15 Frequently-Asked Questions (FAQ) about PPE from Workers
“15 Frequently-Asked Questions (FAQ) about PPE from Workers” is an excerpt from Superior Glove’s PPE Bible “The Complete Guide to Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) [+ Checklist Download].” Read the full guide for more information, including how to choose Personal Protective Equipment and create a PPE program.
15 Frequently-Asked Questions (FAQs) about PPE from Workers:
Below are answers to questions that your employees may ask about PPE, which you may wish to address as part of workplace training.
1. What is PPE?
PPE includes anything someone can use or wear to mitigate the threats that workplace hazards pose to health and safety.
Depending on the tasks and environment, workers use PPE such as:
- Ear plugs
- Safety harnesses
- Hi-viz clothing
- Helmets, hardhats and facial protection
The nature and purpose of these equipment pieces vary between jobs and worksites. For example, workers in the oil and gas industry need gloves that protect against crushing and pinching. On the other hand, glass-handling gloves help the wearer properly grip glass to prevent cuts and strains.
Employers typically use PPE as a final measure to protect employees against apparent dangers, whereas hazard-control techniques – such as substituting faulty equipment – are a first-line of defense.
2. Do Employers or Employees Pay for PPE?
The answer to this question depends on where you work. Country to country and region to region, it can greatly vary.
In Canada, for example, the Occupational Health and Safety Regulations state that employers must provide PPE to each employee who needs it. But this does not explicitly mean the employer must purchase equipment for each worker.
Furthermore, the regulations do not clarify which pieces of equipment employers must provide. Many construction and factory workers buy their own hardhats and steel toe boots. Equipment that’s not as widely sold is typically given to them.
So, who pays for PPE can depend on equipment-by-equipment and workplace-by-workplace bases.
3. What Should I do if I Can’t Afford to Buy PPE?
Generally, this is not an issue you should face.
In the aforementioned Canadian Occupational Health and Safety Regulations, many employers interpret the rule to provide PPE as a requirement to purchase it for workers.
If this is not the case and you cannot afford to buy a certain piece of PPE, discuss the issue with your boss.
In the United States, OSHA mandates that employers must pay for all PPE. This rule has been in effect since 2008, also requiring that employers make sure that any employee-purchased PPE provides adequate protection.
4. When Should I Use PPE?
Employees must use PPE as outlined in their workplaces’ guidelines, which should largely follow government protocol.
In this respect, employers should mandate the use of the PPE as a:
- Last Resort: There are no other control measures to mitigate risks
- Back-up Measure: PPE supplements other, more-effective control measures
- Temporary Policy: An effective control measure is currently being implemented
Most work environments mandate the use of PPE as a back-up measure, protecting employees from danger if other defense mechanisms fail.
However, speak to your employer if you feel the PPE you are required to use is not effective in this sense.
Keep your workers safe by downloading this checklist, helping you choose the right PPE for your worksite
5. What Standard of PPE Am I Required to Follow?
The standard of PPE which you must follow depends on where you’re located, as well as company-specific procedures.
Governmental acts and standards in English-speaking countries include:
- Occupational Safety and Health Act (United States)
- Occupational Health and Safety Regulations (Canada)
- Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations (United Kingdom)
- Model Work Health and Safety Act (Australia)
- The Health and Safety in Employment Act (New Zealand)
Without violating the relevant act or standard, companies may have unique PPE rules which workers must follow. For example, certain worksites may call for use of a specific piece of safety equipment.
As an employee, you are obligated to follow these rules to minimize risks you may face.
6. Who Decides What PPE I Should Wear for a Job?
Your employer, in accordance with the above-mentioned act or standard, should decide the kinds of PPE you should wear for a specific job.
If you feel you need another – or different – piece of PPE, talk to your manager.
7. How Do I Choose the Right PPE for the Job?
Choosing the right PPE for the job is another task that’s largely the responsibility of your employer, and is based on a variety of factors.
For example, OSHA mandates that PPE selection must follow workplace assessment results.
Specifically, employers must identify and analyze workplace hazards that would call for the use of PPE. But before selecting PPE to match a given hazard – such as using Kevlar® Steel or Dyneema® Steel gloves to protect against cuts – they must determine if they can effectively address the hazard another way. For example, can the hazard be mitigated by guards?
If employers cannot do so, they must choose the right PPE for affected employees.
8. Is PPE Important?
Yes. Each kind of PPE plays a role in workplace safety, but all help contribute to worker safety.
Consider that 8.1% of fatal work injuries in the US are caused by being struck by an object, according to a 2014 United States Department of Labor study. What’s more, 8.2% of fatalities were electrocutions.
