Dorothy was still not sure what had just happened or any clue about the dead inspector but she knew she wanted out of this nightmare and to be back home so finding this head of OSHA sounded like the best way right now. So she set out on the green brick road hoping to make it to the Emerald city. After walking along the road for what seemed like hours she was beginning to regret not paying more attention at the safety meetings at work. If only I had listened maybe I wouldn’t be in this predicament, but maybe I’ll wake up soon and this will be over but the pain coming from her feet because the ruby steel toed boots were rubbing convinced her this was, oh my, could this, could this be for real?
She saw a large boulder on the side of the road and decided to take a break from walking and to feel sorry for herself. I can’t believe this? Why didn’t I listen? I could have been in the shelter and done but no, I had to be, Ms. oh that will never happen to me. “Go figure, huh.” Dorothy jumped right up and turned around, who was that? The voice echoed back, “it’s me.” Who? I can’t see you, come out of the bushes. “I would if I could but I’m done here in a hole.” Dorothy peeked over the boulder and could see a fairly good sized hole in the ground. How’d you get in there? “I’m not really sure. We were suppose to do some confined space work for the Emerald city public works, somewhere I blacked out and woke up, in here all alone.” “I know I was suppose to wear a harness with a cable attached so they could pull me out quickly if they had too. But they didn’t have one and they said that was o.k. this time. Then I was suppose to wear a respirator before I climbed in, just in case there were any hazardous gases or vapors present, but they didn’t have one and they said that was o.k. this time. I was suppose to wear a bump camp to protect my head just in case rocks and debris feel in, but they didn’t have one and they said that o.k. this time.” O.k. I get it, Dorothy responded, you didn’t get any PPE to wear. “PPE? No, they didn’t have a bump cap.” O.K! What”s your name “They call me Scarecrow because of my blonde hair and I’m kind of scatterbrained. I know the right thing to do but tend to lose focus and veer off track and forget.” Dorothy finally worked up the courage to get closer to the hole in the ground to get a view of Scarecrow.
She peered in, my name is Dorothy. “Hi”, he said as he waved up to her. “What are you doing way out here.” I’m on my way to see the head of OSHA in the Emerald city. I heard he may be able to help get me home. “Oh, are you far from home?” Yes, yes I am, very far from home. Hey, maybe the head guy can get you the PPE you need so you don’t wind up in a hole alone again? Do you want to go? “That sounds great Dorothy, but first I think I need to get out of this hole so I can accompany you.” Great idea. She looked around and found what looked like an old ladder that was pretty busted up but should help the Scarecrow climb out of the hole. When he finally emerged, Dorothy noticed that he was a mess. He had fingers missing, scars all over and his clothes were ripped and disheveled. He had been in the hole for such a long time he had trouble standing up and would flop but the two of them were determined to continue their journey on the Green Brick Road of Safety to find the head of OSHA so Dorothy could go home and Scarecrow could get some much needed PPE.
In Volume 1-Begin With Basics, Dorothy began her trip down the Green Brick Road with a job safety analysis, which showed us the types of hazard present and where they’re located. With this information you can determine what kind of PPE is needed to give further protection to employees as they carry out their daily routines.
PPE stands for Personal Protection Equipment (Designed to protect workers from serious workplace injuries or illnesses resulting from contact with chemical, radiological, physical, electrical, mechanical or other workplace hazards).
A Knight’s armor can be considered PPE since the job description includes protecting his King and the realm from enemies which usually included a battle and hand to hand fighting. 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. However you must make sure the PPE is a appropriate for the conditions where the work is to be performed. One of the problems with armor was the weight and if a knight was knocked off his horse in a river or lake, they usually drowned. PPE is to protect you and in no way should be the death of you. The same would also apply to an athlete getting ready for a football game whether American Football or Soccer. The equipment worn, shin guards, shoulder pads and helmets are a type of PPE as they give protection needed to play the game but as we’ve seen and heard of late, current helmets are giving inadequate protection and need to be greatly improved to protect players brains.
Apply this thinking to those hazards you located and intersect with the employee. What added protection will keep them from injury or long term disability. Usually a safety professional would handle this like the hazard analysis however knowledge is for everyone and all employees, whether management or worker should be aware of why or what PPE may be needed. You can begin with the five senses, protecting sight, hearing, touch, smell and taste.
