Chemical PPE checklist

Industries working with hazardous chemicals need to be particularly careful when acquiring personal protective equipment. Fortunately, there are head-to-toe solutions to assist

While it is important for every industry to provide employees with personal protective equipment (PPE) that fits the application, this is particularly important for industries in which employees are exposed to hazardous chemicals. Contact with dangerous substances can cause serious harm, disability or even death.

Unlike other industries in which the incorrect equipment will simply be less effective, using the incorrect PPE when workers are exposed to chemicals will fail to provide any protection at all; thus placing the workforce in extreme danger.

The very first step to securing chemical-resistant PPE is to know which chemicals are present in the work environment, their impact and the length of exposure. It is, however, not enough to know only which chemicals are being used. Safety officers should also know about any additional chemicals that could be bi-products of the production process.

After conducting a comprehensive analysis, it is important to consult with the PPE supplier to ensure that the equipment meets all the relevant criteria. Depending on the chemicals present and the application, it might not be necessary to purchase a complete head-to-toe solution. It is still important, however, to consider the following equipment.

Protecting the crown

Hardhats are generally aimed at protecting the worker from falling objects or knocks to the head; however, it might also be necessary for the hat to protect against chemicals if there is a risk of chemicals dripping onto the worker’s head.

If the hardhat is primarily used in a chemical-free area, it could still be necessary for the equipment to be resistant to all the chemicals present in the workplace. An employee could, for example, enter the area housing the chemicals. A hardhat that is not resistant to chemicals can thus be damaged or compromised, which places the employee at risk, even after they have left the area containing the chemical.

Covering the eyes

The face and eyes are arguably the most sensitive to harsh chemicals. Employees should be equipped with a splash guard, safety spectacles or a full-face mask. Depending on the face protection required, employers might also want to provide employees with respiratory protection.

Inhaling clean air

Respiratory protection can include a half- or full-face mask and even oxygen supply. Respiratory equipment should be able to filter out any harmful chemicals. Inhaling hazardous chemicals can cause the throat to burn or the individual to suffocate.

Keeping hands clean

Chemical-resistant gloves should be resistant to all the substances present, as they are the last-line of defence between the user and the chemical. It is also the equipment that needs to be the most resilient, as it will most likely come into contact with some or all of the chemicals.

Body protection

In addition to eye, respiratory and hand protection, employers might need to invest in either chemical-resistant overalls or hazmat suits to ensure that other body parts, such as arms or legs, are not exposed to chemicals that could harm the skin.

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