Episode 6 – Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)


Toolbox Talk Topic: Personal Protective Equipment or PPE

In this episode we will discuss the importance of Personal Protective Equipment or PPE.


How does OSHA define personal protective equipment, commonly referred to as “PPE“?

“Equipment worn to minimize exposure to hazards that cause serious workplace injuries and illnesses. These injuries and illnesses may result from contact with chemical, radiological, physical, electrical, mechanical, or other workplace hazards.”

Simply put, PPE protects an individual from harm.

Football players wear helmets to protect their heads from injury. Roadies in rock bands wear hearing protection to prevent permanent hearing damage. Firefighters were respirators to keep them from inhaling smoke. In industry, workers wear eye protection such as goggles or safety glasses to protect their eyes from chemical splashes or flying objects.

Types of PPE can include gloves, shoes, hard hats, respirators, coveralls, vests, or even full bodysuits.


PPE History:

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) has been around for a long time, but probably not in the way you typically think about it.

Mid-evil knights wore armor to protect them from arrows that could pierce their flesh, hammers that could crush their body parts, and swords that could hack off their limbs. In the Middle Ages, blacksmiths wore aprons and helmets to shield them from burns caused by molten metal.

In 1898 Bullard Manufacturing Company produced the first hard hats. These hard hats were often referred to as “hard-boiled hats” because steam was used in the manufacturing process. It looked like a baseball cap made of steamed canvas, glue, and black paint. It was patented in 1919.

An “eye protector” patent was issued to P. Johnson in 1880. In 1909, the Julius King Optical Company invented the first safety goggles.

In the late 1930s, Red-Wing Shoes produced and sold the very first steel toe boots.


PPE Statistics

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, nearly three out of five workers who suffered an eye injury were either:

  • wearing the wrong type of eye protection or
  • not wearing eye protection at all

OSHA estimates that nearly 71% of hand injuries could have been prevented using the proper PPE, specifically gloves. Yet, 70% of workers don’t wear gloves, and of those who do, 30% don’t wear the correct gloves for the job.


Safety Tips

#1 Assessment

Let’s talk about selection and use. What kind of PPE do you need for the job? For starters, survey the work area and identify any dangers? Is the appropriate PPE available? Just like you have to have the right tool for the job, you have to have the right PPE. In the Zach Snyder film 300, the Spartans didn’t go into battle without their shields, and neither should you!


#2 Proper fit

Make sure all your PPE is not only correctly fitted but properly worn. PPE is not a fashion statement. We all have to make sacrifices.


#3 Inspection and Maintenance

Is your PPE in good condition? Is your hard hat cracked? Is your harness frayed or damaged? Are your gloves worn out? If so, take them out of service!


#4 PPE is the last line of defense.

Anytime a hazard is present, Engineering and administrative controls are always implemented first. Still, if we can’t control the danger, we use PPE, which is why it’s so important.


#5 Evaporative Acts

Evaporative acts is a fancy term for when a person follows the safety rules but only when a Supervisor or Safety Manager is watching. So, folks, always wear your PPE even if no one is watching. I want you to go home with all the parts the good lord gave you.

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