U.S. Department of Labor
Program Highlights
Fact Sheet No. OSHA 92-08


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:

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. The standards also set provisions for specific equipment.

While use of personal protective equipment is important, it is only a supplementary form of protection, necessary where all hazards have not been controlled through other means such as engineering controls. Engineering controls are especially important in hearing and respiratory protection which have specific standards calling for employers to take all feasible steps to control the hazards.

HEAD PROTECTION

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.(5)

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. Recognized standards for hats have been established by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI).

FOOT AND LEG PROTECTION

Sixty-six percent of injured workers were wearing safety shoes, protective footwear, heavy-duty shoes or boots and 33%, regular street shoes. Of those wearing safety shoes, 85% were injured because the object hit an unprotected part of the shoe or boot.(6)

For protection against falling or rolling objects, sharp objects, molten metal, hot surfaces and wet, slippery surfaces workers should use appropriate footguards, safety shoes or boots and leggings. Safety shoes should be sturdy and have an impact- resistant toe. Shoes must meet ANSI standards.

EYE AND FACE PROTECTION

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%.(7)

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.

EAR PROTECTION

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.

OSHA has promulgated a final rule on requirements for a hearing conservation program. Information on the program is available from the closest OSHA office.

ARM AND HAND PROTECTION

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.

The devices should be selected to fit the specific task. Rubber is considered the best material for insulating gloves and sleeves and must conform to ANSI standards (copies available from ANSI, 1430 Broadway, New York, NY 10018).

TORSO PROTECTION

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.

RESPIRATOR PROTECTION

Information on the requirements for respirators to control of occupational diseases caused by breathing air contaminated with harmful dusts, fogs, fumes, mists, gases, smokes, sprays, and vapors is available in 29 CFR 1910.134. Proper selection of respirators should be made according to the guidance of ANSI Practices for Respiratory Protection.

REMEMBER!!!

Using personal protective equipment requires hazard awareness and training on the part of the user. Employees must be aware that the equipment alone does not eliminate the hazard. If the equipment fails, exposure will occur.

FOR COPIES OF OSHA STANDARDS OR CLARIFICATION

Check your phone book under the U.S. Department of Labor listing for the OSHA office nearest you.


FOOTNOTES:

  1. U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Accidents Involving Head Injuries, Report 605, (Washington, D.C., Government Printing Office, July 1980) p. 1.
  2. U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Accidents Involving Face Injuries, Report 604, (Washington, D.C., GPO, May 1980) p. 10, Table 10.
  3. U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Accidents Involving Foot Injuries, Report 626, (Washington, D.C., GPO, January 1981) p. 13, Table 11.
  4. U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Accidents Involving Eye Injuries, Report 597, (Washington, D.C., GPO, April 1980) p. 12, Table 9.
  5. U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Accidents Involving Head Injuries, Report 605, (Washington, D.C., GPO, July 1980) p. 7, Table 6.
  6. U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Accidents Involving Foot Injuries, Report 626, (Washington, D.C., GPO, January 1981) p. 13, Table 11, and p. 1.
  7. U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Accidents Involving Face Injuries, Report 604, (Washington, D.C., May 1980) p. 4, Table 3, and p. 2, Table 2.


This is one of a series of fact sheets highlighting U.S. Department of Labor programs. It is intended as a general description only and does not carry the force of legal opinion. This information will be made available to sensory impaired individuals upon request. Voice phone: (202) 523-8151. TDD message referral phone: 1-800-326-2577.


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