A Complete Guide To Warehouse Safety-Volume II-Picking PPE

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In Volume I-Back To Basics, we began our trip down the Green Brick Road of Safety where we met job safety analysis, who showed us where our safety hazards can be located.  Now that we know that we can determine what kind of PPE is needed to give further protection to employees as they carry out their tasks.  PPE – Personal Protective Equipment, (Is designed to protect workers from serious workplace injuries or illnesses resulting from contact with chemical, radiological, physical, electrical, mechanical or other workplace hazards), is very similar to what our Knight above is wearing.  His job description includes protecting his King from enemies of the realm which probably usually meant battle.  So his PPE had to help protect him from swords, lances and arrows the best it could so he could continue doing his job and save the kingdom.

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The same would also apply to an athlete getting ready for either type of football game.  Shin guards, shoulder pads and helmets give protection needed to get through the game.

Apply this thinking as you look at where the hazards intersect with the employees and what added protection will keep them from injury or long term disability.  As a reminder, a safety professional should usually do this, however knowledge is a powerful thing and all employees, whether management or worker should be aware of what is available.

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HANDS/GLOVES – There are many types of gloves available for any job function.  For moving and handling cartons or stacking pallets the gloves will give you a very good grip as well as protect from splinters.  If your job includes using sharp blades or cutting instruments there are gloves made from kevlar that prevent lacerations.     There are gloves that protect you from acid & chemical burns and other corrosive materials as well as thermal gloves for extreme temperature use.  You have many to choose from to properly protect your workers.

HEAD/BUMP-CAP -Sometimes employees have to work in cramped spaces or areas with low hanging obstacles.   A bump cap can prevent head impact and penetration injuries in those situations.  It is also highly recommended that staff cover and protect long hair that can get caught in machinery parts or belts.

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EYES/SAFETY GLASSES – Sight is one of your critical five senses that needs to be protected at all times.  Employees that work in areas where they are flying fragments, large chips, sparks and splashes  should be fitted for face shields.  Goggles, safety glasses and prescription glasses with side shields may be effective enough for areas with particles, sand, dirt, dusts and glare.

EARS/HEARING PROTECTION – Hearing is another crucial sense to protect, since damage can be  gradual over time and not as immediately noticeable like loss of sight.  Working an 8 hour shift in an environment where the noise level is 90dB or higher will cause irreversible damage your hearing.  Consistently wearing ear plugs or ear muffs will protect your hearing.  Ear plugs come as daily disposable types that conform to the shape of your ear canal or permanent egg plugs specifically molded for your ears by a professional.  Some high noise areas may require a combination of ear plugs and muffs.

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FEET/LEG PROTECTION – Just as important as the eyes and ears are your limbs.  Having the dock workers wear steel tipped shoes will help prevent crushed toes and broken bones in the foot.  They protect not only from a run-over hazard but dropping heavy items as well.  If you work in a cold warehouse the proper shoes will also prevent slips and falls.

LUNGS/DUST MASKS & RESPIRATORS – Are there areas of the facility where heavy dust is an issue or smoke, gas vapors, paints and sprays are completed.  Depending on the amount of contaminant particles in the air and toxicity of the vapors there are many items available.  From simple dust masks  to respirators and other breathing apparatus for use in confined spaces where toxic fumes collect.

ADVERSE CONDITIONS & OTHER ENVIRONMENTAL CONCERNS – Imagine putting yourself inside a washer machine that’s inside a hot warehouse and then having to make repairs to the washer from within inside.  That’s what working inside a confined space can feel like.  You’re totally enclosed except for a tiny portal.  There is not air movement, it’s hot and dark and there may be toxic gases still trapped inside.  Think about having to stand near by as molten metals are poured into molds and you get a blast of the fumes and heat as it’s poured or imagine picking customer orders for hours in sub zero temperatures inside a giant freezer.  In every case, make sure you do the job using only the proper PPE.  It can be a matter of life or death.

Remember, none of these suggestions will work if proper training is not given as an accompaniment.   Employees must be educated  on how to properly use the PPE, understand the limitations of the PPE and how to adjust and wear the PPE including how to maintain it.  Training is the key for any successful safe workplace and there is never an excuse for not holding at least a monthly safety meeting as well as encourage the participation of staff on safety committees.  Thank you for joining this journey down the Green Brick Road of Safety.  We still have some distance to go.  Volume III will be here before you know it.

Now Hear This!

While I’m waiting for the light to change and listening to the very loud bass vibrating my car from the next vehicle, I chuckle as I think, wow in 20 years we’re going to have a massive hearing loss epidemic among males and headlines asking why the government didn’t do anything to stop it.  You laugh as I but hearing loss is a bigger problem in the work place than you may think.  Sounds over 90 decibels can cause damage to the inner ear when encountered over a long period of time and to compare, a normal conversation at 3 feet apart from one another is 60-65 decibels.  So if your working 8 hours in an environment where the noise level is 90dB and over, (some experts say 80dB and over) you NEED to wear some level of hearing protection PPE, (Personal Protective Equipment).

For those of you already working in noisy environments this is nothing new and your company should be issuing hearing protection and you MUST be USING them diligently.  You also upon your hire should have had a baseline test completed.  This helps monitor and determine if there is any drop in hearing over the years of employment.  Good companies follow up with a hearing test on your employment anniversary date to track if any issues.

Do you need hearing protection at your place of work?   A general rule of thumb is that if you need to shout to be heard, the sound is in the range that can damage hearing.  With forklifts generating 77-93dB and diesel trucks clocking 97-112dB a dock could get noisy.  Speak with your supervisor or manager and ask that a sound test be completed. Then depending on the decibel levels measured you can work with HR on selection of the proper ear protection.

                   Ear Plugs                                                                                  Ear Muffs

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OSHA also has posted, limits of exposure time for noise. For 90dB it’s 8 hours a day down to 15 minutes a day at 115 dB.  It’s interesting to note that OSHA limits exposure of 100 decibels to 2 hours.  100 dB is generated easily at some rock concerts, so a 3-4 hour show can actually be damaging to your hearing.

Take safety seriously, protect your hearing, it’s something that happens gradually over the years and will not return after you’ve lost.   Open up those lines of communication with your company and make safety everybody’s problem.