2020 really is the year that PPE (or, for those who don’t yet know, personal protective equipment) went mainstream. For those of us active in the safety sector, PPE has been a huge concern for years. In every issue of COS, we shine a light on a key piece of PPE. We’re lucky enough to speak with experts all over Canada for insider tips, the best of which are below.
In our first PPE feature of the year, our writer Linda Johnson revealed that excessive noise can pose a hazard in occupations not generally associated with a high risk of hearing loss such as hospitality or healthcare. To prevent against this issue, hearing protection is of course essential, but Anna Van Maanen, audiologist at WorkSafeBC, also had this very simple piece of advice:
“Ideally, you do not start off with hearing protection; the first step in hearing conservation is reducing the noise at its source,” says Maanen.
Protective clothing for women
One of our more recent features concludes that one size very definitely does not fit all. Well-fitting PPE has been a struggle for many female workers for decades. Ill-fitting PPE can be hazardous for all workers leading to trips or falls for too-big shoes, hard hats falling off or large, oversized clothing getting caught or snagged.
Professor Jim Brophy, of the University of Windsor, said that in certain industries which require PPE, female voices are not being seen: “and because they’re not visible, and because of the nature and stratification of our workforce — which is reinforced by gender — their voices are lacking in power or just simply ignored.”
An essential article that came out during the warmer months – heat protection is key for many workers outdoors and certain indoor settings. One key piece of advice from Kelly Fernandes, occupational hygienist at Workplace Safety and Prevention Services (WSPS)?
All companies should begin planning for heat stress before temperatures climb. Many companies don’t start considering the risk of heat stress until the summer is well underway: “Seasonal organizations are probably on top of it. But newer facilities, it’s not really on their radar until it gets hot out,” she says. “That’s when assessments happen, and they start creating their heat stress program for the next year.”
With our feature on hand protection due in our upcoming Jan/Feb 2021 issue, we’ll have all extremities covered! Linda Johnson writes that safety footwear is getting more and more technically advanced, with footwear best suited to their task essential for workers.
How should a proper boot fit? Graeme Hill, owner of Reddhart Workwear Stores, says:
“You want your toes to be able to wiggle around freely, not touching the cap. Yet, you also want the rest of the boot to fit snugly. Snugly is the word we like to use, not tight but snug. As you wear the boots, over the first couple of weeks, the inside lining and the boot tend to mould to your own feet, and the boots will become more comfortable.”
According to the CCOHS, 42,000 workers get injured annually due to fall accidents in Canada. It is essential for those working at heights to have correct fall protection equipment. There is a wealth of PPE available for workers at heights.
One piece of equipment, though, that is often overlooked is dropped object prevention: “You have to think about what’s beneath you, what happens if that worker drops a wrench or a hammer. If you drop that at six foot or above height, serious injury or even a fatality could occur,” says Erica Cole, product manager at Pure Safety Group.