Protect yourself with personal protective equipment

Hard hats, goggles, face shields, earplugs, steel-toed shoes, respirators. What do all these items have in common? They are all various forms of personal protective equipment.

Yet, data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show:

  • Hard hats were worn by only 16% of those workers who sustained head injuries,
  • Only 1% of approximately 770 workers suffering face injuries were wearing face protection;
  • Only 23% of the workers with foot injuries wore safety shoes or boots;
  • About 40% of the workers with eye injuries wore eye protective equipment.

A majority of these workers were injured while performing their normal jobs at regular worksites.

OSHA standards require employers to furnish and require employees to use suitable protective equipment where there is a "reasonable probability" that injury can be prevented by such equipment.


Cuts or bruises to the scalp and forehead occurred in 85% of the cases, concussions in 26%. Over a third of the cases resulted from falling objects striking the head.

Protective hats for head protection against impact blows must be able to withstand penetration and absorb the shock of a blow. In some cases hats should also protect against electric shock.


Injured workers surveyed indicated that eye and face protection was not normally used or practiced in their work areas or it was not required for the type of work performed at the time of the accident.

Almost one-third of face injuries were caused by metal objects, most often blunt and weighing one pound or more. Accidents resulted in cuts, lacerations, or punctures in 48% of the total, and fractures (including broken or lost teeth) in 27%.

Protection should be based on kind and degree of hazard present and should: 1) be reasonably comfortable, 2) fit properly, 3) be durable, 4) be cleanable, 5) be sanitary, and 6) be in good condition.


Exposure to high noise levels can cause irreversible hearing loss or impairment. It can also create physical and psychological stress.

Preformed or molded ear plugs should be individually fitted by a professional. Waxed cotton, foam or fiberglass wool earplugs are self-forming. Disposable earplugs should be used once and thrown away; non-disposable ones should be cleaned after each use for proper maintenance.


Burns, cuts, electrical shock, amputation and absorption of chemicals are examples of hazards associated with arm and hand injuries. A wide assortment of gloves, hand pads, sleeves and wristlets for protection from these hazards is available.


Many hazards can threaten the torso: heat, splashes from hot metals and liquids, impacts, cuts, acids, and radiation. A variety of protective clothing is available: vests, jackets, aprons, coveralls, and full body suits.

Fire retardant wool and specially treated cotton clothing items are comfortable, and they adapt well to a variety of workplace temperatures. Other types of protection include leather, rubberized fabrics, and disposable suits.

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The Importance of PPE

Why is personal protective equipment (PPE) important? We all know the answer, right? All together now: "Because it protects workers from injury!" While this may be true, it's also true that in the real world, safety professionals are still struggling to get this message across - and make it stick. Unfortunately, expressions like "Wear your PPE because it says so in the safety rule book" just don't hold up as convincing arguments.

Why Workers Resist Wearing PPE

  • PPE was uncomfortable (according to 62% of respondents),
  • PPE was not necessary for the task,
  • PPE was too hot, and
  • PPE was unattractive looking.

How do I get workers to wear PPE?

1. Set an example
There's nothing more embarrassing than being accused - or even worse, caught at - not "walking our talk". We must show our peers and co-workers that we are not above the rules and regulations by using PPE in our workplace wherever it is required.

2. No exceptions
There must be zero exceptions. If it is a requirement that PPE be used in a designated work area, then adhere to the policy or the procedure. How many times have you heard someone say, "I'll just be in there for a second," or, "I've been performing this task without PPE for years"?

There must be zero exceptions. If it is a requirement that PPE be used in a designated work area, then adhere to the policy or the procedure. How many times have you heard someone say, "I'll just be in there for a second," or, "I've been performing this task without PPE for years"?

3. Invest money
There are few quicker returns on investment than PPE. In fact, it can be virtually immediate. Sure, you may be saving a few bucks with that box of Brand X safety glasses sitting on a bench at the entrance to the shop floor. These types of safety glasses are fine for the casual visitor, but never expect your regular workers to wear them 100% of the time.

Let your workers know you stand behind your message by giving them something unique, something special.

It doesn't end with training
Training isn't the last word on a safety topic. It's usually only the beginning. The training session remains one of the most effective venues to show workers how important PPE is in the workplace. This is also a good place to show the proper fit and care of PPE.

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Why is foot comfort important?

There are two major categories of work-related foot injuries. The first category includes foot injuries from punctures, crushing, sprains, and lacerations. They account for 10 percent of all reported disabling injuries. The second group of injuries includes those resulting from slips, trips and falls. They account for 15 percent of all reported disabling injuries. Slips and falls do not always result in a foot injury but lack of attention to foot safety plays an important role in their occurrence.

How does the flooring contribute to the foot problems?

The type of flooring used in the workplace has an important influence on comfort, especially on tender feet. Hard, unyielding floors like concrete are the least comfortable surfaces to work on. Working on a hard floor has the impact of a hammer, pounding the heel at every step. Slippery floors are hazardous for slips and falls that can result in sprained ankles or broken foot bones.

What are some causes of foot problems?

Some foot problems are so common that they can occur in virtually any workplace and under any working conditions.

InjuriesCommon Causes
Crushed or broken feet, amputations of toes or feetFeet trapped between objects or caught in a crack, falls of heavy objects, moving vehicles (lift trucks, bulldozers, etc.), conveyor belts (feet drawn between belt and roller)
Punctures of the sole of the footLoose nails, sharp metal or glass objects
Cuts or severed feet or toes, lacerationsChain saws, rotary mowers, unguarded machinery
BurnsMolten metal splashes, chemical splashes, contact with fire, flammable or explosive atmospheres
Electric shocksStatic electricity, contact with sources of electricity
Sprained or twisted ankles, fractured or broken bones because of slips, trips or fallsSlippery floors, littered walkways, incorrect footwear, poor lighting.

How can foot injuries be prevented?

There is no workplace where a worker is immune to foot injury. However, the hazards differ according to the workplace and the types of tasks the worker does. The first step in developing a strategy to reduce foot problems is to identify the relevant hazards at the workplace. Such hazards should be assessed in each workplace, no matter how safe or how dangerous it may seem.

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