1.1 Personal protective equipment

1.1.1 Personal protective equipment

Personal protective equipment (PPE) refers to protective clothing, helmets, goggles, or other garments or equipment designed to protect the wearer’s body from injury. The hazards addressed by protective equipment include physical, electrical, heat, chemicals, biohazards and airborne particulate matter.

Regulation 1039 of the Occupational Health and Safety Act (85/1993): Draft General Health and Safety Regulations: 3 28162, defines PPE as follows:

2.(1)   Subject to the provisions of section 8(2)(d), every employer, self-employed person or user, as the case may be, shall make an evaluation of the risk attached to any condition or situation which may arise from the activities of such employer, self-employed person or user, as the case may be, and to which persons at a workplace or in the course of their employment or in connection with the use of machinery are exposed, and he shall take such steps or precautionary measures as may be necessary to render the condition or situation safe and without risk to the health of persons.

(2) Where it Is not practicable to safeguard the condition or situation contemplated In sub regulation (1), the employer, self-employed person or user, as the case may be, shall take steps to reduce the risk as much as practicable, and shall provide free of charge and maintain in good and clean condition personal protective equipment and facilities as may be necessary to ensure that any person exposed to any such condition or situation at a workplace or In the course of his employment or on premises where machinery Is used Is rendered safe and without risk to the health persons .

(3) Taking into account the nature of the hazard that Is to be countered, and without derogating from the general duties imposed on employers and users by sub regulations (1) and (2), the personal protective equipment and facilities contemplated in sub regulation (2) shall include, as may be necessary-

(a) Suitable goggles, spectacles, face shields, welding shields, visors, hard hats, protective helmets, caps, gloves, gauntlets, aprons, jackets, capes, sleeves, leggings, spats, gaiters, protective footwear, protective overalls, or any similar personal protective equipment or facility of a type that will effectively prevent bodily injury ;

(b) Waterproof clothing, high visibility clothing, chemical resistant clothing, low temperature clothing, chain mail garments , waders, fire retardant or flame proof clothing, ice jackets, or any similar personal protective equipment of a type that will effectively protect the wearer thereof against harm ;

(c) Harnesses, nets, fall arresters, life lines, safety hooks or any similar equipment of a type that will effectively protect persons against falls

(d) Mats, barriers, locking out devices, safety signs or any similar facility that will effectively prevent slipping, unsafe entry or unsafe conditions;

(e) Protective ointments, ear muffs, ear plugs, respirators, breathing apparatus, masks, air lines, hoods, helmets or any similar personal protective equipment or facility of a type that will effectively protect against harm: Provided that hearing protective equipment shall be of a type that conforms to SABS 1451; Parts I and II; Provided further that respiratory protective equipment shall be of a type that conforms to SABS 033-99;

(f) Suitable insulating material underfoot where persons work on a floor made of metal, stone or concrete or other similar material; and

(g) Such personal protective equipment or facilities as may be necessary to render the persons concerned safe.

(4) Subject to the provisions of the Asbestos, Lead, Hazardous Chemical Substances Regulations and Regulations for Hazardous Biological Agents pertaining to personal protective equipment, an employer or user, as the case may be, shall take steps to ensure that no personal protective equipment or facility provided as required by this or any other regulation Is removed from a workplace or from premises where machinery Is used, except for purposes of cleaning, repair, maintenance, modification, mending or replacement, and no person shall remove any such personal protective equipment or facility from a workplace or premises where machinery Is used, except for the aforesaid purposes.

(5) An employer or user shall instruct his employees In the proper use, maintenance and limitations of the personal protective equipment and facilities provided.

(6) An employer or user shall not require or permit any employee to work unless such an employee uses the required personal protective equipment or facility provided In terms of this or any other regulation.

(7) The provisions of this regulation shall not be construed as derogating from the provisions of any specific regulation prescribing speck personal protective equipment or facilities.

Examples of PPE are:

Selecting PPE

All PPE clothing and equipment should be of safe design and construction, and should be maintained in a clean and reliable fashion. Employers should take the fit and comfort of PPE into consideration when selecting appropriate items for their workplace. PPE that fits well and is comfortable to wear will encourage employee use of PPE. Most protective devices are available in multiple sizes and care should be taken to select the proper size for each employee. If several different types of PPE are worn together, make sure they are compatible. If PPE does not fit properly, it can make the difference between being safely covered or dangerously exposed. It may not provide the level of protection desired and may discourage employee use.

