Personal protective equipment, or PPE, protects its user against any physical harm or hazards that the workplace environment may present. It is important because it exists as a preventative measure for industries that are known to be more hazardous, like manufacturing and mining.
It's important to know that safety equipment provided on the job should meet Personal Protective Equipment Regulation, and that it is most effective when it meets the correct size, fit and height of its user.
You may be accustomed to finding yourself in precarious situations on the job, but you should never feel like your physical being is likely to be harmed.
One common speed bump that workers' compensation attorneys deal with on the regular is an individual's decision not to wear PPE, regardless of the fact that they were provided with it by their employer. This often makes the liability for a workplace illness or injury more of a gray area.
It varies from case to case, but faithfully using all PPE that you are provided with on the job is the best way to ensure that should an injury or illness directly result, your employer will absorb full liability. Even for those jobs that “only take a few minutes”, you should never allow for exemptions from wearing PPE.
Being found partially responsible in a court of law for your own workplace illness or injury from a failure to use PPE is a worst-case scenario. As an employee, you should be fully educated on which equipment is required of which tasks, and what it is meant to protect. If this is not the case, you should not be afraid to contact a manager or your HR department.
Feeling fine at the end of your shift doesn't pass for the fact that you've properly protected your body. Exposure to different chemicals and compounds on the job can have long-term effects on your body, with mesothelioma being a great example. In 2017, it was estimated that 3,000 Americans each year were diagnosed with this rare form of cancer.
Between 70-80% of these diagnoses were from exposure to asbestos fibers used in the construction of materials in many different industries. Current safety regulations require those who work with asbestos to wear specific PPE, and to shower and change before leaving the workplace. But prior to modern regulation, there was not a connection made between asbestos exposure and cancer diagnosis.
Therefore, many of these daily mesothelioma cases were caused at a time before we knew so much about this disease. Workers should take advantage of the medical knowledge regarding risk factors that we have today, and use PPE to safeguard their health and well-being, both for now and down the road.
Safety glasses are probably one of the most common (and effective!) forms of PPE. This is because any substance, whether corrosive or not, and any material, sharp or not, can be hazardous when it comes in contact with your eyes.
Every year, roughly 2.4 million eye injuries occur in the United States, both at work and during leisure activities. Of these injuries, about 50,000 victims lost their eyesight to some degree. According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO), 90% of these eye injuries could have been prevented by safety eyewear.
Since 61% of eye injuries happen in manufacturing, construction or trade jobs, it is important to acknowledge that there are different types of PPE eyewear available for different situations. Don't be afraid to inquire about upgrading your eyewear.
Think of PPE as a support system of sorts for the work your job requires you to do. It may be more physically demanding or slightly more hazardous than your average desk job, but the equipment is provided to make you feel that physical risk is minimal.
PPE items such as weight belts offer stability for duties that ask you to perform heavy lifting, and these might be the difference between having to go to work with strained muscles the next day or not. Measures should be taken to prevent basic trip and fall injuries that, on the most simplistic level, just flat out ruin someone's day.
All workers should feel confident to question the effectiveness of provided PPE and feel educated on the standards that need to be met by equipment. Organizations like OSHA and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention seek to support American workers and reduce hazardous situations on the job.