This is the second in a series of four articles on building your safety program in the solid surface industry. Our first article covered the reasons that you need an established safety program in your business, as well as an overview of the components of the safety program. This article focuses on building a safety program for personal protective equipment. Personal protective equipment and safety programs must meet the requirements and specifications established by OSHA.
WHAT IS PPE?
PPE, or personal protective equipment, is clothing and equipment worn to protect you from workplace hazards. It is used to shield your body from any material or task that could hurt you through physical contact, absorption, or inhalation. Employers must provide and ensure that employees wear PPE when necessary. PPE must be appropriate for the work to be performed. When employees provide their own protective equipment, it is the employer’s responsibility to assure its adequacy, maintenance, and sanitation. PPE must be reasonably comfortable, must have the proper fit, and must not unduly interfere with the movements of the wearer. It must be durable and easily cleanable. It is the responsibility of the employer to ensure that all PPE is kept clean and in good repair.
SELECTING THE RIGHT PPE
The first step is hazard assessment. As an employer, you must determine what workplace risks are present, and eliminate these hazards as much as possible using engineering controls (such as ventilation) and safe work practices (such as using the correct tool for the job). When hazards still exist, you must provide the correct PPE to protect employees from their specific work risks. Employers must train employees on PPE use and care. MSDS and labels on equipment and products are a good place to start when determining what hazards are present.
What Hazards Require PPE?
In the solid surface fabrication industry, hazards that require PPE include heat exposure, sharp edges, hearing protection, vibration, dangerous equipment, dust and chemicals. Your shop may have additional hazards.
PPE protects your body, including your eyes, face, head, skin, internal organs and extremities. The most typical types of PPE needed in the solid surface industry include head and foot protection, eye and face protection, hand protection, hearing protection, and respiratory protection.
HEAD AND FOOT PROTECTION
Your business generally involves the storage, receipt, transport and handling of heavy plywood and solid surface sheets, necessitating head and foot protection, and requiring safe manual lifting techniques for back protection. Helmets and safety-toe footwear are required for the protection of occupational workers from impact and penetration from falling and flying objects, from limited electric shock and burn, and from being crushed by falling objects.
EYE AND FACE PROTECTION
Employees using hand and power tools are exposed to the hazard of flying and abrasive objects. Employers must provide adequate protection against these hazards, such as safety glasses, and/or face shields. OSHA has specific requirements regarding usage and fitting of equipment for employees who use corrective lenses.
Protective gloves shield hands from lacerations, burns, abrasions, absorption of toxic chemicals or skin irritants, and reduce hazards associated with vibration exposure. Cut edges can be extremely sharp, and proper PPE will prevent lacerations on sharp edges. Sheet forming is often done with heat. Sheets are heated at bending points with heated strips, or whole sheets are heated in thermal forming units or heat presses. If thermal forming equipment is used in your operation, include the heat source and the hot sheet material as a specific hazard in your written PPE plan. Provide hot work gloves such as welding gloves and train your employees on the use of these gloves to prevent burns.
Use proper rubber handles, rubber grips and rubber grommets to minimize the effects of frequent usage of vibratory machinery. It is a good idea to provide frequent breaks and stretching exercises for those dedicated to long term usage of vibrating machinery to avoid carpal tunnel syndrome.