In many cases, the damage could have been lessened with appropriate PPE such as hardhats and electrical gloves.
9. What’s the Most Necessary Piece of PPE?
There is no single answer to this question, as the correct response depends on:
- The nature of your job
- The types of hazards in your workplace
- If PPE is used as a last resort for certain hazards and not others
For example, if handling sharp material is a crucial part of your role, using cut-resistant gloves may be the only way to prevent injuries. In this case, the gloves may be the most necessary piece of PPE.
If different pieces of PPE are used as last safety resorts, one may not be more important than another.
10. Legally, Do I Have to Wear PPE?
The answer to this question varies depending on where you work. Generally, the legal onus falls on your employer to ensure you’re properly using PPE.
For example, the United States Department of Labor mandates that employers must train each worker who is required to use PPE. They must know how to use each piece of necessary equipment, as well as the limitations of said equipment.
Canada’s Occupational Health and Safety Regulations also state that employers must:
- Provide PPE and other protective devices
- Make sure these resources are used as prescribed
- Maintain these resources in usable conditions
The second point in the above list indicates that, legally, employers must ensure employees properly use PPE.
But if you flagrantly disregard workplace guidelines, your employer will likely determine the consequences.
Select the right PPE by downloading this checklist
11. Should PPE Be My First Course of Action for Safety?
Not normally. Using or wearing PPE is typically a final, not first, course of action for safety.
Although PPE plays an important role, your employer should prioritize hazard-control measures to protect your livelihood. Because of such measures, most workplaces mandate PPE as a back-up or temporary safety method.
However, in the case that there are no other ways to stop or mitigate apparent risks, using PPE can act as a first action for safety.
12. Can I Be Fined for Not Wearing PPE?
Many governmental health and safety bodies fine employers for disregarding PPE.
For example, OSHA can issue citations to an organization for each worker ignoring or improperly following PPE standards.
To receive a per-employee fine, the employer must meet one of these requirements:
- Many violations caused high rates of injuries or illnesses
- A violation led to damage such as a worksite catastrophe, worker fatality or injuries and illnesses
- The employer has violated regulations in the past or has purposely disregarded OSHA-mandated responsibilities, undermining the effectiveness of an OSHA program
- The employer’s overall conduct – as partially demonstrated through employees – demonstrates a lack of faith in OSHA
Your actions can lead to these violations, incurring fines for your employer.
13. I Find PPE To Be Too Uncomfortable. Can I Refuse to Wear It?
If you find a given piece of PPE to be uncomfortable, you should ask your employer for an alternative or suggest a different model.
Outright refusal to wear PPE on the grounds of comfort is unlikely a valid reason in the eyes of your employer. On the other hand, your employer may see refusal due to health or religious issues as legitimate.
For example, if a particular pair of work boots triggers a skin condition such as psoriasis, your employer should work with you to find another method of foot protection – even if it simply involves providing a different kind of footwear.
Regardless, you should discuss issues regarding inability to use PPE with your supervisor.
14. What Should I Do if I got Hurt While Wearing PPE?
First and foremast, you or your colleagues must alert management and seek the appropriate level of medical attention.
Beyond this, the specific answer to the question depends on factors such as:
- The severity of the injury: You may be entitled to worker’s compensation. For example, some legal acts ensure compensation for wage loss as the result of a work-related injury or disability.
- The cause of the injury: If it was the result of a complete accident, bringing the cause to your employer’s attention is the first step in it being addressed. But if you felt you were injured because of employer negligence, such as inability to identify hazards, you have the right to seek legal consultation.
- Legal protection: Depending on legislation, you may be able to hold your employer accountable for damages if you feel their negligence was at least partly responsible for your injury.
After receiving medical attention, keep these factors in mind as you consider your next step – be it asking for a brief, paid absence or pursuing legal action.
15. What Should I Do if I Get Hurt While NOT Wearing PPE?
Just as if you were wearing PPE, your first steps are to alert management and seek medical attention.
However, you likely do not have the same range of options afterwards.
Although you may receive worker’s compensation, you may not be able to hold your employer accountable for your disregard for PPE. Especially if your managers taught you how and when to use PPE, as per legislation.
Because of this, company policy will generally determine a course of action.
Final Thoughts About This PPE Guide
Reading and referencing this guide will help you create, run and refine a cost-effective PPE program that protects your workers and colleagues.
And by downloading the checklist, you’ll be able to choose PPE best suited to keep your workers safe from worksite hazards.
With safe employees, you’ll enjoy a happier and more productive workplace.