Personal protective equipment, commonly known as PPE, is the last line of defense to keep employees from suffering injuries. Occupational Safety and Health Administration standard 1910.132 provides general requirements for PPE to help prevent burns from hot liquids, chemicals or electrical hazards, among other hazards.
Hot liquid hazards
OSHA requires PPE for short-term exposure to hot liquids. This can include gloves, helmets, face shields, boots and aprons. The danger of live steam has no appropriate or acceptable PPE, and so workers must use lockout/tagout procedures, and double-block and bleed the piping for the steam. This involves the closure of a line, duct or pipe by closing and locking or tagging two inline valves and by opening and locking or tagging a drain or vent valve in the line between the two closed valves.
In cases where the hazard assessment indicates that it would be necessary, employees can wear a completely insulated environmental suit that would protect them from high temperatures. Supervisors must take into account the heat stress that the employee would be exposed to while wearing this PPE.
All exposed steam and hot water pipes within seven feet of the floor or working platform must be covered with insulating material or guarded in such a manner as to prevent contact. This PPE standard applies to hot surfaces where the hazards have not been eliminated through engineering or administrative controls.
Employees who are exposed to chemical hazards must wear the PPE required by the Safety Data Sheet. This includes neoprene aprons, gloves, goggles, respirators and face shields, among other items. Standards also require an eyewash station and shower to be located within 25 feet of locations where employees face exposure to hazardous chemicals, with no stairs or doorways in the way.
Employers must train their employees on the proper donning and doffing of PPE to ensure that body parts are not exposed at any time while the chemicals are in use. Unlike electrical and hot liquids, workers could still have chemical exposure even after exiting the area where they encountered the hazard.
OSHA also requires PPE for electrical hazard exposure, such as working on or near energized equipment within the approach boundaries. Approach boundaries identified by the National Fire Protection Association 70E toolkit include the flash protection boundary, limited approach, restricted approach and prohibited approach. Arc-rated PPE is required for working on or near equipment within the arc flash boundary.
All PPE must be tested and maintained according to the manufacturer's instructions, and all exposed employees must wear under layers of clothing made from natural fibers such as cotton, wool or silk, among others.
The PPE that employees wear around electrical hazards must be approved for use in proximity around these hazards. This includes
- head and face protection,
- eye protection,
- torso and limb protection,
- hearing protection,
- hand protection,
- foot protection, and
Shock protective equipment should be required for all body parts that will be exposed to a shock hazard. Arc-rated PPE must provide protection at or above the rated incident energy level or PPE category level. Category 1 has a minimum arc rating of 4 cal/cm² and Category 2 has a minimum arc rating of 8 cal/cm² for the required PPE. For common lower-energy tasks where Category 1 and 2 PPE would be appropriate, wearing appropriate arc-related or flame-resistant clothing is the simplest, most effective solution.
There are two new electrical safety standards that safety professionals may be interested in: "ASTM F3258 Arc Rated Electrical Protector Gloves" and "ASTM F3502 Cloth Face Coverings." These two new standards offer testing for many factors that older standards did not.
The first of these, "ASTM F3258," applies to electrical protector gloves which have been made of leather since the 1800s. The former "ASTM F696" specification was a leather specification with no testing for cuts, punctures or arc flashes. With new materials and a new standard, protector gloves will take on new characteristics without compromising the historical standard used by utilities for more than 40 years.
All PPE must be maintained in a safe and reliable condition. It must also be inspected or tested as required by the manufacturer and OSHA Code of Federal Regulations 1910.137. PPE that is contaminated with grease, oil, flammable liquid or combustible liquid must not be used.
All employees exposed to burn hazards must receive training that addresses
- when is PPE necessary,
- what PPE is necessary,
- how to properly don, doff, adjust and wear the PPE,
- limitations of the PPE, and
- the proper care, inspection and maintenance for the useful life of the PPE.
Retraining must take place when additional or new types of PPE are to be worn, or employees indicate a lack of understanding of the proper procedures for the use, care and maintenance of the PPE.