The Role of Personal Protective Equipment

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is the final measure that should be taken to increase workplace safety to a maximum. While this equipment should not be relied on alone to prevent accidents and injuries, it can serve as an invaluable addition to all other safety measures. After all, this equipment will prove meaningless if the appropriate inspections are not performed, or if other precautionary measures are not in place to ensure the safety of the workers. However, when used in conjunction with Safe Work Procedures, PPE can add an extra dimension to the safety and protection of the crew, ensuring that accidents are kept to a minimum and that injuries are reduced in severity.

Every equipment has their own purpose

The first and most critical element regarding the use of PPE is that the correct equipment should be used for the correct purpose. Any PPE is capable of keeping a person safe only if it is used as intended. Like any other equipment, each piece of PPE is designed to serve a very specific purpose. You would not expect to get great results if you used a forklift to dig a ditch. Simply put, the forklift isn’t designed for that function. If used for anything beyond moving materials, specifically palette stacked materials, a forklift will prove ineffective. PPE works in exactly the same way. The main difference, however, is that PPE is designed to protect workers under very specific circumstances. Used in any other way than its intended purpose, the PPE will provide no real amount of protection. In fact, when used incorrectly, PPE can actually increase the risk to the worker. Therefore, it is critical that the supervisor of the job or some other member of the team be fully informed of the design and purpose of each piece of PPE to ensure that the proper items are on hand and used at the appropriate times.

Train for when the needs for PPE arise

The next critical element in PPE use is proper training. Every worker who may come into contact with or use PPE in any way should know everything there is to know about that piece of equipment. The better trained the person is, the more effective they will be at using PPE. Just because a piece of equipment is designed to increase safety doesn’t mean that the equipment itself is safe. Only when it used in the right way, will PPE provide any sort of increased protection. Used incorrectly or in the wrong conditions, PPE will increase the dangers rather than reduce them. Thus, just as it is critical that the supervisors be fully informed about each piece of PPE, so too is it critical for the users themselves to be just as fully informed. Not only will reference materials help to achieve this goal, but regular drills and hands on demonstrations will go a long way to maximizing the effectiveness of all PPE.

Common types of PPE

One of the key pieces of PPE used in roofing projects is the travel restraint system. This is an item that serves to restrict the movement of a worker, thus preventing them from overextending themselves and increasing their risk of falling. The most common forms of travel restraint system are belts and harnesses. Used properly, these tools will ensure that no accidents occur that would allow the worker to fall from their working platform. However, it is critical to ensure that the restraint system is correctly deployed, being properly anchored to the appropriate point as well as being properly attached to the person using it. This should be part and parcel of the safety inspection performed prior to beginning that particular job. Another piece of PPE commonly used on elevated construction projects is the individual fall arrest system. This usually takes the form of a harness, ensuring that the worker is secured at heights even if they fall off of their working platform. These systems can be simple, consisting of a harness being anchored directly to the platform itself, or they can be more complex, involving additional lines referred to as lifelines. In the case of lifeline systems, the harness is attached to lines that are in turn anchored to the platform itself. These systems are used when greater mobility is required for the job at hand. However, with the increased complexity of these systems comes increased risk accidents. Thus, it is of the utmost importance that all inspections are done thoroughly and that all members using or in contact with the fall arrest system are trained and briefed on its proper use.