Working in various settings can expose workers to a range of hazards, including heights, accidents involving heavy machinery and electrical events. These hazards put workers at risk of being injured or killed on the job, so preventing them is vital.
Wearing appropriate protective gear can be one of the easiest ways to protect yourself. Thus, workers should know whether their equipment is effective at keeping them safe.
Is it suitable for the job?
Not all equipment is necessary for all jobs. For instance, wearing fall protection can be essential if you are working off the ground on a construction site, but it may create more problems than it solves for workers who are less than six feet off the ground.
The same can be said for gloves, helmets, thick clothing and eye protection. These are all essential types of gear, but they are not necessary for every job. Workers and employers must assess the specific situation and risks and decide on protective equipment accordingly.
When do you wear your gear?
Protective equipment is only effective when people use it – and use it properly. If an employer provides gear, workers should wear it; if a task requires certain precautions, employers should provide the necessary equipment or ensure workers have it throughout the job.
Enforcing and following safe practices for wearing protective equipment should happen every day. Even though the gear may not prevent an accident from occurring, it can save a worker’s life and minimize potential injuries caused by the incident.
Is it safe, or is it defective?
Unfortunately, workers might make every effort to have and wear protective gear only to learn that it is defective and does not adequately affect individuals.
For instance, multiple parties have accused 3M of providing defective earplugs to the military and attempting to cover up the design flaws. Injured parties argued that they suffered hearing loss and tinnitus even though they had used the earplugs, while 3M claims the products are safe and effective.
These cases can be a reminder that even when individuals wear protective gear, they can be at risk of injuries if it is defective.
Separately, if a worker is provided safety gear, and, for whatever reason, happens to not be wearing the safety gear at the time of the accident, the worker may still remain entitled to workers’ compensation benefits should they be injured on the job.
If you work in an occupation where you are exposed to dangerous situations, protective gear could save your life. While the first priority is to ensure you have and wear safe, effective equipment, employers ultimately bear the responsibility of employee safety.