Training Employees in the Proper Use of PPE

Employers are required to train each employee who must use PPE. Employees must be trained to know at least the following:

  • When PPE is necessary.
  • What PPE is necessary.
  • How to properly put on, take off, adjust and wear the PPE.
  • The limitations of the PPE.
  • Proper care, maintenance, useful life and disposal of PPE.

Employers should make sure that each employee demonstrates an understanding of the PPE training as well as the ability to properly wear and use PPE before they are allowed to perform work requiring the use of the PPE. If an employer believes that a previously trained employee is not demonstrating the proper understanding and skill level in the use of PPE, that employee should receive retraining. Other situations that require additional or retraining of employees include the following circumstances: changes in the workplace or in the type of required PPE that make prior training obsolete.

The employer must document the training of each employee required to wear or use PPE. Training records must include the name of each employee trained, the date of training and a clear identification of the training topic.

Eye and Face Protection

Employees can be exposed to a large number of hazards that pose danger to their eyes and face. OSHA requires employers to ensure that employees have appropriate eye or face protection if they are exposed to eye or face hazards from flying particles, molten metal, liquid chemicals, acids or caustic liquids, chemical gases or vapours, potentially infected material or potentially harmful light radiation.

Many occupational eye injuries occur because workers are not wearing any eye protection while others result from wearing improper or poorly fitting eye protection. Employers must be sure that their employees wear appropriate eye and face protection and that the selected form of protection is appropriate to the work being performed and properly fits each worker exposed to the hazard.

Prescription Lenses

Everyday use of prescription corrective lenses will not provide adequate protection against most occupational eye and face hazards, so employers must make sure that employees with corrective lenses either wear eye protection that incorporates the prescription into the design or wear additional eye protection over their prescription lenses. It is important to ensure that the protective eyewear does not disturb the proper positioning of the prescription lenses so that the employee’s vision will not be inhibited or limited. Also, employees who wear contact lenses must wear eye or face PPE when working in hazardous conditions.

Eye Protection for Exposed Workers

OSHA suggests that eye protection be routinely considered for use by carpenters, electricians, machinists, mechanics, millwrights, plumbers and pipefitters, sheet metal workers and tinsmiths, assemblers, sanders, grinding machine operators, sawyers, welders, labourers, chemical process operators and handlers, and timber cutting and logging workers. Employers of workers in other job categories should decide whether there is a need for eye and face PPE through a hazard assessment.

Examples of potential eye or face injuries include:

  • Dust, dirt, metal or wood chips entering the eye from activities such as chipping, grinding, sawing, hammering, the use of power tools or even strong wind forces
  • Chemical splashes from corrosive substances, hot liquids, solvents or other hazardous solutions
  • Objects swinging into the eye or face, such as tree limbs, chains, tools or ropes
  • Radiant energy from welding, harmful rays from the use of lasers or other radiant light (as well as heat, glare, sparks, splash and flying particles)

Types of Eye Protection

Selecting the most suitable eye and face protection for employees should take into consideration the following elements:

  • Ability to protect against specific workplace hazards
  • Should fit properly and be reasonably comfortable to wear
  • Should provide unrestricted vision and movement
  • Should be durable and cleanable
  • Should allow unrestricted functioning of any other required PPE

The eye and face protection selected for employee use must clearly identify the manufacturer. Any new eye and face protective devices must comply with ANSI Z87.1-1989 or be at least as effective as this standard requires. Any equipment purchased before this requirement took effect on July 5, 1994, must comply with the earlier ANSI Standard (ANSI Z87.1-1968) or be shown to be equally effective.

An employer may choose to provide one pair of protective eyewear for each position rather than individual eyewear for each employee. If this is done, the employer must make sure that employees disinfect shared protective eyewear after each use. Protective eyewear with corrective lenses may only be used by the employee for whom the corrective prescription was issued and may not be shared among employees.

