The place where we work and the nature of our work could pose certain hazards that are detrimental to our safety, health and wellbeing. In workplaces where it is not possible to prevent exposure of workers to the hazard by any other method, the use of PPE could protect workers from these hazards.
Workers whose jobs involve repetition, lifting, or awkward postures or who use uncomfortable office furniture are prone to ergonomic hazards and may suffer backache, neck strain and carpal tunnel syndrome.
PPE that could prevent these hazards include knee pads for kneeling tasks; shoulder pads to cushion loads carried on the shoulder; padding to reduce direct contact with hard, sharp, or vibrating surfaces; and ergonomically shaped padded pillow to provide back support.
Faulty equipment or live wires that could cause workers to suffer burns and electric shock, sparks from welding, glare, glass shards, slippery or uneven floors, noise, temperature extremes and radiation are physical hazards that may cause accidents and illness among workers.
Examples of PPE used to avoid these hazards among workers are those for eye and face protection like laser eyewear; welding shields; safety glasses; face shields; shaded goggles; and chemical splash goggles. Among construction workers, PPE include ear plugs and ear muffs for hearing protection; safety-toed shoes or boots, non-conductive shoes and slip-resistant shoes for foot protection; gloves to protect against cold, vibration, and rough surfaces; hard hats and bump caps.
Chemical and Dust
Chemical and dust hazards are common in the chemical, automotive, janitorial, sanitation, mining, quarrying, stone masonry, construction, metallurgical, glass, ceramic and food processing industries. Workers exposed to metallic dusts such as lead and cadmium, mineral dust such as silica, cleaning products, pesticides, construction dust, powdered materials, diesel and gasoline fumes may suffer occupational lung diseases, lead or cadmium poisoning, cancer, asthma, allergies and irritations.
Some PPE provided to avoid exposure of workers to these chemical and dust hazards include a Respiratory Protective Equipment (RPE) of the mask type, safety glasses, chemical splash goggles, dust goggles, face shields, chemical- and liquid-resistant gloves like latex and rubber nitrile gloves, coveralls without pockets to prevent the collection of dust on them, laboratory coats and aprons, shirts with sleeves, long work pants, and sturdy work shoes or boots for construction workers.
Medical personnel are constantly exposed to biological hazards in their work as they administer injections, perform surgeries, draw blood, examine biological materials and treat patients with communicable diseases.
Examples of PPE given to workers include those for face and eye protection, like fluid-resistant shields that provide splash protection from biological material such as body fluids; safety glasses plus mask or face shield. Other PPE include body/skin protection like laboratory coats, coveralls, vests, jackets, aprons, surgical gowns and full body suits, latex and rubber nitrile gloves that are chemical-, liquid- and puncture-resistant and foot/shoe protective cover.
Workplace hazards have to be recognized, their cause identified and the appropriate method of control adapted. The provision of PPE, when other methods are not possible, adequately protects the worker when used properly.