Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Personal Protective Equipment

I've had a couple of incidents in the past week that have driven home the importance of safety gear, often referred to as Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). Between a shot to the safety glasses and some hearing damage, I got a much-needed refresher in wearing all the gear and making sure it all fits and is in proper working order.

There are many types of PPE oriented at a wide array of hazards. While PPE is something you never want to have to rely on, it remains the last defense against injury when working in hazardous situations. After a disaster, when performing preventative maintenance, or when doing any other rough, dirty task, at least some PPE is called for. What PPE you select depends on the particular task and conditions.

For most tasks, a simple, sturdy work boot will perform admirably. In especially wet conditions (such as following flooding), rubber boots or overshoes will let you work longer and more safely. Insulated boots are great in winter conditions, and good socks will keep your feet warm and prevent foot injuries.

David did a great job covering gloves in Episode 39 of the GunBlog VarietyCast. There are virtually endless options when it comes to gloves, and he delivers a wonderful primer. Give it a listen, and if you still have questions afterward, ask away!

I mentioned earlier that I took a shot to my glasses. We use rolls of spring steel to pull wire at work, and they get a bit out of hand when they're being coiled for storage. Getting smacked isn't uncommon, and thankfully I had my safety glasses on, or I could have easily done permanent harm to my eye.

General-use eye protection is quite inexpensive, and mostly comes down to preference in fit, style, and lens color. The real thing to look for is glasses marked ANSI Z87.1 or 87.1+, because this is the testing standard used by OSHA to ensure proper protection. As a rule, you want your glasses to fit as closely to your face as possible, limiting the space for particles and debris to get to your eyes.

If you wear prescription glasses, there are a few ways to deal with eye protection. If you wear contacts, you can simply use the same eye protection as folks without correction. There are also over-glasses or over-goggles, which fit over top of your prescription glasses (this is definitely the budget option). There are also prescription safety glasses available, usually from the same places you get your regular glasses. While not cheap, these are definitely the best-performing option. Purpose-made glasses like these tend to fit better, with a wealth of customization available.

Ear Protection
The other recent incident I had involved my ears. I went shooting with a friend over the weekend, and used some in-ear protection that ended up fitting poorly and providing little protection in one ear. I've had tinnitis for years, but this incident definitely advanced it, and left me with a "flat spot" in that ear. Any time it gets loud, you need to protect your ears.

Earpro is available in both in-ear and over-ear varieties. For all but the loudest conditions, inexpensive foam plugs work wonderfully, assuming they fit your ear. If plugs don't fit in your ears, there are also muffs that work well. Muffs and plugs can also be paired to protect from more extreme noise. There are also electronic muffs available. These allow near-normal hearing under quiet conditions, but cut out loud noises before they hit your ear.

(Editor's Note: Electronic muffs are wonderful because you can talk normally while wearing them without having to SHOUT ALL THE TIME. However, in my experience, e-muffs don't muffle nearly as well as the non-electronic types -- doubly so when wearing eye protection which prevents the muffs from making a good seal around your ears. In those situations, I highly recommend doubling up with in-ear protection.)

Even your clothing can be considered PPE. Sturdy pants can protect from debris and cuts, long-sleeved shirts can curb insect bites, lowering the possibility of contracting some diseases, and hats can keep inclement weather off your face

Proper clothing is vital for preventing heat and cold injuries. Dress for the occasion.


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