In 2018, private industries reported 2.8 million workplace injuries and illnesses, including transportation incidents, falls, overexertion, employee violence and more. In that same year, 5,250 workers died on the job, an average of more than 100 per week.
[Related: What to do if a worker falls]
The top causes of injuries and fatalities include:
- Getting hit by an object
- Getting caught between equipment
These statistics point toward the importance of safety on the job, including the correct use of personal protective equipment. These tools minimize exposure to chemical, radiological, physical, electrical and mechanical hazards.
To ensure the proper use of PPE, employers must be sure these items fit correctly, as over- or under-sized equipment may not safely cover workers and can lead to dangerous exposure. This gear also needs to be cleaned and maintained regularly. Organizations should train employees on how to put on, adjust and take off PPE, as well as know when it’s necessary to wear. While this equipment reduces risks in the workplace, it’s also essential for employers to understand its limitations.
Types of PPE available
Several kinds of PPE exist, all designed to protect a specific part of the body. Here are a few of the most common variations.
Footwear. Safety-toed shoes protect workers from an item falling or rolling over their feet. When explosive products are near, special shoes conduct electricity to the ground and hinder static electricity buildup. In wet areas, rubber soles prevent slips and falls.
Helmets. Hardhats, which can prevent concussions, come in three classes—A, B and C. Class A hats, for instance, protect against impact and electricity up to 2,200 volts, while Class B safeguards against electrical shocks up to 20,000 volts. Class C only defends against impact.
Gloves. Workers wear gloves to prevent burns, electrical shocks, lacerations and exposure to chemicals. This PPE comes in several materials, including fabric, rubber, metal mesh and leather. Employees can also use chemical-resistant gloves.