Some of the most common types of eye and face protection include the following:

  • Safety spectacles. These protective eyeglasses have safety frames constructed of metal or plastic and impact-resistant lenses. Side shields are available on some models.
  • Goggles. These are tight-fitting eye protection that completely cover the eyes, eye sockets and the facial area immediately surrounding the eyes and provide protection from impact, dust and splashes. Some goggles will fit over corrective lenses.
  • Welding shields. Constructed of vulcanised fibre or fiberglass and fitted with a filtered lens, welding shields protect eyes from burns caused by infrared or intense radiant light; they also protect both the eyes and face from flying sparks, metal spatter and slag chips produced during welding, brazing, soldering and cutting operations. OSHA requires filter lenses to have a shade number appropriate to protect against the specific hazards of the work being performed in order to protect against harmful light radiation.
  • Laser safety goggles. These specialty goggles protect against intense concentrations of light produced by lasers. The type of laser safety goggles an employer chooses will depend upon the equipment and operating conditions in the workplace.
  • Face shields. These transparent sheets of plastic extend from the eyebrows to below the chin and across the entire width of the employee’s head. Some are polarized for glare protection. Face shields protect against nuisance dusts and potential splashes or sprays of hazardous liquids but will not provide adequate protection against impact hazards. Face shields used in combination with goggles or safety spectacles will provide additional protection against impact hazards.

Each type of protective eyewear is designed to protect against specific hazards. Employers can identify the specific workplace hazards that threaten employees’ eyes and faces by completing a hazard assessment as outlined in the earlier section.

Welding Operations

The intense light associated with welding operations can cause serious and sometimes permanent eye damage if operators do not wear proper eye protection. The intensity of light or radiant energy produced by welding, cutting or brazing operations varies according to a number of factors including the task producing the light, the electrode size and the arc current. The following table shows the minimum protective shades for a variety of welding, cutting and brazing operations in general industry and in the shipbuilding industry.

Filter Lenses for Protection against Radiant Energy

Construction Industry Requirements for Filter Lens Shade. Numbers for Protection against Radiant Energy

Laser Operations

Laser light radiation can be extremely dangerous to the unprotected eye and direct or reflected beams can cause permanent eye damage. Laser retinal burns can be painless, so it is essential that all personnel in or around laser operations wear appropriate eye protection.

Laser safety goggles should protect for the specific wavelength of the laser and must be of sufficient optical density for the energy involved. Safety goggles intended for use with laser beams must be labelled with the laser wavelengths for which they are intended to be used, the optical density of those wavelengths and the visible light transmission.

The table below lists maximum power or energy densities and appropriate protection levels for optical densities 5 through 8.

Selecting Laser Safety Glass

Head Protection

Protecting employees from potential head injuries is a key element of any safety program. A head injury can impair an employee for life or it can be fatal. Wearing a safety helmet or hard hat is one of the easiest ways to protect an employee’s head from injury. Hard hats can protect employees from impact and penetration hazards as well as from electrical shock and burn hazards.

Employers must ensure that their employees wear head protection if any of the following apply:

  • Objects might fall from above and strike them on the head;
  • They might bump their heads against fixed objects, such as exposed pipes or beams; or
  • There is a possibility of accidental head contact with electrical hazards.

Some examples of occupations in which employees should be required to wear head protection include construction workers, carpenters, electricians, linemen, plumbers and pipefitters, timber and log cutters, welders, among many others. Whenever there is a danger of objects falling from above, such as working below others who are using tools or working under a conveyor belt, head protection must be worn. Hard hats must be worn with the bill forward to protect employees properly.

In general, protective helmets or hard hats should do the following:

  • Resist penetration by objects.
  • Absorb the shock of a blow.
  • Be water-resistant and slow burning.
  • Have clear instructions explaining proper adjustment and replacement of the suspension and headband.

Hard hats must have a hard outer shell and a shock-absorbing lining that incorporates a headband and straps that suspend the shell from 1 to 1 1/4 inches (2.54 cm to 3.18 cm) away from the head. This type of design provides shock absorption during an impact and ventilation during normal wear.

Protective headgear must meet ANSI Standard Z89.1-1986 (Protective Headgear for Industrial Workers) or provide an equivalent level of protection. Helmets purchased before July 5, 1994 must comply with the earlier ANSI Standard (Z89.1-1969) or provide equivalent protection.

Types of Hard Hats

There are many types of hard hats available in the marketplace today. In addition to selecting protective headgear that meets ANSI standard requirements, employers should ensure that employees wear hard hats that provide appropriate protection against potential workplace hazards. It is important for employers to understand all potential hazards when making this selection, including electrical hazards. This can be done through a comprehensive hazard analysis and an awareness of the different types of protective headgear available.

