Workplace Safety: OSHA and Personal Protective Equipment

One of the most important acts of Congress ever to affect worker health and safety was the Occupational Safety and Health Act, signed into law by President Nixon in 1970. It established the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), which is an agency of the Department of Labor.

OSHA has broad powers to set standards for workplace health and safety, and one of its areas of administration is known as Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). According to their website, OSHA regulations requires the use of appropriate PPE in the workplace when engineering or administrative solutions are not available to reduce worker exposure to various workplace hazards. Under current OSHA rules, it is up to an employer to decide if Personal Protective Equipment is necessary.

What kind of protective safety wear might qualify as PPE?

To help answer this question, OSHA published a booklet called Personal Protective Equipment. The booklet covers eye and face protection, head protection, foot and leg protection, hand and arm protection, body protection, and hearing protection. The kinds of hazards in the workplace envisioned by OSHA include such things as:

  • Sharp edges
  • Falling objects
  • Flying sparks
  • Dangerous chemicals
  • Fluctuating temperatures
  • Dust
  • Radiation
  • And many others

Their publication offers guidance to employers in determining what level of PPE may be needed in their workplace.

In the area of hand and arm protection, the booklet notes that: "Potential hazards include skin absorption of harmful substances, chemical or thermal burns, electrical dangers, bruises, abrasions, cuts, punctures, fractures and amputations. Protective equipment includes gloves, finger guards and arm coverings or elbow-length gloves."

The OSHA booklet goes on to say that there are many types of gloves available today to protect against a wide variety of hazards. If you want to make sure you get the right kind of protective glove or safety wear for your tasks, be sure to visit the OSHA site. It is crammed with valuable information and further resources.

As an example, the OSHA site suggests you think of the following criteria when selecting a safety glove or protective glove:

  • Type of chemicals handled
  • Nature of contact
  • Duration of contact
  • Area needing protection
  • Grip requirements
  • Thermal requirements
  • Size and comfort of glove
  • Abrasion resistance of gloves

You will also find in the OSHA booklet a discussion of the various work gloves that are available to meet a variety of needs, including leather gloves, canvas gloves, fabric and coated gloves, chemical and liquid resistant gloves (neoprene, nitrile, PVC gloves, etc.), insulating rubber gloves and more.

When it comes to workplace safety, understanding the different types of gloves and safety wear that is available and how they can protect you and your employees is a top priority. We are always happy to answer any questions you may have about the protective and safety gloves that we carry.

For more reading on protective safety wear in the workplace, visit OSHA's Personal Protective Equipment webpage.

And please, always remember to work safely!