01 Apr 04/01/2020
Many industries and jobs have terms they shorten into acronyms to save everyone a mouthful of words. One that is heard in many workplaces is “PPE.” But what does PPE stand for, and why do you hear it used by workers everywhere—from linemen climbing telephone poles to riggers on an oil rig, to miners deep in the ground?
PPE stands for personal protective equipment. You can see why people prefer to shorten it! But don’t let those three little letters fool you into thinking PPE is unimportant. In March of 2020, to fight the spread of coronavirus that causes Covid-19, PPE manufacturers and distributors were designated as part of the Essential Critical Infrastructure Workforce and were called on to help state and local officials protect their communities scrambling to ensure public health and safety. PPE includes the crucial gear and equipment needed to conduct a range of operations and services and to keep workers safe across a wide variety of industries. Among other sectors, PPE is critical in medical and healthcare, telecommunications, information technology systems, defense, food and agriculture, transportation and logistics, energy, water and wastewater, law enforcement, and public works.
MCR Safety manufactures and supplies industries with gloves, safety glasses, protective garments, and FR clothing.
MCR Safety has been manufacturing and supplying PPE for over 45 years. We don’t take that responsibility lightly, as we know the products we provide protect our country, communities, and our families. Our company motto is “We Protect People” and, perhaps now more than ever, the weight of that responsibility is one we bear proudly. During bleak times, such as the global fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, these words speak volumes to those who rely on and trust us to protect them.
As you’ll see below, PPE is vital for keeping millions of workers across the country safe while they perform the jobs that make modern life possible for all of us. Let’s look at what organizations like OSHA have to say about PPE, what different kinds of PPE exist, and how PPE plays an essential role in employee safety within various industries.
PPE Definition: The official PPE definition from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) states that personal protective equipment is any equipment worn to minimize exposure to hazards that cause serious workplace injuries and illnesses.
In a nutshell, it is clothing or equipment designed to protect workers from hazards on the job. Examples of safety hazards include the following:
This list goes on and on—we’ve only covered the tip of the iceberg. It is important to note that the fundamental principle behind PPE is that it be used as a last resort. PPE doesn’t replace other safety measures, but some jobs come with unavoidable risks that only can be mitigated by wearing the proper protective gear. Hazard elimination and engineering and administrative controls are the essential steps in keeping workers safe. However, when safety hazards still exist, employers must provide their workers with appropriate PPE.
PPE does have limitations, which is why it is considered a last resort. Here are some characteristic limitations of PPE:
Even with its limitations, one is better off wearing PPE than not wearing it. You only get one set of eyes, that’s it. Does it not make sense, then, to keep them protected with safety glasses? Yes, and it’s one of the many reasons why PPE is essential.
A Christmas Story is a famous movie to watch during the holidays. In it, the mother character has a famous quote where she tells her son, Ralphie, “You’ll shoot your eye out, you’ll shoot your eye out!” Well, Ralphie does eventually injure his eye, though thankfully not as bad as his mother warned. As playful and funny as the movie is, that quote serves as an essential reminder: safety glasses are easy to forget, but the eyes are delicate, and it only takes one injury to blind you. We like to remind kids to put “safety first,” but that goes for adults, too. If you work in a dangerous job, PPE, including safety glasses, is a necessary safety precaution and one that should not be treated lightly.
A "Safety First" mentality should be practiced by all.
Wearing protective equipment on the job may seem like a prominent practice, right? No one wants to get hurt—or worse—on the job. But plenty of workers are tempted to neglect their PPE when it is uncomfortable, cumbersome, expensive, or gets left at home. It can be easy to justify not gearing up whenever it’s inconvenient. However, in some work, it only takes one incident of negligence to cause serious injury, disability, or death.
There are other reasons always to wear PPE in jobs that require it:
PPE is often discussed in the context of manufacturing and repair jobs, but it’s vital in the healthcare and emergency response industries as well. Nothing has proven this more than the recent coronavirus pandemic.
Coronavirus and many other infectious diseases are spread by droplets of saliva and mucus that become airborne and land on surfaces when infected individuals cough or sneeze. All it takes to spread the disease is for a healthy person to breathe in those droplets or to touch a contaminated surface and then touch their mouth, nose, or eyes.
