The need for PPE varies between sectors and industries. From the PPE required in the medical and research fields to the PPE used in food preparation, to hand protection used by hair stylists and beauticians, the right PPE for a job is essential for the health and safety of workers, clients, and the community.
PPE is used in numerous industries, including but not limited to:
· Emergency services
· Oil and gas
· Medical and healthcare
· Scientific research
· Food and beverage
What is PPE?
PPE or personal protective equipment describes equipment or clothing that is used by employees to shield and help protect them from the risk of illness, injury, hazardous, and even life-threatening situations.
· Head Protection – commonly used in construction, mining, utilities, manufacturing, and other industries, head protection in the form of hard hats and safety helmets is used to prevent injury from falling objects. It is also a valuable safeguard against electrical burns and shocks. Helmets are also essential for employees who use motorcycles and bicycles – including postal delivery workers and couriers.
· Eye/Face Protection – safety glasses, eye goggles, and face shields protect workers in a wide array of occupations where there is a risk of flying debris, chemical splashes, or biological infection. Protection may be afforded from liquids, vapour, laser lights, and physical objects.
· Hand Protection – this is perhaps the most common and widely used form of PPE. The right protective handwear is necessary for everything from healthcare workers to food handlers, laboratory workers, construction workers, cold storage workers, emergency services, and many, many more. The material required will depend on the workplace environment and risk assessment. Construction or electrical workers may use leather or canvas gloves; those vulnerable to contact with chemicals or potentially infectious biological materials may use latex, neoprene, PVC, or nitrile gloves.
· Hearing Protection – environments where people are exposed to loud noises, or continuous moderate noise levels, can detrimentally affect hearing and cause permanent damage. Hearing protection includes ear plugs, muffs, and defenders and needs to be used when working with everything from a lawnmower to hammer drills.
· Respiratory Protection – this is essential to protect against respiratory hazards – from regular dust to silica or asbestos dust to toxic gases to airborne viruses. Protection will help prevent allergies, chronic lung conditions, and infectious diseases. Respiratory protection includes basic surgical face masks, N95 masks, and full respirators.
· Body Protection – from Hi-Vis wear for working in low-visibility areas (e.g. for road workers) to clothing to protect against chemicals, infection, heavy machinery, electricity, fire, and more, this includes everything from surgical aprons and gowns to overalls, gauntlets, life jackets, and HAZMAT suits.
· Sun Protection – we are understanding the risks of long-term sun exposure much better and that even a single bad sunburn can have catastrophic outcomes decades later. Adequate sun protection is important for outdoor workers – including everyone from gardeners and landscapers to bricklayers, agricultural workers, lifeguards, and more. Sun protection in the workplace includes wearing long sleeves, a wide-brimmed sun hat, and SPF 50+ sunscreen.
· Foot Protection – protective footwear is essential in many industries. From wearing closed-toe shoes to safety boots, the right footwear helps protect the wearer from dropped or falling objects, slips, trips, punctures, electrical hazards, burns, and more. Construction workers require boots with metal toe caps; electricians should wear covered shoes with non-conductive soles. Firefighters need to wear fire-retardant, heat-protective boots.
· Fall Prevention & Protection – working at height (construction, painting, window washing, roofing, etc.) is the most widely dangerous to worker well-being and life due to the high risk of falls. The right fall protection equipment is crucial, including PPE. Fall restraint systems include anchor points to prevent falls from occurring in the first place. Fall arrest systems, on the other hand, enable greater movement at height but prevent the worker from falling to the ground or another surface if they do fall.
Prevention is the key to Workplace Health and Safety. Know what you need to be doing to keep yourself safe from workplace hazards – and use the right PPE for your unique job.