Fluent Motion Inc
A person wearing personal protective equipment

Designing a Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) Program

Having a PPE program in place at your organization is essential for minimizing hazards and ensuring that employees are safe and can do their jobs effectively.

A good PPE program is an essential component of your workplace safety policy and procedures. The PPE policy should include each of the following elements:

  • Hazard identification and risk assessment
  • Selection of appropriate controls
  • Selection of appropriate PPE
  • Fitting
  • Education and training
  • Management support
  • Maintenance
  • Regular auditing of the program

A PPE program must be comprehensive. It requires commitment and active participation at the planning, development, and implementation stages from all levels: senior management, supervisors, and workers.

What is Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)?

To start with the basics, PPE is any equipment worn by a worker to minimize their personal exposure to specific hazards.

Examples of PPE include:

  • Respirators
  • Gloves
  • Aprons
  • Fall protection (such as a harness)
  • Full-body suits (such as a hazmat suit)
  • Hardhats
  • Safety goggles
  • Steel-toed boots

It’s important to note that using PPE is only one element in a complete hazard control program. PPE reduces the risk of personal injury, but it does not reduce the hazard itself, and it does not guarantee permanent or total protection.

The Role of PPE in the Workplace

A variety of strategies should be used to control any identified hazards in the workplace.

Hazard controls can be implemented at the source, at the worker, or along the “path” between source and worker.

When in doubt, follow the “hierarchy of control” – that is elimination of, substitution of, or engineering control(s) for hazards.

Controlling a hazard at its source is the first and best option, since this method will usually eliminate it from the workplace or at least isolate it. Controlling a hazard at its source might look like substituting a hazardous material with a nonhazardous equivalent, adding sufficient ventilation, adding more safety features to existing equipment, or redesigning relevant work processes to minimize worker contact with the hazard.

Administrative controls, such as workplace best practices practices, training, and housekeeping are also ways to control hazards.

When the hazard cannot be removed or controlled adequately, PPE may be used as a last line of defence.

When to Use PPE

PPE is used to reduce or minimize exposure to, or contact with injurious physical, chemical, ergonomic, or biological agents. Remember, using PPE does not eliminate the hazard. Thus, PPE should only be used:

  • As an interim measure before more permanent controls are implemented;
  • Where other controls are not available or adequate;
  • During activities such as maintenance, clean up, and repair where pre-contact controls are not feasible or effective;
  • During emergency situations.

Ideally, PPE should be used to supplement organizational hazard controls when those controls alone may not be enough to protect the individual worker. PPE should not be the only hazard control in place.

Who Pays for PPE?

Workers are required by law to use PPE in the workplace when it is required. Employers have a responsibility to provide:

  • Instruction on what PPE is required for a given employee’s job
  • Maintenance and cleaning of equipment as necessary
  • Training for workers on proper use of PPE

Which party is responsible for the cost of PPE varies depending on your province and jurisdiction.

Northwest Territories, Nunavut, Quebec, SaskatchewanEmployers are required to provide and pay for all the PPE either selected by the health and safety committee or required by legislation.
British Columbia, Manitoba, YukonLegislation states who is responsible for each specific type of PPE.
AlbertaEmployers are required to provide and pay for PPE for emergency response, hearing, and respiratory protection if it is required for the job. Workers are responsible for providing and paying for PPE such as hard hats, safety boots, flame-resistant clothing, and eye protection if they are required for the job.
Ontario, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, federal regulationsLegislation uses the term “provide,” however the term is not always clearly defined, and companies should verify the intention of the legislation with the relevant regulatory bodies.

Understanding the Principles of a Protection Strategy

It is important to understand the underlying principles of workplace protection strategies before a PPE program is developed.

Any PPE program development process should start with four key questions:

  1. Does this program adequately protect workers?
  2. Is it compliant with applicable laws, regulations, standards, and guidelines?
  3. Is it compliant with internal company requirements?
  4. Is it technically feasible?

In order to have a comprehensive strategy, your workplace should start by identifying the hazards that your workers may be subjected to. Thus, a comprehensive risk assessment needs to be completed before any PPE program can be implemented.

A risk assessment examines each of the specific, objective hazards that are present, or could potentially arise in the workplace. No two organizations, even in the same industry, have the exact same hazards, as hazards are dependent not only on the work that is being done, but on the specific workplace environment, the region, and oftentimes the architecture of the space itself. There are no shortcuts for creating a comprehensive and effective workplace risk assessment.

Do you need help understanding local regulations around PPE? Want assistance or feedback while you develop your organization’s PPE program? Fluent Motion are experts in workplace safety regulations and policy, and can help you develop a program that is effective and helpful for your valued workforce. Contact us today.