The standard of PPE which you must follow depends on where you’re located, as well as company-specific procedures.
Governmental acts and standards in English-speaking countries include:
Occupational Safety and Health Act (United States)
Occupational Health and Safety Regulations (Canada)
Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations (United Kingdom)
Model Work Health and Safety Act (Australia)
The Health and Safety in Employment Act (New Zealand)
Without violating the relevant act or standard, companies may have unique PPE rules which workers must follow. For example, certain worksites may call for use of a specific piece of safety equipment.
As an employee, you are obligated to follow these rules to minimize risks you may face.
Your employer, in accordance with the above-mentioned act or standard, should decide the kinds of PPE you should wear for a specific job.
If you feel you need another – or different – piece of PPE, talk to your manager.
Choosing the right PPE for the job is another task that’s largely the responsibility of your employer, and is based on a variety of factors.
For example, OSHA mandates that PPE selection must follow workplace assessment results.
Specifically, employers must identify and analyze workplace hazards that would call for the use of PPE. But before selecting PPE to match a given hazard – such as using Kevlar® Steel or Dyneema® Steel gloves to protect against cuts – they must determine if they can effectively address the hazard another way. For example, can the hazard be mitigated by guards?
If employers cannot do so, they must choose the right PPE for affected employees.
Yes. Each kind of PPE plays a role in workplace safety, but all help contribute to worker safety.
Consider that 8.1% of fatal work injuries in the US are caused by being struck by an object, according to a 2014 United States Department of Labor study. What’s more, 8.2% of fatalities were electrocutions.
In many cases, the damage could have been lessened with appropriate PPE such as hardhats and electrical gloves.
There is no single answer to this question, as the correct response depends on:
The nature of your job.
The types of hazards in your workplace.
If PPE is used as a last resort for certain hazards and not others.
For example, if handling sharp material is a crucial part of your role, using cut-resistant gloves may be the only way to prevent injuries. In this case, the gloves may be the most necessary piece of PPE.
If different pieces of PPE are used as last safety resorts, one may not be more important than another.
Not normally. Using or wearing PPE is typically a final, not first, course of action for safety.
Although PPE plays an important role, your employer should prioritize hazard-control measures to protect your livelihood. Because of such measures, most workplaces mandate PPE as a back-up or temporary safety method.
However, in the case that there are no other ways to stop or mitigate apparent risks, using PPE can act as a first action for safety.
Many governmental health and safety bodies fine employers for disregarding PPE.
For example, OSHA can issue citations to an organization for each worker ignoring or improperly following PPE standards.
To receive a per-employee fine, the employer must meet one of these requirements:
Many violations caused high rates of injuries or illnesses
A violation led to damage such as a worksite catastrophe, worker fatality or injuries and illnesses
The employer has violated regulations in the past or has purposely disregarded OSHA-mandated responsibilities, undermining the effectiveness of an OSHA program
The employer’s overall conduct – as partially demonstrated through employees – demonstrates a lack of faith in OSHA
Your actions can lead to these violations, incurring fines for your employer.
If you find a given piece of PPE to be uncomfortable, you should ask your employer for an alternative or suggest a different model.
Outright refusal to wear PPE on the grounds of comfort is unlikely a valid reason in the eyes of your employer. On the other hand, your employer may see refusal due to health or religious issues as legitimate.
For example, if a particular pair of work boots triggers a skin condition such as psoriasis, your employer should work with you to find another method of foot protection – even if it simply involves providing a different kind of footwear.
Regardless, you should discuss issues regarding inability to use PPE with your supervisor.
First and foremast, you or your colleagues must alert management and seek the appropriate level of medical attention.
Beyond this, the specific answer to the question depends on factors such as:
The severity of the injury: You may be entitled to worker’s compensation. For example, some legal acts ensure compensation for wage loss as the result of a work-related injury or disability.
The cause of the injury: If it was the result of a complete accident, bringing the cause to your employer’s attention is the first step in it being addressed. But if you felt you were injured because of employer negligence, such as inability to identify hazards, you have the right to seek legal consultation.
Legal protection: Depending on legislation, you may be able to hold your employer accountable for damages if you feel their negligence was at least partly responsible for your injury.
After receiving medical attention, keep these factors in mind as you consider your next step – be it asking for a brief, paid absence or pursuing legal action.
Just as if you were wearing PPE, your first steps are to alert management and seek medical attention.
However, you likely do not have the same range of options afterwards.
Although you may receive worker’s compensation, you may not be able to hold your employer accountable for your disregard for PPE. Especially if your managers taught you how and when to use PPE, as per legislation.
Because of this, company policy will generally determine a course of action.