PPE and COVID-19

Jun 03 2020 Best Practices

The first step to ensuring that machinery is being operated safely is requiring that operators are gearing up with personal protection equipment, or PPE.

A usual PPE routine could look like wearing steel-toed boots, eye-goggles, a hard hat, work gloves, and/or a high-visibility jacket or vest. By wearing these items while operating equipment, operators are protecting themselves from potential on-the-job hazards that could result in preventable injuries.

In today’s new normal of learning how to deal with the COVID-19 global pandemic, protecting operators against potential workplace hazards surpasses just the physical hazards. New considerations to add to your required PPE list are additional barriers and processes to protect operators from contracting this novel respiratory virus.

Additional PPE During COVID-19 Health Concerns

Protecting your operators from the COVID-19 virus requires an additional layer of protocol on top of your usual PPE routine. The first new addition is adding a sanitation protocol before and after operators use equipment. Sanitizing equipment before and after each usage could prevent germs from being spread from person to person via shared surfaces.

Because COVID-19 is notoriously spread through the inhalation of the respiratory droplets of an infected person, it has been shown that mask-wearing has the potential to reduce transmission. Having operators wear a mask or a face-shield while working in a populated area could prevent them from inhaling someone else’s respiratory droplets, or spreading their own, which could prevent infection among coworkers. The mask does not need to be medical grade; just be sure to provide masks that are clean and cover the mouth and nose. Masks and face shields should fit properly and be consistently worn by operators. It is equally as important to ensure that masks and face shields are sanitized and washed, or thrown away, after each usage. Do not allow operators to wear dirty masks.

If possible, consider spacing out operators in your operation. If you could keep operators at a 6-foot distance from other coworkers while on-the-job, you could also reduce the risk of the transmission of the virus. If operators are unable to distance themselves, you could also consider installing physical barriers, such as plastic sneeze guards in the operator areas of machines. If you install sneeze guards in these areas, be sure to sanitize them as well after each usage.

Providing equipment operators with pocket-sized hand sanitizer while on-the-job could also be an effective way to arm them with the proper protective equipment against COVID-19. Installing sanitization stations around various areas of the workplace could also be effective in offering operators increased sanitary protection.

Our “New Normal”

Because of the uncertainty of this global pandemic, we must treat these additional measures and PPE as a ‘new normal’. Adding increased protections such as mask-wearing, distancing, plastic shields, and encouraging sanitization should become an integral part of your pre and post-operation routine, just as putting on steel-toed boots or a hard hat. By integrating these protections, operators are not just safe from the physical hazards of the job but are now also being protected from any potential illness they could contract on-the-job.

 

Sources: https://www.osha.gov/Publications/OSHA3990.pdf

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