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Personal Protective Equipment - What’s it all about?. Prepared for University Safety Council May 2002 Curt Speaker EHS. Personal Protective Equipment.

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Personal protective equipment what s it all about l.jpg

Personal Protective Equipment - What’s it all about?

Prepared for University Safety Council May 2002

Curt Speaker


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Personal Protective Equipment

  • Definition: Devices used to protect an employees from injury or illness resulting from contact with chemical , radiological, physical, electrical, mechanical, or other workplace hazards (OSHA)

  • The need for PPE and the type of PPE used is based on hazard present; each situation must be evaluated independently

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Some Caveats

  • PPE is used as a last resort

  • The use of PPE signifies that the hazard could not be controlled by other methods, such as:

    • administrative controls (i.e., shift rotation)

    • engineering or industrial hygiene controls

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Engineering & IH Controls

  • Design (remove hazard from process)

  • Substitution (of less hazardous materials)

  • Process modification (how and where)

  • Isolate the process or the worker

  • Wet methods for dust reduction

  • Local exhaust ventilation (at source)

  • Dilution ventilation (area)

  • Good housekeeping

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Back to the caveats...

  • The use of PPE signals that the hazard still exists in the workplace

  • Unprotected individuals in the same area will be exposed

  • Failure of PPE means that the worker will be exposed

  • PPE can be combined with other controls

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  • Head protection

  • Eye and Face protection

  • Hearing protection

  • Respiratory protection

  • Arm and Hand protection

  • Foot and Leg protection

  • Protective clothing

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Eye Protection

  • Common Uses:

    • Impact Protection

    • Chemical Hazards

    • Radiation Protection

      • welder’s goggles

      • laser goggles

      • UV

      • Infrared

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Eye Protection - Selection

  • Visitor specs are only appropriate for non-employees with no true exposure to hazards

  • Safety glasses are used to protect the eyes from flying objects (no face protection)

  • Chemical splash goggles protect against fluids by sealing tightly against the face

  • Face shields provide highest level of protection

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Hearing Protection Basics

  • Noise induced hearing loss can occur with exposures >90 dBA

  • A hearing conservation program becomes a requirement at exposures >85dBA

  • Higher levels of noise exposure have shorter allowable exposure times

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Sound Level (dBA)








Exposure (hours)








Noise levels versus Duration

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Hearing Protection

  • Rule of Thumb - if you cannot carry on a conversation in a normal tone of voice with someone at arm’s length, you are likely near 90dBA

  • All hearing protection devices should have a Noise Reduction Rating (NRR) = # of decibels they will reduce noise levels

  • Be conservative when using NRRs

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A couple examples

  • Example 1

    • Ear plugs with NRR of 25 dBA

    • exposure = 105 dBA

    • 105 minus 25 = 80 dB therefore okay

  • Example 2

    • same plugs

    • exposure = 125 dBA

    • 125 minus 25 = 100 dB not acceptable; must be below 90 dB

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Hearing Protection - Types

  • Ear Plugs - less expensive, disposable, good ones have fairly high NRRs - sometimes difficult to tell if employees are wearing them

  • Ear Muffs - more expensive, more durable, typically higher NRRs than plugs, more obvious

  • Can be used together in very high noise areas

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Gloves - Typical Uses

  • Chemical protection

  • Biohazard protection

  • Abrasion protection

  • Friction protection

  • Protection from extremes of heat and cold

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Gloves - more caveats

  • No glove is good against all hazards; consult laboratory safety link on EHS web page for glove selection chart

  • Gloves have a finite lifespan and must be periodically replaced

  • When donning gloves, examine them for signs of tears, cracks, holes and dry rot

  • Hands should always be washed after removing gloves

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Protective Footwear

  • Steel-toed footwear, preferably with metatarsal guards, is used to protect feet from crushing injuries caused by heavy objects

  • Rubber boots are often used to protect feet from exposure to liquids

  • Chaps or leggings are used in certain applications (i.e., using a chainsaw)

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Other Protective Clothing

  • Used to protect street clothes from hazards in the workplace

  • Often hazard specific

  • To be considered effective, protective clothing must prevent the contaminant from reaching the clothing or skin of the wearer!

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Respiratory Protection

  • Protects users by removing harmful materials that may enter the body via the lungs

  • Inhalation is one of the quickest, most efficient ways to introduce lethal levels of hazardous materials into the body

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Respirators - types

  • Air Purifying Respirators (APR)

    • Half-face

    • Full Face

  • Powered Air Purifying Respirators (PAPR)

  • Self Contained Breathing Apparatus (SCBA)

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  • Does not include:

    • surgical masks

    • dust masks

  • N-95 respirators are a special class of respiratory protection primarily used in the health care field

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Respirators - A Big Caveat!!!

  • Employees should not wear a respirator unless they have been medically cleared to do so!

  • This clearance may take the form of a questionnaire, physical examination, pulmonary function testing, chest X-Ray, or a combination of the above

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  • Respirators put additional resistance against the respiratory system of the wearer

  • Persons with undiagnosed respiratory system or cardiovascular problems could trigger a serious medical problem (respiratory distress, asthma, heart attack, etc.) by using a respirator

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Facial hair…

  • The respirator cannot form a tight seal against the cheeks and chin, resulting in air leaks which can allow airborne contaminants to be inhaled

  • Specially designed PAPR hoods can be used for employees with facial hair

  • small amounts of facial hair that fit inside of the respirator facepiece are acceptable

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PPE Usage

  • PPE that is required to safely conduct University work should be purchased by the work unit

  • Supervisors are responsible for ensuring that PPE is available and worn

  • Employees are responsible for wearing & maintaining PPE, and reporting worn or defective PPE to their supervisor

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  • PPE is hazard specific; the hazards of each workplace and task must be evaluated

  • PPE is used as a last resort when the hazard cannot be controlled by other methods

  • Supervisors are responsible to ensure it is available and worn; Employees must wear and maintain their PPE

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  • PPE is only considered effective if it prevents the contaminant from reaching the wearer

  • Respirators should not be worn by employees unless they have been medically cleared to do so

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For additional information on PPE...

  • Check the EHS web site


  • Or contact EHS directly