According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), last year alone, 4,609 workers were killed while on the job. Many of these deaths can be avoided altogether with the use of proper personal safety equipment. The purpose of safety gear in the workplace is to reduce the potential for injury or death when engineering and administrative controls cannot reduce risks to levels that are acceptable.
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Some of the most common types of safety equipment include respirators and protection for the eyes, ears and skin.
A respirator is worn in order to keep contaminants in the air out of the user’s lungs. These pieces of equipment are used when proper ventilation is not available or when the air is contaminated with chemicals or pathogens. There are two types of respirators that are commonly used.
- Gas Masks and Particulate Respirators. These respirators work by filtering out chemicals and other particles in the air so that the user does not breathe them in. Airline Respirators and Self-Contained Breath Apparatus (SCBA). This type of respirator delivers clean air to the user from another source.
- Eye Protection
Every day in the United States, nearly 2,000 workers receive an eye injury that requires them to be seen by a medic. Most of these are caused when solid materials get into the eye and cause problems. The eye can also be injured by blunt force trauma, chemical burns and thermal agents like those used in welding torches.
Many of these injuries can be avoided simply by wearing the proper safety glasses with side shields. More protection is provided by goggles which can be effective against a number of safety hazards including chemical splashes.
- Ear Protection
Each year in the United States it is estimated that 22 million workers are exposed to noise levels that can be potentially damaging to their hearing. Hearing-related damages in the workplace account for a good percentage of occupational illnesses. A good portion of these problems can be avoided with the use of earplugs or earmuffs.
- Skin Protection
The second most common type of workplace diseases are occupational skin conditions. These diseases include contact dermatitis and skin cancers. When chemical, physical or biological agents come into contact with the skin, they can cause problems. Barriers between the skin and these agents are necessary in order to avoid exposure. These barriers include safety equipment such as gloves, lab coats and face shields.
When the proper personal protective equipment is worn in the workplace, the risk of injury and death can be dramatically reduced.