The International Safety Equipment Association (ISEA) and Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) are formally working together to help advance workplace safety in the United States. For the next two years, the agencies will spread awareness to workers and employers about personal protective equipment while also educating on OSHA’s rules and enforcement initiatives. Employers can help prevent injuries by increasing attention on personal protective equipment, educating on safety best practices, and helping workers talk about safety.
“ISEA welcomes this opportunity to collaborate with OSHA in developing and sharing information, as well as promoting dialogue with and among private industry stakeholders,” said ISEA President Charles Johnson. “Making America’s workers and workplaces even safer requires both the right equipment and the right rules that regulate its use.”
The Point of PPE
It is best practice to prevent worker injury by controlling a hazard at its source. When engineering and work practices do not provide workers with sufficient protection, equipment including hard hats, ear plugs, eyewear, gloves, and respirators can help provide a layer of safety. Although PPE is a supplemental form of workplace hazard protection, OSHA requires employers to furnish suitable protective equipment for employees to use where there is reasonable probability an injury can be prevented by that equipment. OSHA’s standards also set provisions for specific equipment for general industry (1910.132) and construction (1926.28).
According to a 2016 report by the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, PPE was used by 10.7 percent of workers to mitigate the risk of serious workplace injuries or illnesses associated with moving mechanical parts. Other data from a BLS injury report show:
- Hard hats are worn on average by only 16% of workers who sustain head injuries; two-fifths were required to wear them
- 1% of 770 workers with face injuries were using face protection
- 23% of workers with foot injuries were using safety shoes or boots, and
- 40% of workers with eye injuries were using eye protective equipment
Educate on PPE
Consistent and common OSHA violations occur from employers not providing PPE or employees having access to inadequate PPE. Respiratory protection is listed at No. 4 with 3,381 violations on the 2017 OSHA top 10 violations list. OSHA’s alliance partnership with ISEA is part of OSHA’s strategy to reach targeted audiences, such as employers and workers in high-hazard industries. The goal is to provide them with better access to workplace safety and health tools along with information while also encouraging better workplace safety education and communication.
Good communication helps avoid conflict and keeps workers engaged in the safety conversation. Problems often arise when employers do not talk with their employees about the importance of using PPE, best practices when using PPE, why it is needed, and do not allow for input by employees who use it. Train employees on the correct type of PPE and proper use of PPE for their job or specific tasks. Safety managers can reassess safety procedures and address all hazards related to PPE requirements. As a supportive component to any safety program, use visual communication to remind workers of the importance of PPE to prevent injuries such as from falls or arc flash. As part of regular maintenance, identify areas that require PPE and remind workers of how to properly select, use, maintain, and store personal protective and safety equipment.