Hard hats are divided into three industrial classes:

  • Class A hard hats provide impact and penetration resistance along with limited voltage protection (up to 2,200 volts).
  • Class B hard hats provide the highest level of protection against electrical hazards, with high-voltage shock and burn protection (up to 20,000 volts). They also provide protection from impact and penetration hazards by flying/falling objects.
  • Class C hard hats provide lightweight comfort and impact protection but offer no protection from electrical hazards.

Another class of protective headgear on the market is called a “bump hat,” designed for use in areas with low head clearance. They are recommended for areas where protection is needed from head bumps and lacerations. These are not designed to protect against falling or flying objects and are not ANSI approved. It is essential to check the type of hard hat employees are using to ensure that the equipment provides appropriate protection. Each hat should bear a label inside the shell that lists the manufacturer, the ANSI designation and the class of the hat.

Size and Care Considerations

Head protection that is either too large or too small is inappropriate for use, even if it meets all other requirements. Protective headgear must fit appropriately on the body and for the head size of each individual. Most protective headgear comes in a variety of sizes with adjustable headbands to ensure a proper fit (many adjust in 1/8-inch increments). A proper fit should allow sufficient clearance between the shell and the suspension system for ventilation and distribution of an impact. The hat should not bind, slip, fall off or irritate the skin.

Some protective headgear allows for the use of various accessories to help employees deal with changing environmental conditions, such as slots for earmuffs, safety glasses, face shields and mounted lights. Optional brims may provide additional protection from the sun and some hats have channels that guide rainwater away from the face. Protective headgear accessories must not compromise the safety elements of the equipment.

Periodic cleaning and inspection will extend the useful life of protective headgear. A daily inspection of the hard hat shell, suspension system and other accessories for holes, cracks, tears or other damage that might compromise the protective value of the hat is essential. Paints, paint thinners and some cleaning agents can weaken the shells of hard hats and may eliminate electrical resistance. Consult the helmet manufacturer for information on the effects of paint and cleaning materials on their hard hats. Never drill holes, paint or apply labels to protective headgear as this may reduce the integrity of the protection. Do not store protective headgear in direct sunlight, such as on the rear window shelf of a car, since sunlight and extreme heat can damage them.

Hard hats with any of the following defects should be removed from service and replaced:

  • Perforation, cracking, or deformity of the brim or shell;
  • Indication of exposure of the brim or shell to heat, chemicals or ultraviolet light and other radiation (in addition to a loss of surface gloss, such signs include chalking or flaking).

Always replace a hard hat if it sustains an impact, even if damage is not noticeable. Suspension systems are offered as replacement parts and should be replaced when damaged or when excessive wear is noticed. It is not necessary to replace the entire hard hat when deterioration or tears of the suspension systems are noticed.

Foot and Leg Protection

Employees who face possible foot or leg injuries from falling or rolling objects or from crushing or penetrating materials should wear protective footwear. Also, employees whose work involves exposure to hot substances or corrosive or poisonous materials must have protective gear to cover exposed body parts, including legs and feet. If an employee’s feet may be exposed to electrical hazards, non-conductive footwear should be worn. On the other hand, workplace exposure to static electricity may necessitate the use of conductive footwear.

Examples of situations in which an employee should wear foot and/or leg protection include:

  • When heavy objects such as barrels or tools might roll onto or fall on the employee’s feet;
  • Working with sharp objects such as nails or spikes that could pierce the soles or uppers of ordinary shoes;
  • Exposure to molten metal that might splash on feet or legs;
  • Working on or around hot, wet or slippery surfaces; and
  • Working when electrical hazards are present.

All ANSI approved footwear has a protective toe and offers impact and compression protection. But the type and amount of protection is not always the same. Different footwear protects in different ways. Check the product’s labelling or consult the manufacturer to make sure the footwear will protect the user from the hazards they face.

Foot and leg protection choices include the following:

  • Leggings protect the lower legs and feet from heat hazards such as molten metal or welding sparks. Safety snaps allow leggings to be removed quickly.
  • Metatarsal guards protect the instep area from impact and compression. Made of aluminium, steel, fibre or plastic, these guards may be strapped to the outside of shoes.
  • Toe guards fit over the toes of regular shoes to protect the toes from impact and compression hazards. They may be made of steel, aluminium or plastic.
  • Combination foot and shin guards protect the lower legs and feet, and may be used in combination with toe guards when greater protection is needed.
  • Safety shoes have impact-resistant toes and heat-resistant soles that protect the feet against hot work surfaces common in roofing, paving and hot metal industries. The metal insoles of some safety shoes protect against puncture wounds. Safety shoes may also be designed to be electrically conductive to prevent the build-up of static electricity in areas with the potential for explosive atmospheres or nonconductive to protect workers from workplace electrical hazards.

