Personal protective equipment (PPE) refers to equipment intended to protect an employee's eyes, face, head, or extremities and also refers to protective clothing, respiratory devices and protective shields and barriers. OSHA has had regulations in place regarding PPE use since 1974, but it's up to employers to determine what is required for a specific project based on a hazard assessment. When an assessment is required, and when a hazard requires PPE use is a topic for debate between many demolition contractors. Here are some answers.
Since 1994, OSHA has required employers to perform a site assessment to determine what hazards they are likely to encounter during a demolition job and if those hazards will require the use of PPEs for their employees. Assessments look to identify hazards such as chemical, radiological, mechanical, or hazards of process or environment. Encountering these types of materials could cause injury or impairment due to absorption, inhalation or physical contact, which is why they need to be identified and the proper PPEs made available. Many employers question whether multiple hazard assessments are necessary in cases where there are multiple work sites. In some cases, a global assessment will suffice, but not always. For example, in some cases in can be reasonably assumed that conditions at different work sites and facilities are similar. That can be hard to prove, however, and in most cases it's likely, and safer, to perform individual assessments for each work site.
It seems fairly simple. If a hazard is present on a site that will be encountered by an employee and potentially cause harm to them, a PPE is required. Put a different way, an employer must identify a risk related to a hazard for a particular work activity. Again, there is plenty of grey area to contend with, however. For example, one could argue that a particular employee won't reasonably be injured in the course of their duties even though they encounter materials that could potentially injure them. In fact, if you consider the nature of most demolition projects, the potential for injury if employees act irresponsibly is high. That doesn't necessarily mean PPEs are always required, however. Incidental and infrequent injuries don't suggest that an employer was negligent in not providing PPEs. However, recent judgments suggest that employers be more detailed and thoughtful when determining what actions could potentially end in injury. In most cases, the safest bet is to err on the side of caution and require PPEs be worn when any risk at all is present.At Demolition Technology, safety is always top of mind. We make safety a priority and are dedicated to a company wide safety culture in order to keep our employees and work sites safe. To learn more about our processes and capabilities, contact us at 918-379-0966.