Finding the Right PPE for the Job


No matter what occupation you are in today, finding the right PPE for your application can be tricky to say the least.  From electricians to machine operators to construction workers, utilizing the correct protective equipment is vital to employee safety and job completion.

Let’s take a few steps back before we actually look at PPE and start from the beginning. 

With every job we first must evaluate a few things.  Before we get to work performing a task it’s vital that a JHA (Job Hazard Analysis) be performed in order to identify any safety hazards that may occur from performing the task.  Unfortunately, this step isn’t always taken before we send employees out to perform their daily job. NOT GOOD!! 

By performing a JHA on every task, we are able to uncover potential hazards that may be eliminated, substituted or isolated prior to beginning the task.  This has a huge bearing on the PPE needed for the task, if any.  Without performing these vital steps we have the potential of putting the employee in a more dangerous situation than necessary.  Once we have identified all the potential hazards associated with the task its time to refer to the Hierarchy of Risk Control to begin the process of reducing the risk from performing the task.

After we evaluate the task and utilize the Hierarchy of Controls and try to either eliminate, substitute, engineer out or administratively protect the worker, we then can look at PPE. It’s important to understand that we must perform these steps first every time before we look at just PPE to protect workers.

After using the Hierarchy of Controls to eliminate all hazards we realize that in most instances we are unable to eliminate all hazards and need to look at PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) for protection.  Now we can begin to perform a PPE hazard assessment of the tasks to be performed. 

Because we performed a JHA + executed the hierarchy of controls, we now have a good idea of the PPE that will be needed to perform the task.  First, we need to realize that not all PPE is created equal.  Gloves, safety glasses, hearing protection and fall protection to mention a few come in many different configurations and protection levels.  By utilizing the information we gathered in our first steps we can begin to narrow down the exact items we need to keep the employee safe. 

With gloves we may need chemical protection, cut protection or a combination of both.  For glasses we may need clear, smoke, indoor/outdoor, foam lines or even goggles.  Fall protection we will need to have an anchor point, know the fall clearance to the ground, a lanyard or an SRL.  These are just some of the many differences we find in PPE.  This is the point when we should reach out to a product specialist who has the knowledge to recommend the exact PPE for your application.  This process will be a trial and error of the equipment you need to make sure you narrow it down to the most appropriate PPE for task at hand. 

By executing this process each and every time you have a new task or a change in the existing task you will be able to properly provide the best PPE for job at hand. 

This article supplied by Mike Kay, Director of Resource Safety Services.

View our other blog posts related to Personal Protective Equipment.

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