Special Purpose Shoes

Electrically conductive shoes provide protection against the build-up of static electricity. Employees working in explosive and hazardous locations such as explosives manufacturing facilities or grain elevators must wear conductive shoes to reduce the risk of static electricity build-up on the body that could produce a spark and cause an explosion or fire. Foot powder should not be used in conjunction with protective conductive footwear because it provides insulation, reducing the conductive ability of the shoes. Silk, wool and nylon socks can produce static electricity and should not be worn with conductive footwear. Conductive shoes must be removed when the task requiring their use is completed. Note: Employees exposed to electrical hazards must never wear conductive shoes.

Electrical hazard, safety-toe shoes are nonconductive and will prevent the wearers’ feet from completing an electrical circuit to the ground. These shoes can protect against open circuits of up to 600 volts in dry conditions and should be used in conjunction with other insulating equipment and additional precautions to reduce the risk of a worker becoming a path for hazardous electrical energy. The insulating protection of electrical hazard, safety-toe shoes may be compromised if the shoes become wet, the soles are worn through, metal particles become embedded in the sole or heel, or workers touch conductive, grounded items. Note: Nonconductive footwear must not be used in explosive or hazardous locations.

Foundry Shoes

In addition to insulating the feet from the extreme heat of molten metal, foundry shoes keep hot metal from lodging in shoe eyelets, tongues or other shoe parts. These snug-fitting leather or leather-substitute shoes have leather or rubber soles and rubber heels. All foundry shoes must have built-in safety toes.

Care of Protective Footwear

As with all protective equipment, safety footwear should be inspected prior to each use. Shoes and leggings should be checked for wear and tear at reasonable intervals. This includes looking for cracks or holes, separation of materials, broken buckles or laces. The soles of shoes should be checked for pieces of metal or other embedded items that could present electrical or tripping hazards. Employees should follow the manufacturers’ recommendations for cleaning and maintenance of protective footwear.

Hand and Arm Protection

If a workplace hazard assessment reveals that employees face potential injury to hands and arms that cannot be eliminated through engineering and work practice controls, employers must ensure that employees wear appropriate protection. Potential hazards include skin absorption of harmful substances, chemical or thermal burns, electrical dangers, bruises, abrasions, cuts, punctures, fractures and amputations. Protective equipment includes gloves, finger guards and arm coverings or elbow-length gloves.

Employers should explore all possible engineering and work practice controls to eliminate hazards and use PPE to provide additional protection against hazards that cannot be completely eliminated through other means. For example, machine guards may eliminate a hazard. Installing a barrier to prevent workers from placing their hands at the point of contact between a table saw blade and the item being cut is another method.

Types of Protective Gloves

There are many types of gloves available today to protect against a wide variety of hazards. The nature of the hazard and the operation involved will affect the selection of gloves. The variety of potential occupational hand injuries makes selecting the right pair of gloves challenging. It is essential that employees use gloves specifically designed for the hazards and tasks found in their workplace because gloves designed for one function may not protect against a different function even though they may appear to be an appropriate protective device.

The following are examples of some factors that may influence the selection of protective gloves for a workplace.

  • Type of chemicals handled
  • Nature of contact (total immersion, splash, etc.)
  • Duration of contact
  • Area requiring protection (hand only, forearm, arm)
  • Grip requirements (dry, wet, oily)
  • Thermal protection
  • Size and comfort
  • Abrasion/resistance requirements
  • Gloves made from a wide variety of materials are designed for many types of workplace hazards. In general, gloves fall into four groups:
    • Gloves made of leather, canvas or metal mesh;
    • Fabric and coated fabric gloves;
    • Chemical- and liquid-resistant gloves;
    • Insulating rubber gloves (See 29 CFR 1910.137 and the following section on electrical protective equipment for detailed requirements on the selection, use and care of insulating rubber gloves).

Leather, Canvas or Metal Mesh Gloves

Sturdy gloves made from metal mesh, leather or canvas provide protection against cuts and burns. Leather or canvass gloves also protect against sustained heat.

