I

Personal protective equipment is used because there is some type of hazard that has been identified that cannot be eliminated or controlled through other means. Simply stated, when there are personal protective equipment requirements, it means there is a hazard that may cause individuals injury and failing to use the prescribed equipment puts them in potential danger.

First Line of Defense
Personal protective equipment should NOT be the first line of defense against identified hazards. Make every attempt to engineer the problem away so protective equipment is not necessary. When you can’t fully eliminate or control the hazard, then require protective equipment as part of your safety policy.

When and Where Protection is Required
Assess all the work areas to find the hazards that are there, or might be there, and then make protective equipment decisions based on those assessments. This is an ongoing process to make sure you are always current and always aware of the hazards of your car wash work environment. Require supervisors to keep you informed of the type of protective equipment for each wash location or the specific jobs being performed.

Proper Use of Personal Protective Equipment
No protective equipment is good unless it is sized right and fitting properly. This may sound elementary, but everything from gloves to shoes to glasses to goggles must fit the right way in order for it to properly protect. Be sure to have your employees take some time to make sure all the protective equipment is the right size. If some equipment doesn’t fit in the right way, it’s not doing you any good at all… and that’s a situation you certainly want to avoid.

Limitations of Personal Protective Equipment
Personal protective equipment is effective when it is used as designed. For instance, not all gloves protect against all hazards; leather gloves provide good protection against cuts and slivers but do nothing for chemical safety. Safety glasses protect your eyes but not the rest of your face. For each type of personal protective equipment, it is important to know what it will guard against, and what it won’t do.

Care and Maintenance of Personal Protective Equipment
Personal protective equipment that is not properly maintained will not last long and will not continue to protect the user. In fact, poorly maintained equipment can be a greater hazard; glasses that are dirty create visibility problems, chemical gloves with pin holes will allow chemicals to touch your skin and shoes held together by tape won’t protect your feet and will create trip hazards. Before each use require your employees to inspect equipment for problems, and when they are done using the gear, clean it up so it is ready for the next use.

Personal Protective Equipment Must be Accessible
Not long ago a carwash operator with many years of experience approached me with about a situation that could have been disastrous. He explained while he was in the equipment room transferring a chemical the container slipped causing the chemical to splash across the side of his face, just missing his eyes. Fortunately he was able to wash himself down quickly avoiding serious injury. Though he normally uses protective wear it was not where it belonged so rather than take the time to search for it he elected to take the chance. According to him it is one that he will never take again. The thought of coming that close to loosing his eyesight was a sobering experience. So one more tip for you is to be sure the personal protective equipment is easily accessible and simple to find. You know your employees if it is not right there they will not use it.