Hazards exist in every workplace in many different forms: sharp edges, falling objects, flying parks, chemicals, noise and a myriad of other potentially dangerous situations. The Law N° 19587/72 requires that employers protect their employees from workplace hazards that can cause injury. Controlling a hazard is the best way to protect employees. Depends on the hazard or workplace conditions, we recommend the use of engineering or work practice controls to manage or eliminate hazards to the greatest extent possible. For example, building a barrier between the hazard and the employees is an engineering control; changing the way in which employees perform their work is a work practice control. When engineering, work practice and administrative controls are not feasible or do not provide sufficient protection, employers must provide personal protective equipment (PPE) to their employees and ensure its use. Personal protective equipment, commonly referred to as “PPE”, is equipment worn to minimize exposure to a variety of hazards. Examples of PPE include such items as gloves, foot and eye protection, protective hearing devices (earplugs, muffs) hard hats, respirators and full body suits.
The Requirement for PPE
To ensure the greatest possible protection for employees in the workplace, the cooperative efforts of both employers and employees will help in establish and keep a safe and healthful work environment.
In general, employers are responsible for:
- Performing a “hazard assessment” of the workplace to identify and control physical and health hazards.
- Identifying and providing appropriate PPE for employees.
- Training employees in the use and care of the PPE.
- Maintaining PPE, including replacing worn or damaged PPE.
- Periodically reviewing, updating and evaluating the effectiveness of the PPE program.
In general, employees should:
- Properly wear PPE
- Attend training sessions on PPE.
- Care for, clean and maintain PPE, and Inform to supervisor the need to repair or replace PPE.
The Hazard Assessment
A first critical step on developing a comprehensive safety and health program is to identify physical and health hazards in the workplace. This process is known as a “hazard assessment.” Potential hazards may be physical or health-related and a comprehensive hazard assessment should identify hazards in both categories. Examples of physical hazards include moving objects, fluctuating temperatures, high intensity lighting, rolling or pinching objects, electrical connections and sharp edges. Examples of health hazards include overexposure to harmful dusts, chemicals or radiation.
The hazard assessment should begin with a walkthrough survey of the facility to develop a list of potential hazards in the following basic hazard categories:
- Compression (roll-over).
- Harmful dust.
- Light (optical) radiation.
In addition to noting the basic layout of the facility and reviewing any history of occupational illnesses or injuries, seven things to look for during the walkthrough survey include:
- Sources of electricity.
- Sources of motion such as machines or processes where movement may exist that could result in an impact between personnel and equipment.
- Sources of high temperatures that could result in burns, eye injuries or fire.
- Types of chemicals used in the workplace.
- Sources of harmful dusts.
- Sources of light radiation, such as welding, brazing, cutting, furnaces, heat treating, high intensity lights, etc.
- The potential for falling or dropping objects.
- Sharp objects that could poke, cut, stab or puncture.
- Biologic hazards such as blood or other potentially infected material.
When the walkthrough is complete, the employer should organize and analyze the data so that it may be efficiently used in determining the proper types of PPE required at the worksite. The employer should become aware of the different types of PPE available and the levels of protection offered. It is definitely a good idea to select PPE that will provide a level of protection greater than the minimum required to protect employees from hazards. The workplace should be periodically reassessed for any changes in conditions, equipment or operating procedures that could affect occupational hazards. This periodic reassessment should also include a review of injury and illness records to spot any trends or areas of concern and taking appropriate corrective action.
Documentation of the hazard assessment is required through a written certification that includes the following information:
- Identification of the workplace evaluated.
- Name of the person conducting the assessment.
- Date of the assessment.
- Identification of the document certifying completion of the hazard assessment.
All PPE clothing and equipment should be of safe design and construction, and should be maintained in a clean and reliable fashion. Employers should take the fit and comfort of PPE into consideration when selecting appropriate items for their workplace. PPE that fits well and is comfortable to wear will encourage employee use of PPE. Most protective devices are available in multiple sizes and care should be taken to select the proper size for each employee. If several different types of PPE are worn together, make sure they are compatible. If PPE does not fit properly, it can make the difference between being safely covered or dangerously exposed. It may not provide the level of protection desired and may discourage employee use. The Law requires that many categories of PPE meet or be equivalent to standards developed by the Instituto Argentino de Normalización y Certificación (IRAM). IRAM has been preparing safety standards since the 1972s, when the first safety standard was approved to protect the heads and eyes of industrial workers. Existing PPE stocks must meet the IRAM standard in effect at the time of its manufacture or provide protection equivalent to PPE manufactured to the IRAM criteria. Employers should inform employees who provide their own PPE of the employer’s selection decisions and ensure that any employee-owned PPE used in the workplace conforms to the employer’s criteria, based on the hazard assessment, the Law requirements and IRAM standards.