To protect against airborne and other risks, personal protective equipment (PPE) is required for all personnel on a work site. The type of equipment is dependent on the work taking place. PPE may include hard hats, safety shoes, fire-resistant (FR) clothing, eye protection, hearing protection, hydrogen sulfide gas detectors, gloves, and other protective equipment. The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) sets minimum standards for many categories of equipment.
Eye and face protection limits exposure to hazards such as flying particles, molten metals, chemicals, acids, gases, vapors and light radiation. Especially, glasses and goggles should be equipped with side shields for additional protection. Operators with prescription lenses must combine their corrective lenses with protective lenses either by incorporating the prescription in eye protection or wearing the protective lenses over the corrective lenses. Any and all short-term visitors to an oil and gas jobsite should also be wearing prescribed eye protection as well
Respirators and masks protect from hazards including dust, mist, fog, fumes, sprays, smoke and vapor. The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires a robust written program for training, fit testing, medical evaluation, care and maintenance, procedures for respirator selection and procedures for routine and emergency use. Although not required at many oil and gas sites, the use of masks, like other required PPE, should be described and demonstrated during routine safety briefings for all workers on a site, along with visitors, including when conducting regulatory inspections. It is important to routinely ask about these types of PPE when first visiting a site, incase a significant change has occurred affecting the operation of the technology onsite, which could impact the health of those working and/or visiting the site.
Hard hats for head protection fall into one of two categories. Type I hard hats reduce the force of impact to the top of the head. Type II hard hats provide protection against both side and top impacts. When there is hazard of electrical exposure, OSHA requires that protective helmets must also reduce electric shock.
Foot protection must be robust enough to protect against three main hazards: falling or rolling objects, objects piercing the sole and electrical hazards. The use of steel-toed boots is a common requirement on most oil and gas jobsites and affords critical protection from many potential hazards on typical worksites. Hand protection does a similar but expanded role of protecting against skin absorption, lacerations, abrasions, punctures and burns from either chemical or thermal exposure. There are many types of gloves available for oil and gas locations, some of which also protect the hands from various types of fluids common in that working environment. Ask the site foreman what gloves are required, if any, when on an oil and gas site.
OSHA sets the noise levels at which hearing protection is mandatory. It also requires employers to monitor these levels to prevent overexposure of their employees. While hearing protection must be available to employees working in conditions above 85 decibels, it is required for levels above 90 decibels.¹ Employers are required to offer a variety of different options, but all employees must be properly fitted and trained on appropriate use.
1. United States Department of Labor, Occupational Safety & Health Administration, 2002, Hearing Conservation, https://www.osha.gov/Publications/OSHA3074/osha3074.html (accessed February 26, 2017).
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