  • Leather gloves protect against sparks, moderate heat, blows, chips and rough objects.
  • Aluminised gloves provide reflective and insulating protection against heat and require an insert made of synthetic materials to protect against heat and cold.
  • Aramid fibre gloves protect against heat and cold, are cut – and abrasive – resistant and wear well.
  • Synthetic gloves of various materials offer protection against heat and cold are cut – and abrasive – resistant and may withstand some diluted acids. These materials do not stand up against alkalis and solvents.

Fabric and Coated Fabric Gloves

Fabric and coated fabric gloves are made of cotton or other fabric to provide varying degrees of protection.

  • Fabric gloves protect against dirt, slivers, chafing and abrasions. They do not provide sufficient protection for use with rough, sharp or heavy materials. Adding a plastic coating will strengthen some fabric gloves.
  • Coated fabric gloves are normally made from cotton flannel with napping on one side. By coating the un-napped side with plastic, fabric gloves are transformed into general-purpose hand protection offering slip-resistant qualities. These gloves are used for tasks ranging from handling bricks and wire to chemical laboratory containers. When selecting gloves to protect against chemical exposure hazards, always check with the manufacturer or review the manufacturer’s product literature to determine the gloves’ effectiveness against specific workplace chemicals and conditions.

Chemical – and Liquid – Resistant Gloves

Chemical-resistant gloves are made with different kinds of rubber e.g. natural, butyl, neoprene, nitrile and fluorocarbon (Viton) or various kinds of plastic e.g. polyvinyl chloride (PVC), polyvinyl alcohol and polyethylene. These materials can be blended or laminated for better performance. As a general rule, the thicker the glove material, the greater the chemical resistance but thick gloves may impair grip and dexterity, having a negative impact on safety.

Some examples of chemical-resistant gloves include:

  • Butyl gloves are made of a synthetic rubber and protect against a wide variety of chemicals, such as peroxide, rocket fuels, highly corrosive acids (nitric acid, sulphuric acid, hydrofluoric acid and red-fuming nitric acid), strong bases, alcohols, aldehydes, ketones, esters and nitro compounds. Butyl gloves also resist oxidation, ozone corrosion and abrasion, and remain flexible at low temperatures. Butyl rubber does not perform well with aliphatic and aromatic hydrocarbons and halogenated solvents.
  • Natural (latex) rubber gloves are comfortable to wear, which makes them a popular general-purpose glove. They feature outstanding tensile strength, elasticity and temperature resistance. In addition to resisting abrasions caused by grinding and polishing, these gloves protect workers’ hands from most water solutions of acids, alkalis, salts and ketones. Latex gloves have caused allergic reactions in some individuals and may not be appropriate for all employees. Hypoallergenic gloves, glove liners and powder-less gloves are possible alternatives for workers who are allergic to latex gloves.
  • Neoprene gloves are made of synthetic rubber and offer good pliability, finger dexterity, high density and tear resistance. They protect against hydraulic fluids, gasoline, alcohols, organic acids and alkalis. They generally have chemical and wear resistance properties superior to those made of natural rubber.
  • Nitrile gloves are made of a copolymer and provide protection from chlorinated solvents such as trichloroethylene and perchloroethylene. Although intended for jobs requiring dexterity and sensitivity, nitrile gloves stand up to heavy use even after prolonged exposure to substances that cause other gloves to deteriorate. They offer protection when working with oils, greases, acids, caustics and alcohols but are generally not recommended for use with strong oxidizing agents, aromatic solvents, ketones and acetates.

The following table rates various gloves as being protective against specific chemicals and will help you select the most appropriate gloves. The ratings are abbreviated as follows: VG: Very Good; G: Good; F: Fair; P: Poor (not recommended). Chemicals marked with an asterisk (*) are for limited service.

Care of Protective Gloves

Protective gloves should be inspected before each use to ensure that they are not torn, punctured or made ineffective in any way. A visual inspection will help detect cuts or tears but a more thorough inspection by filling the gloves with water and tightly rolling the cuff towards the fingers will help reveal any pinhole leaks. Gloves that are discoloured or stiff may also indicate deficiencies caused by excessive use or degradation from chemical exposure.

