When it comes to Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) in the workplace (hard hats, goggles, work boots, etc.) there can be a lot of confusion. How much PPE do I really need for a certain job? What type of gloves should I use? Do I really need to clean my PPE after I use it?
The world of safety management can be confusing, so we're here to debunk 8 common misconceptions about personal protective equipment.
MYTH #1: "If my staff doesn't want to wear PPE, I can't make them."
TRUTH: If PPE has been deemed necessary by employers and/or safety managers, then it is not optional and employers have every right to require its use.
MYTH #2: "The more PPE I wear the better."
TRUTH: Both over-protection and under-protection can be equally dangerous, according to the Kimberly-Clark Professional: Exceptional Workplaces website. Over-protection may lead to heat stress caused by wearing too many layers. Under-protection may lead to chronic health problems after years of exposure to certain hazardous substances. The goal is to find PPE that offers the best protection against workplace hazards, while at the same time providing the greatest comfort to the wearer.
MYTH #3: "Gloves are slippery, and don't allow me to get a good hold on objects."
TRUTH: You can find gloves that have a textured finish on the fingertips, making it easier to grasp small and lightweight objects such as test tubes and glassware. Ansel, a leading manufacturer of industrial hand protection, explains that for larger, heavier objects gloves are available that incorporate a roughened surface which directs fluids away from the grip surface.
MYTH #4: "This job will only take a few minutes so I don't need to take the time to put on PPE."
TRUTH: It only takes a second for an accident to occur. Whether you'll be in a hazardous area for 10 minutes or 10 hours, you need to have on all required PPE. Exceptions lead to injuries and deaths.
MYTH #5: "I can't wear gloves, I have a latex allergy."
TRUTH: According to glove-manufacturer Ansel, individuals with a latex allergy can switch to a synthetic alternative, such as nitrile, neoprene or vinyl gloves.
MYTH #6: "As long as I'm wearing one piece of PPE that's good enough."
TRUTH: You need to wear all PPE required for your job. Failure to do so can have serious ramifications, including injury and death. While working with chemicals you may be wearing goggles to protect your eyes from splashes, but if you're not wearing gloves or a proper jacket your hands and body are susceptible to chemical burns. When deciding what types of PPE are needed for a job, employers must consider all areas of the body, from the head and face to the core and extremities.
MYTH #7: "If I'm wearing leather gloves, I won't get cut."
TRUTH: Despite its thickness, leather is still just skin. It can be cut just as easily as human skin, especially when it is wet. Glove-manufacturer Ansel advices that if leather gloves are needed for a job, employers should issue ones with the best protection, dexterity and tactile performance based on the worker's specific job duties. In addition, worker's need to use precaution when handling sharp objects and machinery, keeping in mind that leather gloves are penetrable and can't prevent cuts.
MYTH #8: "Cleaning and storing PPE isn't really important."
TRUTH: After each use, PPE must be properly cleaned and stored according to instructions. If PPE is damaged it won't function the way it's supposed to, leaving the worker open to injury and health hazards. Any damaged or worn-out PPE must immediately be reported to managers/employers so it can be replaced.