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Answers to Common Questions About PPE
Answers to Two Commonly Asked Questions About Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
August 1, 2014 - Last month’s post focused on appropriate (and inappropriate) personal protective equipment (PPE) for head protection. That brought up a couple of commonly-asked questions about other types of PPE that I thought I would go ahead and address.
Question # 1 – Are safety glasses required to be worn beneath face shields?
OSHA requirements for eye protection can be found in either 1910.133 for general industry workplaces, 1926.102 for construction sites, or 1915.153 for shipyard employment. It seems we sometimes forget that each of these sections of the OSHA regulations cover eye AND face protection, or even worse, we forget to differentiate between these two types of safety gear.
Standard safety glasses are designed to protect against injuries associated with regular eye hazards such as flying or falling objects and particles, as well as some chemical and/or radiation hazards. However, in some work operations, the hazards present can also cause injury to our face. Examples of such activities include many grinding and deburring operations, working with molten metals (such as at furnaces and when torch-cutting), handling liquid or powdered chemicals that are corrosive to our skin, and welding operations that expose workers to ultraviolet radiation. In many of these cases, not only do we need to protect our eyes from injury, but also our faces. So workers performing such tasks must utilize approved face protection, such as a face shield or hood. The problem I run into, however, is when I see a a worker using only a face shield, which is typically designed as secondary impact protection, as their primary means of impact protection, even for their eyes. In other words, we do not wear our safety glasses (or goggles) beneath out face shield.
Most manufacturers of face shield explain that their products are not designed to be used for impact protection in lieu of safety glasses or goggles which have been designed to protect the eyes (see one example of a manufacturer’s statement here), but are instead to be used in conjunction with safety glasses or goggles. Some of the ANSI eye and protection standards that OSHA incorporated into their PPE standards even discuss the difference between the two levels (primary and secondary) of impact protection. OSHA even clarifies that face shields are typically considered secondary protection from impact hazards in their e-tool for PPE (see it here). That being said, there are also a few manufacturers of face shields that claim their design of face shield also offers impact protection. So the take home message here is to be certain you refer to the manufacturer’s information about their product to determine if safety glasses or goggles must be worn beneath the face shield (which is the general rule) or not.
Question #2 – Are my rubber chemical gloves suitable to protect against all the different chemicals I use at work? The OSHA PPE standards do not say.
The OSHA standard for hand protection can be found at 1910.138. Unlike the OSHA standards for safety glasses, safety shoes, and hard hats, this particular standard does not specify any ANSI standards to establish minimum acceptance of gloves. Instead, this standard says that we must “base the selection of the appropriate hand protection on an evaluation of the performance characteristics of the hand protection relative to the task(s) to be performed, conditions present, duration of use, and the hazards and potential hazards identified.” In other words, buy the right glove for the job.
In the absence of an OSHA standard specifying what type of glove is (or is not) suitable for protection against different chemicals, we have a couple of options. First of all, the manufacturer’s Safety Data Sheet (SDS) for the chemical in use will sometimes specify what type glove material is suitable (or not suitable) for use with their product. Information about PPE can be found in Section 8: Exposure Controls/Personal Protection. In addition, glove manufacturers often provide glove selection charts. OSHA even provides a chemical resistance selection chart of protective gloves selection chart (see below) printed in their publication titled Personal Protective Equipment. In this particular chart, a glove material with a VG rating means that glove material offers Very Good protection against the chemical specified, G means Good protection, F means Fair protection, and P means Poor protection (not recommended). And those chemicals marked with an asterisk (*) are for limited service only.
Chemical Resistance Selection Chart for Protective Gloves
So here are a couple of common questions about PPE that we have hopefully addressed to your satisfaction. If anyone has a comment pertinent to this topic, please share it with others by clicking here and entering your comment in the “Comments” box. And last but not least, I would like to encourage you to Share this Blog with others in your Network who might benefit from reading this post.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR - Curtis Chambers is a Certified Safety Professional (CSP) with a Master of Science degree in Occupational Safety and Health. He has held numerous positions managing and evaluating workplace safety and health at various public organizations and private corporations, and is currently the President of OSHA Training Services Inc. Visit their website at www.oshatraining.com.
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