P for Personal Protective Equipment    


This month we look at Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and how we can best use it to minimise injury to ourselves. PPE includes eye protection, hard hats, gloves, safety shoes and boots, respiratory and hearing protection.

The guiding principle when using PPE is that it should provide an additional barrier to the potential injury of the user rather than it allows the user to take additional risks. An example of this would be wearing of gloves. This should help prevent cuts to hands in the event of a knife slipping during normal cutting as opposed to allowing higher risk cutting operations to be undertaken in the hope that serious injury will be prevented.

The same applies with safety shoes or boots. Just because we are wearing them should not encourage us to be more careless or take more chances when lifting and handling items. Their function is to protect our feet and toes when an abnormal load is dropped onto them. I still quake when I remember an elderly woodturner I visited who was handling a metal woodturning chuck weighing several pounds wearing just carpet slippers. Ouch!

Face and eye PPE is designed to provide additional protection to our faces when carrying out reasonable turning operations but it should not encourage us to undertake high risk turning with severely cracked or structurally unsound timber at high speed.

Respiratory PPE should not be used to protect us from all the dust particles that we produce in the workshop. Other methods of dust collection, separation or venting should be used to reduce the amount of dust in the air in the working area. Respiratory PPE will normally reduce the dust in the air that we breathe in through them by a factor of 4, 20 or 100 according to the respirator rating e.g. a respirator with a rating of 20 will allow 1 particle through for each 20 particles that enter it.

The proper use of PPE should enable us to work more safely. It is not intended that it should enable us to work in a more risky manner.