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Category Archive: Personal Protective Equipment

Bloodborne Pathogens at Work: Are You at Risk?

bloodborne pathogens at workBloodborne pathogens are a risk in many professions, some expected (e.g. doctors, nurses) and some not (e.g. janitorial staff). In this blog post, we’ll look at bloodborne pathogen exposure risks in different professions and provide links to additional resources.

What are Bloodborne Pathogens?

Bloodborne pathogens are infectious microorganisms found in human blood. Common pathogens include hepatitis B, hepatitis C and HIV. Pathogens are transmitted when blood or body fluids from an infected person come into contact with another person through eyes, nose, mouth or broken skin.

Healthcare Workers and Hospitals

As you might expect, those employed in patient care, such as doctors, nurses and paramedics, are at risk of exposure to bloodborne pathogens. Here, the greatest risk of exposure is from accidental pokes or cuts from needles or other sharp instruments. For example, if a healthcare worker administers a needle to an infected patient, then accidentally pokes him- or herself, the pathogen can transfer. That’s why hospitals and other healthcare facilities have detailed procedures for safe handling of sharps. (For more on this, see the CDC’s Sharps Safety for Healthcare Settings and the Needlestick Safety and Prevention Act.)

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Who Pays for PPE?

PPEMost of us know employers are responsible for ensuring their employees use personal protective equipment (PPE). But did you know employers are also responsible for providing PPE at no cost when it’s required under an OSHA standard?

Final Rule of Employer Payment for Personal Protective Equipment

The “employer pays” Final Rule has been in place since May 15, 2008. The Rule makes explicit what was already implied in many OSHA standards: employers have to cover the costs of PPE. This includes common items such as:

  1. Goggles
  2. Hard hats
  3. Chemical resistant gloves/aprons/clothing
  4. Respiratory protection
  5. Fall protection
  6. Reflective work vests
  7. Fire fighting PPE
  8. Welding PPE.

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Stone Countertops and Silica Dust Hazards

silica dust hazardsWhen you chop vegetables on your beautiful stone kitchen countertop, the last thing you think about is silica dust.

Yet, silica dust hazards are real for masons who craft natural or engineered stone countertops. In fact, OSHA and NIOSH recently released a Hazard Alert on worker exposure to silica during countertop manufacturing, finishing and installation.

What is Silica Dust?

To understand the hazard, you need to understand silica. Silica is a mineral often found in quartz, sandstone and other rocks. Silica dust is created when silica is manipulated in a way that generates fine particles or dust that can be inhaled.

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Protecting Your Skin From Hazardous Chemicals in the Workplace

skin protection from hazardous chemicalsMany workers are exposed to hazardous chemicals in the course of their work. While you might expect chemical exposure in some industries (such as agriculture, manufacturing and construction), hazardous chemicals are also often unexpectedly present in other workplaces, such as salons and funeral homes.

Wherever you’re exposed to hazardous chemicals—whether pouring concrete or coloring hair­—it’s important to protect yourself. Hazardous chemicals can enter your body in a variety of ways, but perhaps the most common is the skin.

Normally, the skin keeps bad elements (e.g. harmful bacteria and dirt) from entering the body and good elements (e.g. water) from leaving. When skin is damaged, its ability to perform these roles is compromised and, consequently, can lead to damage at the site of contact and elsewhere in the body.

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Real Life Workplace Injury and Injury Prevention Stories

workplace injuryIt can happen in an instant. A young worker gets entangled in a mortar mixer. A farm worker is thrown from a truck. A construction worker falls from second floor scaffolding. Sadly, all of these accidents could have been prevented through the implementation of better safety procedures and use of safety equipment.

Sometimes it’s hard to change an “it won’t happen to me” attitude. Training, reminders and enforcement penalties are important, but sometimes, real life examples of workplace accidents do more to convince workers to comply with safety regulations.

In this blog post, we’ve assembled a few sources of real life workplace injury stories. These stories—heartbreaking when an injury occurs; inspiring when an injury is prevented—serve to remind us of the continued importance of workplace safety.

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Hearing Protection in the Workplace

hearing protectionSadly, some workers continue to suffer hearing loss from hazardous noise levels in the workplace. In fact, the CDC reported 23,000 cases of occupational hearing loss in 2007, accounting for 14 percent of all occupational illnesses.

Today, 22 million U.S. workers are exposed to hazardous noise levels on the job. High noise levels are commonly found in construction, mining, manufacturing, agriculture and transportation. Musicians and support crews are also frequently exposed to dangerously high noise levels.

Fortunately, high noise levels don’t have to lead to hearing loss. Through a combination of administrative and engineering controls, as well as personal protective equipment, you and your employees can prevent hearing loss.

Symptoms of Hearing Loss

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Fall Protection for Residential Roofers

fall protectionFor the past few years, OSHA has made fall protection a major focus of its education and compliance efforts. But unfortunately, fall accidents and fatalities remain at unacceptable levels. In fact, falls remain the leading cause of death in construction—with 294 fall fatalities in 2013.

More recently, OSHA has turned its attention to fall prevention among roofers, and residential roofers specifically. This may be partially because the majority of fatalities from roof falls occur within small construction companies.

If you follow the news, it’s not hard to see evidence of the failure of some residential roofers to use fall protection equipment. For example, in December, a Nebraska residential roofing company was assessed penalties of $140,000 for exposing employees to dangerous fall hazards.

Falls from Residential Roofing Versus Commercial Roofing

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Get Familiar With Fall Protection Equipment

fall protection equipmentWhile most of us understand the importance of fall protection equipment, it’s not always clear what this equipment is and what constitutes a complete fall protection system. In this post, we’ll review the four most critical components of a fall protection system:

1. Harnesses: Attaches to the body.

2. Anchors: Attaches to a fixed surface.

3. Lanyards and lifelines: Connects harnesses to anchors.

4. Rescue steps: Increases blood circulation in fallen workers while awaiting rescue.

Let’s look at each of these components in more detail.

Fall Protection Harnesses

In the past, fall protection systems used belts, chest harnesses or full body harnesses to secure the body. Today, belts are no longer used for fall protection (unless combined with full harnesses) because it’s possible to slip through them. Also, when suspended from a belt, workers can suffer injuries from the pressure on their waists.

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Prevent Eye Injuries With the Right Eye Protection

eye protectionAccording to the Center for Disease Control, every day more than 2,000 U.S. workers receive some form of medical treatment for eye injuries sustained at work. Every year, U.S. workers suffer from more than 800,000 work-related eye injuries.

These are some big numbers. What’s even more startling is that safety experts estimate that eye protection could have prevented or lessened the severity of 90 percent of these injuries.

Workers can face a multitude of eye hazards on the job, including flying objects, extreme heat, chemicals (including liquids and gases), dust and optical radiation. Industries particularly prone to eye injuries are production, construction, installation/maintenance/repair, service and transportation.

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How to Select Air Respirators for Your Workplace

air respiratorsSelecting the right air respirators for your workplace is no easy task. Get it wrong and the result could be catastrophic. While you should seek help from an experienced safety professional before choosing respirators for your workplace, it’s helpful to understand the many different types of respirators on the market.

To help, here’s a quick overview:

Air Purifying vs. Supplied Air

All respirators can be divided into two main groups: air purifying or supplied air. Air purifying respirators filter particulates or gasses out of the existing air supply. In contrast, supplied air respirators don’t use the existing air at all—they get their air from a separate, secure source. Continue Reading

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