OSHA‘s PPE Standard was revised in 1994 after conducting a study on the use of PPE in the work place. At the conclusion of the study, it was determined that too many employees were not wearing any PPE or using the wrong kind for the task being performed. In addition, the study showed that 70 percent of those employees who suffered hand injuries were not wearing gloves or they were wearing gloves that were damaged, inadequate, or the wrong type for the hazard present. Therefore a new rule, (29 CFR 1910.138) was implemented for hand safety.
What types of gloves are needed? As with any type of PPE, OSHA puts the job of “knowing” what type of gloves are needed on the employer. Furthermore, the type of glove to be used for protection must be determined prior to the commencement of work. How do we do this? Start by conducting a hazard assessment.
As an employer, you have to understand your responsibility. A hazard assessment will provide you with the information necessary to identify the best way to eliminate or control a hazard. If possible, the hazard should be eliminated through engineered or administrative controls. If the hazard cannot be controlled, then PPE (gloves) are required. Then, you have several other duties to perform.
1. Select the right gloves for the task
- The safety manager or supervisor can conduct the assessment.
- Identify the hazards present and how they affect the employee in the course of the work performed. It is a good idea to observe the work for a period of time and to talk to the employees on the job to get their feedback.
- Identify the consequences of the exposure to the employee, e.g. cuts, thermal burns, chemical burns, etc. Remember that exposures can be acute, occurring in an instant, or chronic, over a period of time. Determine if the work is ongoing for long term exposure, or if the job will only last a short time.
- Determine the properties required for gloves on the specific job. You now know the hazards, the exposures, the duration and the physical demands of the job. You are ready to make the purchase.
- All employees must be trained on the use, care, and limitations of all PPE including gloves. Gloves need to be treated with the proper care. They are personal items. Don’t store and mix gloves for everyone’s use. Rather, issue them to the individual. This minimizes the transfer of any germs or bacteria through multiple users. Keep the gloves in a clean and dry location.
- Conduct follow-ups to ensure the choice of glove was correct. Also, make sure employees are complying with the rules and regulations.
Why does this all matter so much? The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates there are 250,000 hand, finger and wrist injuries per year in the United States. In a recent year, eight thousand of these injuries were amputations.
An additional item to think about; in one year alone, OSHA issued more than a thousand citations for violations of the General Requirements section of the PPE standard.
Protect your employees and protect your company. Provide the right PPE, make sure it’s used, and make sure it’s used properly!