Safety experts traditionally use a hierarchy of controls to mitigate occupational hazards and protect workers. The hierarchy is used to aid in determining the best way to implement reasonable and effective control solutions. You can delve into the Hierarchy of Controls in our Hierarchy of Controls Toolbox. Within the hierarchy, personal protective equipment (PPE) is the last line of defense against workplace hazards. While PPE is an important element of any safety plan, it is viewed by safety professionals as the least effective way to protect workers. If PPE is improperly selected or used, or a hazard is not properly identified, it can result in inadequate protection.

In 2019 a total of 5,333 fatalities occurred in the United States and approximately 41% (2,254) may have been related to improper PPE use or selection, including 880 deaths from falls, 379 deaths from exposure to harmful chemicals, 241 deaths from falling objects, 59 deaths by inhalation of harmful substances, and 26 deaths from flying debris and objects. Sadly, these deaths were completely preventable had the individuals involved taken the time to stop and assess the hazards; prevent access to the hazards; and properly eliminate, control, or protect the hazard and employee exposure.

PPE is addressed specifically in OSHA’s standards for general industry, maritime, and construction, which requires that many PPE categories meet or are equivalent to the standards developed by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). PPE was a contributor to three of OSHA’s most recent annual Top Ten Most Frequently Cited Violations, affecting these categories: fall protection (1), respiratory protection equipment (5), and eye and face protection (9).

Whether it’s OSHA General Industry (1910) or Construction (1926) Standards, common mistakes are made by both employers and employees. For the employers, the top five most common mistakes fall into these categories:

  1. Inadequate workplace hazard assessment
  2. Insufficient employee training
  3. Not involving employees in the PPE selection process
  4. Not enforcing PPE use and rules
  5. Not updating company policies, procedures, or programs.

Employees are responsible for proper PPE use, selection, and care. The following are the most common mistakes:

  1. Failing to use PPE
  2. Selecting the wrong PPE for the hazard
  3. Using PPE incorrectly
  4. Failing to receive adequate PPE training
  5. Failing to inspect PPE prior to each use.

As with many safety concerns, PPE is a protective strategy, and in this case, the last line of defense. RETTEW’s safety professionals can assist with hazard assessments; PPE selection; training employees; and policy, procedure, and program management to help employers and employees maintain and safe and healthy workplace environment. Please contact Kelly Kramer, CECD, HEM, at 800.738.8395 for more information.

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Safety training and consulting are only some of RETTEW’s 600+ services. Our safety team works hand in hand with engineers, scientists, project managers, and other technical experts at places such as manufacturing facilities, drill pads, and commercial construction sites. We are well respected in many industries and known for ensuring workers and equipment remain safe, which keeps your projects on track and your bottom line growing.