The standards controlling Personal Protective Equipment fall between the extremes of very specific and quite broad. They are based more on performance or outcome than on precise procedure. This means that OSHA is less concerned with how you do something than with the end result. It’s up to the employer to assess the hazards, to select proper equipment, and to train employees to use the equipment correctly.
This isn’t to say that OSHA provides no guidance. The two non-mandatory appendixes to Subpart I of 29 CFR 1910 list references for further information and give detailed advice on how to identify the workplace hazards that require PPE, and then select the right kind for the job. All protective equipment is also mandated to meet the appropriate standard established by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI).
stresses the importance of recognizing and meeting the need for Personal Protective
Equipment and Clothing. In 1994, the agency revised its Personal Protective
Equipment (PPE) Standard with new hazard assessment and training requirements.
The standard requires that employers:
Assess the workplace, to determine
if there are—or are likely to be—hazards that require PPE (other than
respirators and electrical protective equipment)
Put the assessment in writing
Select PPE that will protect against
the specific hazards
Train workers to assure that they use
the PPE properly and wherever needed
Surveying the work area. Begin by making a walk-through survey
of the work area to uncover potential hazards, especially sources of:
Analyzing and updating findings.
Combine your survey results with information from audits and
injury and accident records. Determine the level of risk for each identified
hazard, and the type and potential seriousness of injury. Keep in mind that
OSHA requires a review of the final assessment whenever equipment or process
changes could create new hazards.
Selecting proper PPE. The
hazard assessment makes possible the selection of PPE that will protect against
your workplace’s particular hazards. Factors to bear in mind:
ANSI criteria. OSHA
requires PPE to meet American National Standards Institute (ANSI) criteria,
and most suppliers carry only products that meet those specifications.
Your PPE should provide employees with more than the minimum protection.
PPE may have to protect against multiple hazards.
Fit and choice.
You’ll need to have a range of sizes for all equipment. Also, wherever
possible, workers should have a choice. If the equipment is comfortable,
they’re more likely to use it.