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Conducting a Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) Hazard Assessment

According to OSHA, employers are required to assess the workplace to determine if potential injury-causing hazards are present or are likely to become present. If a hazard cannot be managed or eliminated through engineering, work practice and administrative controls, employers must protect their employees with personal protective equipment (PPE) appropriate for the identified hazard. This Tech Sheet outlines the recommended procedure for conducting a PPE hazard assessment.

Start by Collecting and Reviewing Information About PPE Requirements

Involve employees and supervisors from each work area being assessed. Review job procedures, potential hazards and the PPE currently in use. Discuss the reasons for conducting the PPE assessment and ask for employee and supervisor input. In many cases, production employees are aware of hazards unknown to the evaluator, so obtaining employee input is a critical part of the hazard assessment.

Review injury data to obtain information about some of the hazards in your facility. Workers’ compensation claims history and OSHA 300 logs can provide insight into some of the hazards in your facility.

• Review safety data sheets (SDS) to identify chemical hazards and suggested PPE.

• Review equipment operator manuals to determine the manufacturer’s safety warnings and recommended PPE.

Conduct A Walk-Through Survey Where Employees May Need PPE

Observe the layout of the workplace, location of the workers, work operations and associated hazards, areas where PPE is currently being used and the reason for its use. The following basic hazard categories should be considered when performing the hazard assessment:

• Impact (workers hitting or being hit by objects)

• Penetration (sharp objects piercing foot/ hand)

• Compression (roll-over or pinching hazards)

• Temperature extremes

• Respiratory hazards

• Noise

• Electrical hazards

• Light radiation (welding, brazing, cutting, etc.)

• Chemical or biological exposure (inhalation, ingestion, skin contact, etc.)

Organize the Data

Following the walk-through survey, organize the data into a written hazard assessment. Your data should include the work activities assessed, location of the assessment and hazards identified. Use a PPE hazard assessment table to help organize the data.

Once the data is organized, determine if there are any hazards that can be lessened or eliminated using the hierarchy of hazard control. Try to eliminate the hazard or control it out before resorting to PPE.

Example PPE Hazard Assessment Table

Work Activity AssessedLocation of AssessmentHazards IdentifiedPPE Selected
Metal GrindingBuilding #7Flying Particles, noiseSafety glasses with side shield, ear plugs or muffs
Gas WeldingBuilding #5Flash burn (optical radiation), burns to handsWelding goggles 4-8 shading, leather gloves
Tree TrimmingAround the buildingFalling branches, cuts to handsHard hats (Type 1, class C or class G), leather gloves
Mastic Floor StrippingOffice hallwaysSodium hydroxide skin, eye and respiratory exposureAir purifying respirators, neoprene or nitrile gloves, chemical goggles
Office WorkBuilding #6NoneNone

How to Select the Right PPE

The next step is to determine what types of PPE should be used to protect employees from the identified hazards. Your assessment should determine if your employees need PPE to protect the following:

• Torso and abdominal protection

• Eye and face

• Head

• Feet

• Legs

• Hands

• Hearing protection

• Respiratory system

• Fall hazards

The following steps should be taken to complete this process:

1.Become familiar with the potential hazards, the types of PPE available and what they can and cannot do in preventing injuries and illnesses.

2.Compare the hazards associated with the work environment and the capabilities of the available PPE.

3.Select PPE that ensures a level of protection greater than the minimum required to protect employees from the hazards.

4.Fit the user with the PPE and provide training on the care, use and limitations of PPE.

Once the PPE is selected, you can add the final column to the PPE Hazard Assessment Table. Remember, personal protective equipment should not be used as the only method to protect employees from hazards. Instead, PPE should be used in conjunction with engineering controls, administrative controls and procedural controls.

PPE Hazard Assessment Certification

Each PPE hazard assessment should be documented by issuing a hazard assessment certification. This document should include:

• The workplace that was evaluated

• The individual(s) who conducted the evaluation

• The date of the hazard assessment

• The document labeled as a certification of hazard assessment

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