Protecting Workers from Head to Toe
Maximize workers safety, comfort and compliance.
- By Tito Warren
- Oct 03, 2022
Protecting workers from injury is the top priority for safety professionals, and there is no substitute for high-quality PPE. According to the National Safety Council, the most common causes of workplace injuries that require days away from work include exposure to harmful substances or environments, overexertion and slips, trips and falls. Staying current on the latest innovations and materials in PPE will help you maximize worker safety, comfort and compliance.
This article covers areas commonly affected by workplace injuries and what to look for in hard hats, safety glasses, performance workwear, hand protection and safety footwear to protect the workers you oversee.
Safeguard the Head and Eyes
A correctly fitted safety hard hat can protect workers from falling objects and obstacles at head level, an unseen risk that employees are often unable to avoid. The level of protection needed varies according to the activity, so when choosing a hard hat, think through what specific protections your workers need based on the job (i.e., light impact versus potential to be around sharp objects), which can vary greatly based on the industry and job site. Those who work in construction and near or around electricity typically need stronger head-protection gear. For construction workers, look for a hard hat with a cover to deflect objects and a cap to absorb shock. Workers who are exposed to electrical hazards should have safety hard hats that resist electrical currents and reduce shock.
Protection for the eyes can be one of the most forgotten forms of PPE due to its removability and potential for discomfort. Safety glasses must be provided and worn in environments with dangerous particles, molten metals, any form of liquid or acid and flying or moving objects. Look for lenses that match the needs of your work environment. Today, there are many lens features to choose from, including anti-scratch and anti-fog capabilities, the ability to keep out harmful UV radiation, side and brow protection and more.
Assure Proper Body Coverage
Outfitting employees with proper performance workwear is essential for minimizing injury and keeping workers comfortable. Today, PPE utilizes new material innovations to provide light, comfortable protection that adheres to safety standards. For example, jackets, coveralls and other pieces of workwear now have venting details to allow air circulation to keep workers cool and comfortable all day long. Alternatively, workers in cold environments have insulated options that are wind and water resistant. Small details matter and can make a real difference when it comes to worker comfort.
Defend Their Hands
PPE for hands, such as reinforced gloves, is also important as hands and fingers are very susceptible to injuries on every working job site, no matter the industry. According to OSHA, common hand hazards include chemical burns, injury from extreme temperature exposure (hot and cold), puncture wounds and lacerations. Outfitting workers with the correct gloves can prevent these injuries and is often required due to the high-risk nature of the area.
Know that not all gloves are created equal. Look for gloves that offer the hand protection and dexterity function based on the jobs that your workers are doing. Today, gloves are made with materials like thermoplastic rubber for impact protection on fingers, high-performance spandex on the top of the hand for durability and synthetic leather for increased abrasion resistance.
A well-fitting glove should fit snugly but not tightly. An ideal pair of gloves will have an adjustable fit. Without the right fit, mobility can be decreased and safety compromised. The correct fitting glove relieves fatigue so gloves can be worn for long periods of time to offer sustained protection. When choosing gloves for your crew, look for high-quality materials that provide mobility, protection and comfort.
Protect Their Feet
Protective footwear is equally personal, and one size or style won’t work for everyone. Much like every job site, each worker’s foot is unique. Footwear that doesn’t fit properly can cause discomfort for employees as well as fatigue, blisters, shin splits and other injuries, in addition to being a safety hazard.
Recent innovations in work boot fit methods utilize Artificial Intelligence and 3D-mapping technology to analyze the size, shape, arch height, volume and pressure points of a worker’s foot. For safety professionals, combining this new technology with an assessment of work environment conditions and safety needs can help you ensure all-day comfort and minimize the chances of jobsite injury for your employees.
When it comes to the footwear itself, recently improved technologies provide a range of features that can help companies best outfit workers.
- Material advances such as non-metallic toe caps, lightweight outsole materials, innovative support systems and mixed-material construction have made it possible to create functional footwear that looks stylish but performs like work boots.
- New heating and cooling technologies benefit workers who work in environments with extreme or varied temperatures, who can take advantage of footwear options that include breathable or insulated/warming materials that suit their working conditions.
- Gender-specific designs that take into consideration the differences in shape between women’s and men’s feet to enable the best possible fit.
Safety professionals strive to help their employees find safety footwear that has the right fit and materials to ensure all-day comfort and safety.
Select the Right PPE Partner
Staying up to date with the latest PPE innovations allows companies to outfit workers with the best protection available. When looking for a PPE provider, it’s important that they are relentless about protecting the safety of your workers. The ideal PPE partner will be your guide through the outfitting process, working with you to determine your company’s needs and will help you build a customized program to provide your workers with PPE options from head to toe. And once your employee safety program is established, top PPE partners provide solutions for program management and execution and the ability for workers to purchase company-approved PPE in stores, on the jobsite via mobile stores or online.
At the end of the day, safety professionals’ number one priority is to keep workers safe, and to do so, they need to equip workers with the best PPE possible. Now is a great time to evaluate your PPE programs to ensure you are taking advantage of the latest innovations and solutions to support employee safety.
This article originally appeared in the October 1, 2022 issue of Occupational Health & Safety.