The person who conducts the hazard assessment must have an intimate knowledge of each task and should directly observe the employees, looking for hazard sources such as high temperatures, chemicals, dust, sources for falling objects and the potential for dropped objects, the potential for struck/by hazards, moving vehicles and equipment, and more.

Keys to Effective Head & Face Protection

The National Safety Council's "Injury Facts, 2017 Edition" informs us that the most expensive lost-time workers' compensation claims are for those involving the head and central nervous system.

Here's an example of what you don’t want to read about your company:

Aug. 9, 2017
ST. AUGUSTINE, FL -- The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has again cited a North Florida roofing contractor for failing to protect its workers from the risks of dangerous falls and other hazards at two St. Augustine work sites. . . .

In this recent case, OSHA's citations said the employer committed a repeat violation by not ensuring each affected employee used appropriate eye or face protection when exposed to hazards from flying particles, molten metal, liquid chemicals, acids or caustic liquids, chemical gases or vapor, or potentially harmful light radiation. The violation was not ensuring that roofing workers were protected from eye injuries while using pneumatic nail guns. There were numerous other violations, according to OSHA, which issued proposed penalties totaling $1,523,710 and also placed the employer in its Severe Violator Enforcement Program.

Following the Hierarchy of Controls
Knowing how to prevent head, eye, and facial head injuries isn't expensive, at least when compared with the cost of a serious injury. The National Safety Council's "Injury Facts, 2017 Edition" informs us that the most expensive lost-time workers' compensation claims are for those involving the head and central nervous system. These injuries averaged $87,086 per claim filed in 2013 and 2014—about 40 percent higher than the next-highest cost, $62,386, for injuries involving multiple body parts.

Wearing inadequate protection or none at all is not an alternative if the hazards involved in a given task cannot be eliminated, engineered out, or solved through administrative controls. Because these preferred steps in the hierarchy of controls are not tried or would not be effective in many cases, eye, face, and head protective products are required in workplaces of all kinds.

Training on use of the PPE and the hazards is still necessary, and companies should start the process of selecting and having workers use the head and face PPE by making a comprehensive assessment of eye and face hazards and choosing PPE to protect against each of them.

They should then require that the appropriate PPE is worn by affected workers, that they both wear it and maintain it when and how they should, and that no one is exposed to the hazards without wearing that protection.

Conducting the Hazard Assessment
A hazard assessment is simply the investigation of a task and the hazards and potential hazards associated with it. Doing this right allows you to specify protective eyewear, sideshields, faceshields, hard hats, hearing protection, and other PPE that will be effective.

You can conduct a hazard assessment for one employee who performs a single task or groups of employees who perform the same task, such as welders who are exposed to ultraviolet radiation during one type of welding or laboratory workers who are exposed to chemical splashes. The person who conducts the hazard assessment must have an intimate knowledge of each task and should directly observe the employees, looking for hazard sources such as high temperatures, chemicals, dust, sources for falling objects and the potential for dropped objects, the potential for struck/by hazards, moving vehicles and equipment, and more.

Many safety manufacturers have focused in recent years on products to prevent tools and other objects from being dropped from heights. Dropped objects are a serious concern for oil and gas companies because they're a leading cause of injuries—so much so that a compendium of best practices to prevent drops has been developed this year by oil and gas professionals and posted at http://dropsonline.org/assets/documents/DROPS-Recommended-Practice-2017.pdf.

It's must reading, covering everything from risk assessments and the hierarchy of controls to training, inspections, transporting equipment and loads, and it offers checklists, a link to a DROPS calculator , and sample management of change forms.

Inspecting Your Hard Hat
Here are tips for hard hat inspection, care, and use:

  • Don't store a hard hat in direct sunlight. Manufacturers recommend that workers never leave their hard hats in the rear window well of a vehicle or anywhere the hard hat would be exposed to sunlight while not in use. UV rays can do significant damage.
  • Clean the shell and suspension system with mild soap and rinse with warm water, and also inspect the shell for damage, excess wear, perforations, or cracking.
  • Inspect the suspension straps for cuts and wear, as well as for signs of chemical damage.
  • Don't drill holes in the shell of a hard hat unless instructed to do so by a manufacturer.
  • Don't use adhesives, paints, or cleaning solvents on your hard hat unless the use is approved by its manufacturer.

Key Standards
The important consensus standards in this area include:

  • ANSI/ISEA Z87.1-2015, American National Standard for Occupational and Educational Personal Eye and Face Protection Devices. The standard prescribes performance specifications for products such as eyewear, faceshields, and welding helmets.
  • ANSI/ISEA Z89.1-2014, American National Standard for Industrial Head Protection. This standard provides performance and testing requirements for industrial hard hats, both Type I for top protection and Type II for protection against lateral impacts.

OSHA's important standards include 1910.132, the main personal protective equipment standard; 1910.133, Eye and Face Protection; and 1910.252(b)(2), the eye protection section within the Welding, Cutting, and Brazing standard.

This article originally appeared in the November 2017 issue of Occupational Health & Safety.

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