Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and safety gear help prevent serious injury in case of an accident, protect against known hazards in the workplace, and offer added security on the job. Not using required safety gear can lead to fines for OSHA violations at the very least, and even severe injury or death in case of an incident.
When Is Safety Gear Required?
The best way to know when protective gear is required is to refer to OSHA guidelines, which will help ensure the appropriate equipment is provided and dictate when and where employees must use the equipment.
Generally, protective gear must be used whenever there is danger present—whether the hazard is process-related, traffic, environmental, chemical, or from another type of exposure. Safety gear may include items such as masks or helmets, but can also refer to shoes with traction soles or steel toes, appropriate gloves for grip or warmth, or work clothes designed with certain features or for specific purposes.
Common Safety Gear
Safety equipment must match the needs of the job. For example, if a task carries the risk of electric shock, the appropriate electrical safety gear and clothing must be available: Helmets and goggles may protect vulnerable areas, but a task that carries the risk of shock requires gear that targets electrical or shock hazard.
When thinking about protective gear, some of the most regularly used safety equipment includes:
- Ear protection, such as earplugs and noise-canceling headphones
- Impact-resistant safety glasses or goggles
- Helmet or hard hat
- Protective visor
- Reflective and high visibility clothing
- Dust mask or particle-filtering respirator mask
Safety Gear Requirements for Warehouses and Production Lines
In addition to safety clothing, ear protection, helmets, and protective eyewear, warehouse employees may need other safety gear, depending on what products they manage or tasks they’re assigned. Available gear should be tailored to the facility based on OSHA requirements, with additional safety equipment to meet individual employee needs, where appropriate. For example, splash, burn, or respiratory protection may be required in locations where warehouse employees are exposed to chemicals. Other necessary safety gear may include full-body suits, aprons, ventilators, impervious footwear, face shields, or heavy-duty gloves.
Additional safety gear that may be mandated, depending on the industry, includes:
- Flame-retardant or fire-resistant clothing
- Nape protectors
- Cold- or heat-protective clothing
- Knee pads, shin guards, and/or elbow pads
- Fatigue-reducing footwear
- Traction-improving devices
Tailor Facility Safety Gear to the Conditions
In locations where exposure to the elements is likely, cold temperature-rated coats, gloves, and hats, or further protection may be necessary. Similarly, for employees who spend the majority of their time outdoors, regardless of the weather, appropriate safety gear may include rain gear, sun-protective layers, or impact-resistant sunglasses.
How to Improve PPE and Safety Gear Compliance in the Workplace
PPE is designed to minimize exposure and reduce risk in the workplace. Some safety equipment is required by OSHA and other regulatory agencies, while other gear is optional. Improving observance of personal protective equipment and safety gear rules is one way to boost OSHA compliance. Ensuring staff members wear the appropriate gear requires a combination of training, signage, and asking for feedback.
Provide Proper Training
Training gives employees agency, allowing them to make better, educated decisions regarding safety gear use. Detailed safety instruction ensures the regulations are clear—and when paired with visual cues regarding risks, employees are able to make appropriate conclusions regarding necessary gear. When staff knows what’s expected, and how to meet the requirements, they’re more likely to comply.
Post Reminder Signage
Visual cues are clear reminders for employees who may have forgotten their PPE, or who may be new to the facility or specific department and may not yet know the requirements. Floor signs, floor marking tape, posters, and other visuals provide reminders to wear helmets, ear protection, goggles, and other safety equipment. Provide multiple prompts for employees to suit up, and good habits will form through repetition. The signage also remains a constant reminder for employees who may be on auto-pilot or otherwise rushing, encouraging them to prioritize safety.
Check in with staff regarding the available safety gear. If employees are skipping required gear because it is cost-prohibitive, company-provided equipment or purchase stipends may alleviate some of the burden and lead to better compliance. If safety gear is uncomfortable, ill-fitted, or cumbersome to put on, employees may avoid wearing PPE altogether, even when it’s required. Getting opinions regarding quality, fit, and ease of use may allow the purchase of more comfortable or user-friendly options.
Improve Facility-Wide Safety Culture
Beyond providing safety gear and encouraging its use, facilitating and supporting a company safety culture improves the chances that staff will follow implemented rules and requirements. Providing training and accepting—and acting upon—staff feedback can help improve and sustain safety culture. Creating a system that values instruction and encourages communication means staff who are more likely to understand and comply with the requirements, whether it’s a safety gear rule or other facility stipulation. Additionally, ensure safety equipment is conveniently located and easy to find, rather than an afterthought.
Keeping employees safe depends upon the employees themselves following the guidelines and safety rules that are in place. It takes more than simply providing the required safety gear to ensure compliance, so follow these steps to help improve the use of PPE and safety gear within the facility. For more industrial safety tips, explore our Resource Center.