News & Information Blog

Personal Protective Equipment Safe Use and General Selection Practices

By Susen Trail | 08/05/2018

  1. Aprons and other items of reusable Personal Protective Equipment, PPE, stored inside a chemical mix room or work area is an unsafe work practice because both sides of the PPE are exposed to airborne chemicals, such as vapors or gases, and become contaminated. Both the side touching the employee and/or the employee's clothes, and the side facing the contaminant, are exposed to air contaminants in such locations 24/7. This can result in a higher level of contamination for the employee than wearing no PPE at all.
  2. Things to consider during PPE selection include:
    1. Temperature of use, if the PPE selected increases the employee's heat load:
      1. Sweat will make the skin barrier easier for chemicals to cross, either in the room or in other parts of the plant when the doff the PPE.
      2. Compliance with the PPE requirements will be affected which can spread to other safety violations.
    2. Dexterity required for the tasks to be completed for gloves and space around the employee for lab coats or coveralls (will the material catch on exposed machinery creating a new hazard).
    3. Resilience required for rough objects as well as needed strength of grip, so it does not tear or rip, or get cut.
    4. Sizes needed vs. sizes available:
      1. Gloves too large can cause spills and accidents.
      2. Gloves too small will have areas of reduced thickness, which reduces the distance for permeation and increases any pore sizes or imperfections for penetration.
      3. Outer coverings too large will catch on things in the work area which could create spills, or tear creating exposures.
      4. Outer coverings too small will facilitate exposure via permeation or penetration. It will also reduce the employee's freedom of movement or be too small to wear.
    5. Reusable versus disposable PPE. Both have their benefits and defects:
      1. Disposable:
        • Must be kept in stock and a system to identify and respond when the stock runs low or exceeds the expiration date.
        • The distributor must be relied upon not to run out of the gloves you need.
        • The manufacturer must be relied upon not to change the glove thickness without effective notification to customers.
        • The method of disposal must take into consideration whether vaporization of chemicals from the large surface area of the glove could create a secondary source of contamination. Disposal should be into a receptacle with a lid that is emptied at least once a day.
        • Where there is more than one type of glove material due to different resistant properties of different chemicals employees must be well trained to know which glove is to be used for the chemicals.
          • The potential for using the wrong glove is higher for disposable gloves because the employee who needs to resupply the gloves can grab the wrong box. This can go unnoticed for quite a while as the next employee may continue to grab the same color, etc. box of the wrong material.
      2. Reusable:
        • Employees are more likely to use the right glove because it is kept near the use location.
        • The interior of the glove is more likely to become contaminated because the glove is left near the source of contamination, the reason the glove is needed.
        • Employees must be carefully trained when to use this type of glove and when NOT to use them. Once gloves are on, especially if they are comfortable for consistent compliance, employees may leave them on rather than change gloves for a new task.
        • The PPE must be cleaned between uses in a way that does not create employee exposure.
        • After cleaning the PPE must be moved, dried, and stored outside the contamination area to prevent recontamination. This location must be convenient enough for consistent employee compliance in wearing their PPE.
        • Ensuring the gloves are the right size for the employee is even more important in reusable gloves as an employee might not complain to the right person and end up wearing the wrong size for a while with the same adverse effects as mentioned for the disposable gloves.

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