The use of Personal Protective Equipment can be dated back to 1619 and the bubonic plague when French doctors thought of wearing head-to-toe protection when working with patients suffering from the infection. Although at the time, they did not understand how the infection spread from patient to patient, they knew to protect themselves. Other forms of PPE can be seen during the First World War when soldiers wore gas masks to protect themselves from Mustard Gas attacks. We could even go further into History into Ancient Times when soldiers wore headgear and body armour during battles. It is clear that Humans have been finding ways of protecting themselves for thousands of years.
So what is PPE and why is it so important today? Personal Protective Equipment and the use of PPE is essential to protect yourself, especially when working in dangerous environments. For the person not working on an offshore oil-rig, PPE can help in protecting others, as we live through the global pandemic, face masks have become compulsory (some countries semi-compulsory) to gain access to public areas.
Typical PPE used by a Bubonic Plague doctor
Gas masks used by soldiers in WW1
Typical PPE used by today’s healthcare workers on the front-line of the COVID-19 Pandemic
Here are 40 reasons why you should wear and use PPE
- It’s there for you
The first word of PPE is personal. PPE is the most personal control there is because it is only there to look after you.
- It protects you
The second word of PPE is protection. The whole reason for PPE is to protect you, so if you don’t wear or use it, it can’t do its job.
- You are important
Why do we even need PPE anyway? Because you are important! You only get one life, so protect it.
- It’s your last line of defense
Your PPE is the last barrier you have against hazards. There may be other controls in place, but your PPE is the control that stands in the way of any final or remaining risk, no matter how small.
- It’s easy
It’s easy to pop a hard hat on your head or stick on a pair of safety boots. In fact, it’s no harder than putting on a normal hat or pair of shoes but gives you much better protection.
- It’s replaceable
Gloves got ripped? Get a new pair. Your hard hat was hit? Get a new one. Not so easy to replace your skin or your skull.
- It’s there if all else fails
Yes, there are other controls in place. But what if they fail? Your PPE is there as your last line of defense.
- You control it
You might not be able to directly control if guards are in place, if people working above you are behaving safely, or if ventilation systems have been serviced. Maybe that’s someone else’s job to do. But you can control if you wear and use your PPE.
- You can check it
Other controls might be checked and inspection by someone else. Your PPE is something you can visually check before and during every use, so you know what condition it’s in, if it needs repairing and when it needs replacing.
- You know it’s there
You see it. You feel it. You know it’s there.
- It’s better than before
With improvements in technology and materials, PPE is always getting better and more advanced.
- It’s built for purpose
PPE was designed to protect you from the hazards you are exposed to. Wear the right PPE for the job for maximum protection.
- It’s tried and tested
PPE has to go through rigorous testing to meet the standards required.
- It protects your safety
Certain types of PPE are there to protect your safety, like harnesses to stop you falling, hard hats to prevent impact, and buoyancy aids to keep you afloat.
- It protects your health
Other types of PPE protect your health. Like dust masks keeping dust out your lungs, and gloves stopping you developing dermatitis.
- You only have one head
If something hits your hard hat, you can replace it. If something hits your head, you can’t just get a new one.
- You need to see
Could you do your job if you lost your sight? Eye protection will protect your eyes from projectiles and harmful splashes.
- You need to be seen
Hi-viz will help show others on site where you are. This is especially important with moving equipment like site plant and forklift trucks.
- You need your hands
We use our hands for the majority of tasks we do throughout the day. Gloves will help protect yours from sharp edges, hot surfaces and harmful substances.
- It helps you breathe
We need our lungs to function to remain active and healthy. Dust masks and more specialist respiratory protection will help you keep yours in top condition.
- It helps you sleep at night
Don’t wear your PPE to bed! But if you didn’t wear your ear defenders, then ringing ears could keep you awake.
- Your family needs you
Don’t take risks with your health and safety. Wearing PPE is an extra way to stay safe at work.
- It’s your responsibility
Your employer has a duty to provide you with PPE and make sure you wear it. But they can’t watch you at all times. It’s your responsibility to use the PPE provided and wear it correctly.
- It’s not optional
Wearing and using PPE is not a choice. If there is any risk to health and safety not adequately controlled by other means, PPE needs to be provided. Yes, you need to decide on the best and most suitable PPE for the task, but whether or not PPE is worn and used is not optional.
- It gets you on site
No boots, no hat, no job. We have seen the signs. It is very unlikely you would be able to get on site in this day and age without suitable PPE.
- It sets a good example
Everyone should wear and use PPE. From directors and managers to visitors and new starters.
- It gives a good impression
It looks professional because it is professional. It shows you have standards, and run a safe site.
- You will be ready for visits
Spot checks by the HSE, a drop in from a client? No problem, because everything is in order. You are wearing your PPE and practicing good health and safety
- It helps your reputation
If everyone is wearing and using the right PPE, then that first impression helps build your reputation as a business that does things right.
- There’s so much choice
There’s no longer a one size fits all approach to PPE. There are so many products on the market, from ranges designed specifically for women to sizes and fits for all shapes. Now you can make sure your PPE is compatible with you, and with each item you wear.
- It’s your personal insurance policy
PPE shouldn’t be the only control, risks should be stopped before they reach you where possible. But like insurance, PPE is there should the worst happen.
- You will be prepared for the worst
If the worst should the worst happen, with your PPE you will have a better chance of escaping unharmed.
- There are hazards you can’t see
Speaking of the hidden killer, there are other hazards you can’t see. Fumes, gases and dust that your PPE can protect you from.
- There are hazards you can’t smell
You would know if there was a dangerous chemical or fume in the air, right? Not always, but PPE doesn’t care if it can’t smell it, it will protect you anyway.
- We all make mistakes
Maybe not you. But what about other people on site, could they drop something, or forget to close a barrier, or press the wrong button. Your PPE will try to protect you from other peoples mistakes.
- It can stop an accident
We have mentioned how PPE can protect you from the results of an accident, but there are also types of PPE that can stop an accident. Think about how safety lanyards and harnesses can stop you getting into a position where you might fall.
- It can help you do your job
Your safety gloves can give you a better grip. A torch on your hard hat can help you to see. Your ear defenders can make a noisy work environment tolerable. Your PPE can help you do your job.
- It gives you peace of mind
You hope you don’t need your PPE, but it gives you peace of mind that you are better protected.
- It could save your life
Don’t believe me? A hard hat stops a brick breaking your skull, a harness stops you falling from a roof, a lifejacket keeps you afloat until help arrives. I’m sure you can think of many more examples.
- It’s the law
Ok, we left this one until last, but let’s not forget the legal requirements here. It’s the law to provide PPE where there is a risk to health and safety and to use and wear your PPE correctly.