How do I keep safe at work?

Last month we started discussing the importance of PPE, we talked about face coverings, gloves and head protection. In this months blog, we are continuing this discussion by covering ear and knee protection

Lets start with…

Ear Protection

Ear protection should be worn if noise or sound levels exceed 85 decibels. Ear/hearing protection is designed to reduce the level of sound that reaches the eardrum to reduce the risk of hearing loss.

When you are looking at ear protection, it helps to understand the ratings so you can select the appropriate piece of kit.

The Noise Reduction Rating (NRR) is a measurement that rates the effectiveness of the device to reduce the sound exposure. The higher the NNR number, the better the noise reduction potential.

The Single Number Ratings (SNR) is an international rating system for noise reduction. Tests are carried out in laboratories that are independent of the manufacturer. The results determine the rating given.

NRR and SNR ratings show the number of decibels the item will reduce the noise level by. These ratings are measured differently so you may find the values are different but the general rule is the same, the higher the rating the better the performance of the item.

Ear Defenders or Ear Muffs provide protection by covering the ear with a cup. The outer shell of the cups is usually a hard thermoplastic with an acoustic foam layer. This foam absorbs the sound waves which in turn reduces the magnitude of the waves before they enter the ear. If you find defenders that are rated EN 352-1, this means that have been tested and meet the European requirements for hearing and performance protection. They must be labelled with the standard number, manufacturer and model number for identification.

Silverline compact ear defenders conform to EN352 and have an SNR rating of 27db. Each cup has a soft foam-filled cushion designed to provide comfort over prolonged periods of time. They fold up for easy storage on a work bag or workshop.

If you have little ones that are eager to help or if you are taking them to an event where noise levels may be high like a fireworks event, Junior Ear Defenders are ideal with an NRR of 26db. They offer a low profile and foam cushioned headband and cups for comfort.

Ear Plugs are another form of ear protection. They are able to offer a higher level of protection as they are inserted into the ear canal. They are used when the highest level of protection is required and because they fit into the ear canal they can be used with other types of PPE. They are extremely lightweight, easy to carry and store. Ear Plugs should conform to the EN352-2 European standard, however, this marking may only appear on the packaging. EN352-2 means that the plugs meet the requirements for EN352-1 as well as additional requirements such as design and minimum attenuation (loss of sound waves strength).

When you are considering ear plugs, you need to consider the environment in which you are going to use them. Do you require Corded Ear Plugs? It is very hard to tell if someone is wearing plugs, as they insert into the ear canal can be difficult to see them. Having corded ear plugs allows other people such as colleagues to see this item of PPE is in use.

Should you be working with machinery or in construction, corded ear plugs may be a hazard. Ear plugs without cords are available, try to get ear plugs that are bright in colour so that others may be able to see that ear plugs are in use.

Knee Protection

Knee Pads help to reduce the impact on your knees and provide cushioning when kneeling, to help prevent injuries. They may also protect you from sharp objects such as tools and nails. There are four types of knee protection:

Type 1: Knee protection which is not part of a garment. These are usually fastened to the knee by using straps.

Type 2: These knee pads are placed in pockets or attached to trousers in the area of the knee.

Type 3: This is completely independent and not worn as part of clothing, such as a kneeling mat.

Type 4: The knee protection for this level is incorporated into the design of a stand-alone item, such as a kneeling stool.

Each type of protection is defined by different levels of the European Standard EN14404. This standard measures the size, force distribution, penetration resistance and user testing.

Level 0 – Knee pads at this level are designed for working environments where working on your knees is minimal. They provide comfort when working on flat surfaces. Hard Cap Knee Pads provide this level of protection with a foam inner for extra comfort.

Level 1 – These pads provide protection against items 1cm or smaller which are on a hard and flat surface. They are ideal for those who are working on their knees in regular intervals. Gel Layered Knee Pads provide this level of protection. The gel layer compresses less than foam and gives greater comfort for longer.

Level 2 – Knee protectors rated level 2 can be used on flat surfaces as well as uneven surfaces in tough conditions, such as a building site or quarry. They must provide protection against a penetration force of at least 250+10 N. To get this level of protection, Hard Cap Gel Knee Pads are what you need. The pre-shaped flexible plastic caps and gel layer gives protection without reducing mobility or comfort.

Come back and have a read of our November blog when we will be discussing more PPE categories and keeping you safe at work.

Why is PPE so important?

The importance of PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) has been highlighted in the news recently due to COVID-19. With members of the general public as well as professionals now required to wear PPE, the sales of items such as gloves, aprons and face masks have gone through the roof. But, do you really know what you are buying?

