Today the phrase 'personal protective equipment
', or PPE equipment as it's often called, is one found in almost every workplace. It's a phrase which covers a huge number of different items and solutions, all of which are designed to minimise risk, and reduce the potential for accidents in the workplace. Personal protective equipment often refers to clothing and items which may be worn, although this is not by any means an exclusive definition, and there is much PPE equipment available which does not fall into this category.
But in terms of clothing it is certainly the case that today the vast range of products available to businesses, companies and organisations is staggering. There is much more choice today than there has ever been, with products and solutions being designed for much more specific purposes. In the past most PPE clothing was designed with very general risks in mind, such as visibility, cutting, heat and abrasion.
Today there are many different variations, not only in the degree of risk, but also the location of the risk. For example, work gloves or safety gloves in the past may well have been labelled as being suitable for protecting against the risk of cutting. Whether saws, blades or other cutting equipment were in use, the gloves provided protection simply by virtue of the fact that they were manufactured from multiple layers of very resistant material.
The entire hand, and often the wrist as well, was encased in a cocoon of material which protected against cutting, and many other risks as well. But it was realised by manufacturers of PPE equipment that this was causing as many problems, if not more, than it was solving.
The problem was that by supplying safety equipment or clothing which was very general in nature and design, secondary issues and problems came into play. So in the case of safety gloves designed to offer protection against cutting, the gloves were so thick and cumbersome that it often prevented workers from being able to handle the equipment and controls safely, which in turn added to the overall level of risk. Loss of dexterity has been responsible for many accidents at work, and this may well be down to the choice of gloves in many of these instances.
It was also realised that comfort was important as far as personal protective equipment is concerned, since another issue was that workers wearing thick gloves or gauntlets for long periods of time were becoming so uncomfortable that they were removing the gloves for simply to allow their hands to cool down and feel more comfortable. Whether through accident or intention, workers would often resume work without any form of hand protection at all, with a number of accidents occurring as a result.
The third issue identified was the size or shape of the glove, because gloves too small become restrictive and uncomfortable, causing loss of feeling and reduced circulation which, given time, could be quite harmful. Gloves which are too large or which are ill fitting can get caught in machinery, adding to the overall risk. So it was realised that if personal protective equipment was to be fit for purpose and able to provide a valuable means by which risks could be reduced and the number of accidents reduced, the items had to be much more specific in terms of their design and manufacture.
Today work gloves designed to provide protection against cutting are available in many different styles, offering degrees of protection from mild to severe. In many cases such gloves may only offer protection over certain parts of the hand deemed to be at risk, with the rest of the glove simply being made of a light cotton that's comfortable and breathable.
There are even gloves offering multiple benefits, such as light cotton gloves offering comfort, with thick nitrile protection over the back of the hand and wrist to protect against cutting, and a thin nitrile rubber layer over the insides of the thumb and first two fingers to aid dexterity and grip.
But it's not just safety gloves which have seen a significant change in design, with most personal protective equipment now offering much more specific levels of protection against specific types of risk. It's important, therefore, than when choosing PPE equipment the exact type of risk is known so that suitable equipment can be purchased, rather than getting caught in the cycle of buying general products which may cause more harm than good in some cases.
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