EYES/SAFETY GLASSES – Sight is a critical sense that needs to be protected at all times in a manufacturing environment especially if employees work in areas where machinery can create flying debris, hot sparks, saw dust and metal shavings. Safety glasses with side shields or goggles are a good choice. When corrosive liquids or other chemicals are involved you want to avoid splashes to the face, a face shield would help greatly. Of late safety eye ware has become a lot more stylish, with colors and shapes. Remember you want employees to use these items so encourage them and allow a few different choices as long as they are properly rated for the job.
EARS/HEARING PROTECTION – Hearing is another crucial sense to protect, especially since hearing loss can be gradual over time and not as immediately noticeable like loss of sight. If you’re working an 8 hour shift in an environment where the noise level is 85dB or higher and you are not consistently wearing ear plugs or ear muffs, you will suffer irreversible damage to your hearing. Ear plugs are available as daily disposable types that conform to the shape of your ear canal but before you roll them with your fingers to insert make sure your hands are clean or you could inadvertently give yourself an ear infection. Permanent ear plugs specifically molded for your ears by a professional are also a great way to go. Some very high noise areas, over 100dB require a combination of ear plugs and muffs and also limit the amount of exposure time in that environment. When you take decibel readings to see what PPE is required, make sure to have all machinery running as well as other necessary equipment to get a true sense of the level of noise.
HANDS/GLOVES – There are many types of gloves available for just about any application you can think of, made of non-latex, rubber, plastic, leather and synthetic materials. Moving and handling cartons or wooden pallets you want gloves that fit well an that give you a very good grip as well as protect from splinters. If your job includes using sharp blades, cutting instruments or other tools there are gloves made from kevlar that prevent lacerations to your hand. There are gloves that protect you from acid & chemical burns and other corrosive materials as well as thermal gloves for use in extreme temperatures. Just make sure the glove you issue is rated for the task at hand, are comfortable and flexible to easy digit manipulation. Gloves can be expensive so make sure you establish a policy of always exchanging a worn pair for new and how many pairs a month you’ll issue to employees who just can’t seem to hold on to a pair for very long.
LUNGS/DUST MASKS & RESPIRATORS – Areas of the facility where heavy dust, smoke, gas vapors, paint fumes or other harsh toxins are a result of or part of the production process are completed, employees will need some sort of protection. Whether you’ll only need to use a simple dust mask, respirator or fully contained system depends on the amount of contaminant particles in the air and their toxicity. In any case the protection will not be sufficient if the item does not fit flush on your face with no gaps around the mask. With respirators and other systems make sure to place them on a maintenance schedule to ensure they’ll fully operate when needed, especially if they are stored and used for emergency purposes only.
HEAD/BUMP-CAP -Sometimes employees have to work in cramped spaces or under low hanging obstacles like pipes to make repairs or adjustments to machinery. To prevent scalp lacerations, concussions and head penetration injuries a bump cap is a good choice. A good way to get workers to wear them consistently is to allow caps with different sports team logos. A tip for those working around moving machine parts and belts with long hair, it is highly recommended that staff tie up and cover to protect it to prevent hair being caught and you pulled into the machinery.
FEET/LEG PROTECTION – You’re probably on you feet during most of the shift so you want shoes that not only protect your feet but offer support and are comfortable. Again as with other PPE the type of footwear you use depends on the environment you’re working in. On the loading dock where there is forklift traffic, pallets, tailgates, dock levelers, dock workers wear steel tipped shoes to prevent crushed toes and broken bones. If you work in a cold warehouse you want shoes that keep your feet warm and help prevent slips and falls. If you work with chemicals, corrosive liquids and acids you want long boots that protect your feet if those items happen to spill.
ADVERSE CONDITIONS & OTHER ENVIRONMENTAL CONCERNS – Imagine putting yourself inside a washer machine that’s in the middle of a hot warehouse and then having to make repairs to the washer while inside. That’s what working inside a confined space can feel like. You’re totally enclosed except for a tiny portal. There is not much air movement, it’s hot and dark and there may be lingering toxic gases trapped inside. Part of PPE are the apparatus, in this case a vest and tether attached to a winch, that can get you out of that confined space if an emergency was to present itself. The same goes for fall protection with a vest and safety line that is anchored to a solid fixture so you don’t plummet to the ground.
Whether you stand near by and get a blast of heat and fumes as molten metals are poured into molds or picking customer orders for hours at 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, PPE will not work if proper training isn’t given as an accompaniment and you should always be shown how to use and how to wear it properly and understand its limitations and 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 Dorothy on this journey down the Green Brick Road of Safety. There is still some distance to go.