Depending on what tools, chemicals or hazards that public works employees will face determines the personal protective equipment, or PPE, they will need and level of the PPE required. Employers must perform a PPE hazard analysis for all employees who must wear PPE. Some basic hazards include chemical exposure, penetration, impacts, falls, dust, noise, electricity, flying debris and cuts from a chainsaw.
The hazard analysis must be performed by a person knowledgeable of the PPE selection and the specific hazards to which employees are exposed. After conducting the walkthrough hazard analysis survey, employers should determine who should wear what PPE. They should have discussions with front-line employees to ensure that they are not missing any potential hazards.
Although some public works employees might be exposed to different hazards, most of them should wear steel-toed boots, safety glasses, hardhats and gloves. All public works employees who are exposed to vehicle traffic should wear high visibility vest or shirts.
If employees work more than 4 feet off the ground, they should wear fall protection to include the harness and lanyard while working at an elevated height. Employees who use chemicals need to wear chemical-resistant gloves, goggles, a face shield and an apron. Employees who use chainsaws are required by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to wear foot protection that is constructed with cut-resistant material, hard hats with a full face shield, hearing protection, cut-resistant chaps and gloves. If the employees are exposed to 85 dB of noise for an extended period of time, they should wear hearing protection.
Employees exposed to chemicals should refer to the safety data sheet to determine if respiratory protection is required while using the chemical. If an employee wants to wear a dust mask voluntarily, they should review Appendix D of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration Respiratory Protection Standard. Also, a full written respirator program should be implemented to include a medical questionnaire, fit testing and training for employees.
When employees are exposed to electrical hazards, they should wear PPE determined from the arc flash analysis per the voltage with which they are going to be working. All PPE should be inspected prior to use for any cuts or damage. Damaged PPE must be taken out of service immediately.
Finally, employees who are cutting, welding, or brazing must wear an approved welding shield with lenses approved for what they are welding. If they are grinding, they are required to have a full face shield and safety glasses while operating the grinder.
Remember that the employer is required to provide or pay for necessary PPE, with some exceptions for footwear, lost PPE or intentional damage.
Employees need to be trained on how to inspect, clean, store, don and doff the PPE properly before being allowed to wear specific items.