Any gloves with impaired protective ability should be discarded and replaced. Reuse of chemical-resistant gloves should be evaluated carefully, taking into consideration the absorptive qualities of the gloves. A decision to reuse chemically-exposed gloves should take into consideration the toxicity of the chemicals involved and factors such as duration of exposure, storage and temperature.

Body Protection

Employees who face possible bodily injury of any kind that cannot be eliminated through engineering, work practice or administrative controls, must wear appropriate body protection while performing their jobs. In addition to cuts and radiation, the following are examples of workplace hazards that could cause bodily injury:

  • Temperature extremes
  • Hot splashes from molten metals and other hot liquids
  • Potential impacts from tools, machinery and materials
  • Hazardous chemicals

There are many varieties of protective clothing available for specific hazards. Employers are required to ensure that their employees wear personal protective equipment only for the parts of the body exposed to possible injury. Examples of body protection include laboratory coats, coveralls, vests, jackets, aprons, surgical gowns and full body suits.

If a hazard assessment indicates a need for full body protection against toxic substances or harmful physical agents, the clothing should be carefully inspected before each use, it must fit each worker properly and it must function properly and for the purpose for which it is intended.

Protective clothing comes in a variety of materials, each effective against particular hazards, such as:

  • Paper-like fibre used for disposable suits provide protection against dust and splashes
  • Treated wool and cotton adapts well to changing temperatures, is comfortable and fire-resistant and protects against dust, abrasions and rough and irritating surfaces
  • Duck is a closely woven cotton fabric that protects against cuts and bruises when handling heavy, sharp or rough materials
  • Leather is often used to protect against dry heat and flames
  • Rubber, rubberised fabrics, neoprene and plastics protect against certain chemicals and physical hazards. When chemical or physical hazards are present, check with the clothing manufacturer to ensure that the material selected will provide protection against the specific hazard.

Hearing Protection

Determining the need to provide hearing protection for employees can be challenging. Employee exposure to excessive noise depends upon a number of factors, including:

  • The loudness of the noise as measured in decibels (dB)
  • The duration of each employee’s exposure to the noise
  • Whether employees move between work areas with different noise levels
  • Whether noise is generated from one or multiple sources

Generally, the louder the noise, the shorter the exposure time before hearing protection is required. For instance, employees may be exposed to a noise level of 90 dB for 8 hours per day (unless they experience a Standard Threshold Shift) before hearing protection is required. On the other hand, if the noise level reaches 115 dB hearing protection is required if the anticipated exposure exceeds 15 minutes.

The table below, shows the permissible noise exposures that require hearing protection for employees exposed to occupational noise at specific decibel levels for specific time periods. Noises are considered continuous if the interval between occurrences of the maximum noise level is one second or less. Noises not meeting this definition are considered impact or impulse noises (loud momentary explosions of sound) and exposures to this type of noise must not exceed 140 dB. Examples of situations or tools that may result in impact or impulse noises are powder-actuated nail guns, a punch press or drop hammers.

Permissible Noise Exposures

If engineering and work practice controls do not lower employee exposure to workplace noise to acceptable levels, employees must wear appropriate hearing protection. It is important to understand that hearing protectors reduce only the amount of noise that gets through to the ears. The amount of this reduction is referred to as attenuation, which differs according to the type of hearing protection used and how well it fits. Hearing protectors worn by employees must reduce an employee’s noise exposure to within the acceptable limits noted in Table 5. Refer to Appendix B of 29 CFR 1910.95, Occupational Noise Exposure, for detailed information on methods to estimate the attenuation effectiveness of hearing protectors based on the device’s noise reduction rating (NRR). Manufacturers of hearing protection devices must display the device’s NRR on the product packaging. If employees are exposed to occupational noise at or above 85 dB averaged over an eight-hour period, the employer is required to institute a hearing conservation program that includes regular testing of employees’ hearing by qualified professionals. Refer to 29 CFR 1910.95(c) for a description of the requirements for a hearing conservation program.

Some types of hearing protection include:

  • Single-use earplugs are made of waxed cotton, foam, silicone rubber or fiberglass wool. They are self-forming and, when properly inserted, they work as well as most moulded earplugs.
  • Pre-formed or moulded earplugs must be individually fitted by a professional and can be disposable or reusable. Reusable plugs should be cleaned after each use.
  • Earmuffs require a perfect seal around the ear. Glasses, facial hair, long hair or facial movements such as chewing may reduce the protective value of earmuffs.