PPE is worn in addition to clothing to help to protect you and others from injury or cross-infections. PPE can provide full-body coverage or provide protection for a specific body part, for example; hands, eyes and feet.

Respiratory Protection

In other words, Face Masks.

In the UK, it is now a legal requirement to wear face coverings such as masks in shops and on public transport, and is advised when you cannot keep 2 metres apart.

One of the most familiar masks is 3 Ply Disposable Surgical Face Masks. Worn mostly by people in the medical profession, they are a comfortable fit and can be thrown away after use. These masks should always meet the European Standards EM:14683.

For a mask to meet the standard of EM:14683, it needs to meet the following requirements:

  • Bacteria Filtration Efficiency (BFE): >98% (Size of typical bacteria at 3-5 microns)
  • Particulate Filtration Efficiency (PFE): >99% 0.1 micron particle size
  • Differential Pressure (Delta P): <3.0 mm (Breathability – Pressure Difference, a low value is better)
  • Fluid resistance: 80 mmHg (Measure the ability to resist fluids at a specified pressure; level 1 = 80mmHg, Level 2 = 120 mmHg, level 3 = 160 mmHg)

You may also have seen Valved Face Masks. These masks are intended for prolonged use, as they allow exhaled air to escape from the mask whilst stopping dust, mists and fibres being inhaled.

Valved Face Masks are primarily used in trades such as Carpentry, Construction and Engineering. They are not used in the medical profession as the valve creates jets of exhaled air which can spread bacteria and viruses.

Gloves

Gloves are one of the most frequently used items of PPE; they can reduce the risk of injury and stop the spread of contaminants. With so many materials to choose from, which one is going to be fit for purpose?

Leather Gloves are designed to be hard-wearing and for repeated use. Rigger Gloves are one of the most familiar leather gloves. Designed for construction and general usage, these gloves are reliable with knuckle protection and safety cuff.

Welders Gauntlets; made from Cow Split Leather, protect the user from extreme heat. They conform to the European Safety Stanard of EN388, this means the gloves fabric or layers of fabric have the ability to resist heavy rubbing, cutting by a blade or sharp object, tearing, and puncture by a pointed object. The red colour of these gloves mean they can be used in areas of reduced visibility to provide a high level of safety.

Cotton Gloves offer comfort for prolonged use. The breathable material ideal for handling delicate materials such as brass, without leaving fingerprints. You may find cotton gloves have been dipped in Nitrile or PVC for extra protection against grease and oils.

Nitrile Gloves give protection without losing your sense of touch. They are perfect for clinical and research settings where you may be dealing with small components. Normally blue or green in colour, to allow the user to clearly see dirt to prompt change. Nitrile Gauntlets are designed for prolonged use and the smooth, non-porous material even protects the user from micro-organisms.

Vinyl Gloves are disposable and are used for short tasks where things are a bit messy! Available in different sizes to suit the user and also with or without powder. Powder-free Vinyl Gloves are increasingly popular as there is no risk of allergic reactions which can be caused by powdered gloves. These gloves can be an alternative to disposable Latex Gloves.

Head Protection

Head protection is a crucial part of PPE. It’s aim is to protect the users head from impacts and stop injury. The piece of kit you need fully depends on what job you are carrying out.

Face Shields with Safety Visors provide full head and face coverage and protection. The Mesh Safety Visor is ideal for gardeners and maintenance workers. It provides protection from debris whilst not impacting sight. This visor conforms to the European standard EN1731 which refers to the material specifications, design, performance and test methods for eye and face mesh protectors. The Forestry Hat and Faceshield with Ear Defenders meets the requirements for EN1731 & EN352. EN352 refers to the Ear Defenders making sure there is adequate hearing protection.

Another form of head protection is Safety Hard Hats. Primarily used on Construction sites. They are lightweight for prolonged used and are fitted with adjustable harnesses to ensure the helmet fits the user. These helmets should conform to EN397 which states the hat has been designed to protect the wearer from falling objects and debris.

Did you know that most people do not use their PPE correctly?

Over 50% of PPE is not used or managed correctly. This can lead to the spread of infection and/or injury.

The most common reason for this is knowing when to change your PPE. There is no set time for changing your PPE so you need to monitor it, if it is dirty, wet or damaged you need to change it and dispose of it properly.

PPE covers a very wide spectrum from welders’ aprons to ear defenders, please check back next month for my next instalment on how to keep you safe at work.