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Thu 17 Jan 2008 02:59 PM

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Protecting people

Tony Potter, group H&S manager, Drydocks World, outlines the need for PPE in FM.

The use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) in the Emirate of Dubai is mandatory under Local Order No 61 of 1991, Chapter 4, Personal Protective Equipment. Failure to provide and maintain PPE by any company may result in fines and other punitive measures being incurred.

But what is it and how can it protect the workforce?

What is PPE?

PPE is used throughout an industry as a means of safeguarding workers from a wide range of health and safety hazards at work, such as exposure to toxic substances or extreme temperatures, being struck by falling objects or being splashed by chemicals/molten metal. It can be summarised as an individual's protection of his/her head, eyes, hearing, lungs, hands, feet or body, generally by the means of specially designed devices and/or implements.

Work carried out as part of a PPM programme or emergency repairs within a facility will almost certainly require the use of some form of PPE for protection of an employee.

The appropriate PPE for the given task or situation must always be identified following the completion of a suitable and sufficient risk assessment taking into consideration the human factors involved in the job (i.e. the personal characteristics of the person carrying out the task), the environment in which the job is taking place and the policies and procedures set by the organisation for the management of health and safety (H&S) in the facility.

Due to the nature of PPE, each type brings with it a variety of problems that must be addressed via adequate training, if workers are to fully understand its uses and limitations. However, it must be made clear that PPE is not a universal solution to all safety needs and should be used as a last resort. Although it can offer essential protection to an individual carrying out a hazardous work activity, the hazard itself will still be present in the workplace. So while it is necessary to issue and wear PPE, the introduction of other control measures, such as engineering controls, reduces the reliance on PPE.


The hierarchy of control measures must be applied before deciding on the use of PPE. Firstly, can removing the hazard eliminate the risk? If not, can it be substituted for one less risky? Can the aforementioned engineering controls be introduced to control the risk at source? If not, information, instruction, training and supervision must be provided.

These approaches may not completely eliminate all hazards and PPE will more often than not have to be issued to and used by the workers for protection, in conjunction with other control measures.

The marking and maintenance of PPE must be in compliance with the manufacturer's instructions or in such a way that the materials or methods used do not affect the integrity of the equipment.

Head protection

EPSS Technical Guideline No 14 - Head protection

The head is very susceptible to disabling injuries from impact. Such injuries can be extremely dangerous and health problems can often persist over a long period. Objects such as hand tools, fitting materials and suspended loads falling from a height are common problems during maintenance activities.

Safety helmets give the wearer protection against impact and penetration damage and are designed to prevent fracture when struck and stop the force of a blow to the wearer's skull, immediately below the point of impact.

As the materials used in manufacture can sometimes deteriorate in strong sunlight or if brought into contact with certain solvent substances, it is essential to regularly check the safety helmets.

As a guideline, it is recommended that safety helmets with continuous exposure to ultra-violet rays or sunlight should be replaced at least every three years.

The general-purpose safety helmet must conform to EN397.

Bump caps

Where the potential for injury from falling objects or hard impact is deemed, through risk assessment, to be negligible, the minimum standard of head protection is a bump cap. It only offers minimal protection from lacerations, abrasions and knocks. Bump caps conform to EN812.

Hearing protection

EPSS Technical Guideline No 16 - Hearing protection

Noise can simply be defined as unwanted sound. Amongst its many effects are annoyance, inefficiency and deafness.

Hearing protectors can be classified as either plugs or muffs and must be manufactured in compliance with EN 352.

Ear plugs

There are many types available and are mostly manufactured from soft plastic, silicone, PVC and polyurethane.

Each one provides good sound attenuation (reduction of sound pressure level) when fitted correctly. Measured in decibels (dB) the assumed protection varies on the type of earplug, the type of material and the frequency of the noise.

By law, the level of attenuation of any hearing protection device must be marked on the packaging of the product. Incorrect fitting will seriously reduce the level of protection achieved.

The majority of earplugs are disposable, but there are now some re-usable brands. In both cases, personal hygiene is of particular importance. The hands and plugs must be clean when inserting the plugs into the ears if infections are to be avoided. Re-usable plugs should be cleaned with a mild detergent or in accordance with the manufacturer's instructions.

Ear muffs

Usually manufactured from plastic materials with a plastic or metal headband and foam or liquid filled ear cushion. Models are also available that fit under the chin, behind the head or attach to safety helmets.

