Personal Protective Equipment

A Body at Work Will Stay at Work if It’s Wearing the Right Protective Clothing

When you think of personal protective equipment (PPE), you may naturally think of respirators, safety glasses, hard hats, safety shoes, hearing aids, and gloves. Although these are the most common types of PPE—protecting the most vulnerable areas and organs—some whole-body hazards require whole-body protection.

Today we’ll look at the types of hazards that require full coverage for workers, and how to select protective clothing based on those hazards.

Hazard Assessment

Some working conditions and job tasks pose a hazard to a specific body part or organ—the lungs, the eyes, the ears, the hands, or the feet. Others pose a danger of more widespread bodily harm. Hazards that may require full-body protective clothing include:

  • Hot or cold materials or objects
  • Chemicals
  • Welding hazards
  • Electrical shock
  • Heavy, sharp, or rough materials

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When you are conducting your hazard assessment, make sure that you distinguish between ordinary clothing used solely for protection from weather, and clothing designed for protection from job hazards. The first is not considered PPE (and an employer is not required to pay for it)—but the latter is definitely is considered required PPE.

Selection of General Work Clothing

To protect workers, consider whether they need to wear:

  • Long sleeve shirts and long pants, to protect their arms and legs from exposure—for example, to splashing or spraying chemicals or molten metal.
  • Hot weather clothing. Workers exposed to both hot weather and sunlight may need sun-protective clothing that’s not too hot. Workers who wear heavy gear or perform heavy work in hot weather may also need cooling vests or similar clothing.
  • Cold weather clothing. Workers exposed to cold weather may need subzero jackets, overalls, or hoods. Workers exposed to cold and wet conditions may need specialized protective clothing to keep them dry and warm.

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  • Flame-retardant clothing, aprons, or arm covers may be required for workers exposed to fire hazards or very hot materials.
  • Aluminized clothing, aprons, hoods, boots, and gloves are another option for those working with flames and extreme temperatures.
  • Chemical protective clothing should be selected to protect against the specific chemicals to which the employees will be exposed. Clothing can be made from waterproofed fabrics, PVC, polyurethane, nylon, rubber, polyethylene, and polypropylene. Some types of chemical-resistant clothing are better suited for working with dry chemicals while others are designed specifically for working with specific hazardous liquid chemicals.
  • Welders’ protective clothing typically includes protective leather clothing such as jackets, pants, aprons, and even caps.
  • Cut and abrasion-resistant clothing. Employees who handle heavy, sharp, or rough materials should wear clothing made of strong, durable materials to protect their skin. This might include blue jeans and thick cotton or wool shirts.

As with any protective equipment, good fit is essential for protective work clothing. Work clothing should fit comfortably, allowing for free movement while not being too baggy or loose. Permit workers to select from different styles or types of appropriate protective clothing when you can, and they are more likely to use it willingly.

Tomorrow, we’ll look at the training that’s required for workers who have to wear protective clothing.