Department highlights occupational health and safety rules


17-November-2012



Introduction

Hazards exist in all workplaces, therefore strategies to protect employees from these dangers are vital.

 Priority should be put on the elimination of these hazards at the source.

 Methods of controlling hazards in the workplace include engineering controls which involve physically changing a machine or work environment, work practices which involve checking how or when employees do their jobs, for example, rotating employees to reduce exposure to workplace hazard.

When the hazard cannot be removed or controlled sufficiently, personal protective equipment (PPE) must be used.

Occupational Health and Safety (Health and Welfare Regulations 1991)
Employers have basic obligations and responsibilities concerning the provision and use of PPE at work.

 Regulations 19 of the Occupational Health and Safety (Health and Welfare) Regulations 1991, explains what you need to do to meet PPE requirements at the work place.


What is PPE?
Personal protective  equipment (PPE) is defined in the regulations as “all equipment  – including clothing, affording protection against the weather – which is intended to be worn or held by a person at work and which protects him against one or more risks to his health or safety.
These include:
. Safety helmets
. Gloves,
. Eye protection
. High-visibility clothing
. Safety footwear and safety harnesses
. Hearing protection
. Respiratory protective gear
. Safety harnesses
. Safety belts

According to the Occupational Health and Safety (Health and Welfare Regulations) 1991, every employer shall ensure that suitable PPE is provided to his employees who may be exposed to a risk to their health or safety while at work except where and to the extent that such risk has been adequately controlled by other means which are equally or more effective.

The Health and Welfare Regulations (1991) state that employers should therefore give appropriate PPE and usage training to their employees wherever there is a risk to health and safety that cannot be adequately controlled by other means.


The main requirement of the health and welfare regulations relating to PPE at work is that the equipment is to be supplied and used at work wherever there are risks to health and safety that cannot be adequately controlled in other ways.

The Health and Welfare Regulations 1991requires that PPE is:
• properly assessed before use to ensure it is suitable;
• maintained and stored properly;
• provided with instructions on how to use it safely; and
• used correctly by employees.

 

Workers wearing protection against extreme cold conditions


Why is PPE important?

Even where engineering controls and safe systems of work have been applied, some hazards might remain. These include injuries to:
• the lungs, for example from breathing in contaminated air
• the head and feet, for example from falling materials
• the eyes, for example from flying particles or splashes of corrosive liquids
• the skin, for example from contact with corrosive materials
• the body, for example from extremes of heat or cold

Therefore PPE is used and needed in these cases to reduce the risk as the last resort.
If protective equipment is still needed after implementing other controls, an employer must provide PPE for his employees free of charge. As an employer you must choose the equipment carefully and ensure employees are trained to use it properly, and know how to detect and report any faults in it.

Selection and use

An employer should ask the following questions when selecting and using PPE:
• Who is exposed and to what?
• For how long are they exposed?
• How much are they exposed to?
And should choose the equipment that suits the user – consider the size, fit and weight of the PPE. If the users help choose it, they will be more likely to use it:

Make sure that if more than one item of PPE is being worn they can be used together, for example wearing safety glasses may disturb the seal of a respirator, causing air leaks.
Instruct and train people how to use it, for example train people to remove gloves without contaminating their skin. Tell them why it is needed, when to use it and what its limitations are.

Other advice on PPE

Never allow exemptions from wearing PPE for those jobs that “only take a few minutes”.
Check with your supplier what PPE is appropriate – explain the job to them.
If in doubt, seek further advice from the labour monitoring and compliance section of the Ministry of  Labour and Human Resources Development.

Maintenance

PPE must be properly maintained and stored when not in use, for example:
• in a dry, clean cupboard. If it is reusable it must be cleaned and kept in good condition.
• using the right replacement parts which match the original, for example respirator filters

• keeping replacement PPE available
• designating a person who is responsible for maintenance who knows how it should be done
• having a supply of appropriate disposable suits which are useful for dirty jobs where laundry costs are high, for example for visitors who need protective clothing
Employees must make proper use of PPE and report its loss or destruction or any fault in it.