Medical PPE is vital to preventing this kind of transmission. Disposable gloves, goggles, face shields, protective suits, and masks are all helpful at protecting healthcare workers and in reducing illness, whether during a pandemic, flu season, or at any additional time.
In the United States, OSHA oversees federal regulations for workplace safety. The agency publishes guidelines for employers and employees in all lines of work to follow to keep everyone safe on the job.
Naturally, OSHA has a lot to say about PPE. The agency sets and enforces many different standards that PPE must meet, depending on the industry and specific hazards. OSHA 1910.32 is the governing regulation for personal protective equipment, and it requires that employers provide it at no cost to employees
Furthermore, OSHA requires that many categories of PPE meet performance safety standards developed by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). This kind of oversight is meant to keep American workers safe no matter what their profession.
According to OSHA, employers are responsible for ensuring employees have proper protective gear and training for their work. Each industry has specific regulations to follow, but here are some of OSHA’s general requirements that apply to all PPE:
OSHA has many resources for employers and employees who have questions about PPE. We cover their PPE eTool in our next section.
For an employer to know what type of PPE their workers must wear, they must first determine what hazards are present that require protection before assigning PPE to workers. For each of the hazard types listed below, OSHA’s eTool dives more in-depth into each one, helping identify tasks surrounding specific hazards.
OSHA also highlights protection for these five common hazard types. Keep in mind, MCR Safety’s 360° hazard assessment can help you identify these hazards, too, along with offering PPE suggestions to consider and evaluate.
There are many kinds of PPE. It can be best categorized by what part of the body it protects against, along with what hazards are faced. Different PPE is used to protect every part of the body from the head to the feet against a variety of dangers caused by heat, cold, chemicals, noise, falls, cuts, and more.
Here are some common examples of PPE used in different industries:
MCR Safety specializes in four core PPE product categories: safety glasses, gloves, FR clothing, and protective garments. Each type is vast and deep, with protective solutions offered for workers across numerous industries. Take, for example, protective garments, which include hi-vis vests, rainwear, disposable clothes, chemical protection, steel-toed boots, and more. Each one is designed and engineered to protect workers from different workplace hazards.
You can quickly get to each PPE product category by clicking the images below.
By now, you should be convinced never to skip wearing PPE on the job. The risk is just too high. But you should also take care to wear it correctly. That includes putting on and taking off protective gear in the right sequence.
Why does this matter? Some jobs, such as in the medical field, require multiple pieces of PPE, and they should be put on in layers to work most effectively. Sometimes it is vital to remove contaminated PPE in the right order so as not to contaminate other pieces of clothing that are closer to your body.
Let’s look at medical PPE as an example. The correct sequence for putting on medical PPE is:
Here, it makes sense to start with the gown because the other items might make putting a gown on more difficult, and the gloves are meant to cover the wrist of the gown and hold the sleeves in place.
To remove these items, a healthcare worker follows this order:
Here, the gloves come off first because they are most likely to be contaminated from working with a patient. The mask comes off last because removing everything else could potentially send pathogens clinging to the gown or goggles into the air. Removing this PPE also begins with a fifth step of washing one’s hands thoroughly to reduce the risk of transmission further.
The sequence to don and doff PPE will differ depending on the pieces an employee is wearing and what hazard they are trying to avoid. That is why employers should perform regular PPE training to ensure all workers know the correct way to put on and take off their PPE safely.
Two or three times a year, we invite safety companies, industrial distributors, and PPE users out for training sessions on the MCR Safety product line and PPE in general. Our training schedule is posted here. In this training, we go deeper into specific industries, applications, and hazards.
We also have representatives in the field who can assist with training, too. Please leave us a comment if that is something you would like to have implemented.
No one can doubt the importance of PPE in the workplace. MCR Safety is proud to protect America’s workers with proven PPE that is not only safe but comfortable. You’ll never regret wearing our carefully designed products. They prevent injury and let you continue working the job you love with confidence.
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For over 45 years, MCR Safety has proven to be a world leader in gloves, glasses, and garments. Whether it's on the shop floor, an oil rig, or a construction site, we are there to provide solutions to workplace hazards. It's all part of our commitment to protect people.
No matter your industry, we have the personal protective equipment you need.
Learn more about MCR Safety by checking out our most recent video. For more information, browse our website, request a catalog, find a distributor, or give us a call at (800) 955-6887.