Types of PPE you can use

Against hazards to the eyes from chemical or metal splash, dust, projectiles, gas and vapour, radiation:

Safety spectacles, goggles, face screens, face shields and visors. Please note that to ensure the eye protection chosen has the right combination of impact/dust/splash/molten metal eye protection for the task and fits the user properly.

A welder at work
 
Against hazards to head and neck against impact from falling or flying objects, risk of head bumping, hair getting tangled in machinery, chemical drips or splash, climate or temperature:

Industrial safety helmets, bump caps, hairnets and firefighters' helmets. Please note that some safety helmets incorporate or can be fitted with specially-designed eye or hearing protection.
Don't forget neck protection, for example scarves for use during welding and to replace head protection if it is damaged.

Against hazards to the ears from noise – a combination of sound level and duration of exposure, very high-level sounds are a hazard even with short duration:

Earplugs, earmuffs, semi-insert/canal caps. Workers should use the right hearing protectors for the type of work and employers should make sure workers know how to fit them. Choose protectors that reduce noise to an acceptable level, while allowing for safety and communication

To protect hands and arms from abrasions, temperature extremes, cuts and punctures, impact, chemicals, electric shock, radiation, vibration, biological agents and prolonged immersion in water:

Workers can use gloves, gloves with a cuff, gauntlets and sleeving that covers part or all of the arm. Avoid gloves when operating machines such as bench drills where the gloves might get caught.

Barrier creams are unreliable and are no substitute for proper PPE.
Wearing gloves for long periods can make the skin hot and sweaty, leading to skin problems. Using separate cotton inner gloves can help prevent this.

To protect legs and feet from wet, hot and cold conditions, electrostatic build-up, slipping, cuts and punctures, falling objects, heavy loads, metal and chemical splash, vehicles:

Workers can use safety boots and shoes with protective toecaps and penetration-resistance, mid-sole wellington boots and specific footwear, for example foundry boots and chainsaw boots.
 
Footwear can have a variety of sole patterns and materials to help prevent slips in different conditions, including oil- or chemical-resistant soles. It can also be anti-static, electrically conductive or thermally insulating.  Appropriate footwear should be selected for the risks identified.


To protect lungs against oxygen-deficient atmospheres, dusts, gases and vapours, workers can use respiratory protective equipment:

Some respirators rely on filtering contaminants from workplace air. These include simple filtering face pieces and respirators and power-assisted respirators.

Make sure it fits properly, for example, for tight-fitting respirators, use filtering face pieces, half and full masks.

There are also types of breathing apparatus which give an independent supply of breathable air, for example fresh-air hose, compressed airline and self-contained breathing apparatus.

The right type of respirator filter must be used as each is effective for only a limited range of substances.

Filters have only a limited life. Where there is a shortage of oxygen or any danger of losing consciousness due to exposure to high levels of harmful fumes, only use breathing apparatus – never use a filtering cartridge.

You will need to use breathing apparatus in a confined space or if there is a chance of an oxygen deficiency in the work area.

For protection from heat, chemical or metal splash, spray from pressure leaks or spray guns, contaminated dust, impact or penetration, excessive wear or entanglement of own clothing:

Workers may use conventional or disposable overalls, boiler suits, aprons or chemical suits.

The choice of materials includes flame-retardant, anti-static, chain mail, chemically impermeable, and high-visibility. Don't forget other protection, like safety harnesses or life jackets

Conclusions

Employees should:

• Be aware of all the hazards that are present in their workplace that require the need of PPE so that the most suitable PPE can be used.
• Identify and provide workers with appropriate PPE.
• Require workers to use them properly and maintain them in good conditions:
• Train the employees on when PPE is necessary, kind of PPE that should be worn, maintain of PPE and its limitations in the protection from injury.

Employees should:

• Wear PE properly
• Not misused or damage their PPE
• Maintain their PPE


Contributed by the labour monitoring and compliance section of the labour department

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