Attenuation values vary according to type and noise frequency, but muffs worn over the head will generally give higher levels of protection.

As with earplugs, the question of personal hygiene must not be overlooked. Muffs must be kept clean and disinfected and the practice of sharing muffs should be discouraged.

Periodic examination of the ear cushions should be undertaken to check for hardening and cracks. The cushion should be replaced immediately if they are worn or damaged.

Eye protection

EPSS Technical Guideline No 15 - Eye and face protection

The eyes are particularly vulnerable to injury from impact or foreign bodies and, as they are also the only soft entrance to the brain, the use of suitable eye protection may not merely save a person's sight, but also his/her life.

Eye protection can be classified into four main groups:

Safety glasses

These must be manufactured to meet the requirements of EN166 and are generally tested to low energy impact resistance, denoted by the letter F marked on the lens.

There are various styles, but the principal rule to follow is that glasses should fit the user well, be comfortable and the space between the frame and the face be kept to a minimum.

For workers wearing prescription glasses, safety versions are available. However, these glasses are usually tested to an increased robustness level only and not the higher, low energy impact level of safety glasses.


These are often a one-piece wrap-around polycarbonate protector manufactured to meet low energy impact levels, designed to be large enough to fit over the top of prescription glasses.


There are two types of goggle, panoramic with a curved lens and a wide field of vision or the more traditional box type.

Care should be taken that a good fit and seal is achieved by careful adjustment of the elastic headband.

Goggles are available to guard against impact, chemical splash, dust and gases and can often be multipurpose.

In the main they are manufactured to meet EN166 medium energy impact levels and an alphanumeric system of markings on both the housing and the lens, is used to indicate their purpose and impact resistance level:

Chemicals: 3

Dusts: 4

Gases: 5

Molten metal: 8

Low energy impact: F

Medium energy impact: B

Goggles with varying degrees of green filter are also available for welding and similar processes. Manufactured to meet the requirements of EN 169, they are intended to provide protection against ultraviolet, strong light sources and are suitable for use for short periods or by welder's assistants.

They should not be considered a low cost alternative to a face screen for electric arc welders and those welding for long periods throughout the working day.

Face screens/visors

These provide protection for both the face and eyes and are usually manufactured to meet the requirements of EN 166 to either medium energy impact resistance or the new high-energy impact resistance.

There should be a system of care and maintenance for all eye protection and employees should receive instruction in their own duties. Eye protection should be replaced immediately if it is damaged or becomes defective.

Respiratory protection

EPSS Technical Guideline No 21 - Respiratory protection

Irreparable damage can be caused to the lungs by breathing dust particles of a fibrous or gritty nature. The inhalation of certain fumes and gases may not only affect the lungs but also the blood and vital organs such as the liver and kidneys. Moreover, the central nervous system may also be affected and in some instances death may be the result.

Respiratory protection can be classified into three types disposable dust masks, negative pressure respirators and positive pressure respirator.

It is important to obtain and use the right type to achieve the maximum protection against a respiratory hazard. Always ensure that the exact nature of the hazard has been identified and that all equipment meets with the appropriate EN standard. The standard numbers range from 136 to 149 dependent on the type or component of the respirator, with the addition of further standards for particular specialist equipment.

Points to consider

Many disposable dust masks, which utilise a simple gauze, or similar filter, only offer protection against, course, non-toxic nuisance dusts (these are the larger dust particles that are usually trapped in the nasal passages or upper parts of the respiratory tract).

They offer little or no protection against the very small respirable particles that will subsequently cause harm or protection against fumes, gases and vapors.

These masks are also not tested to any European standard, so are not suitable for use as protection against a respiratory hazard as stated in various regulations.

Negative pressure type respirators and positive pressure types, which do not use an independent air supply, cannot be used in an:

a) oxygen deficient atmospheres;

b) atmosphere with very high contamination levels;

c) atmosphere where the contaminant could be life threatening or is known to be a respiratory irritant.

It is vital the correct filter cartridge is fitted to the respirator for the contaminant present in the atmosphere.

A policy for the changing of filter cartridges must be adopted and all factors such as work rate, ambient and peak levels of contamination, should be taken into consideration. Advice should be sought from the manufacturers.

It is not possible to give an exact prediction of the life cycle of a filter cartridge.

In the case of any type of re-usable respirators the question of hygiene and maintenance must also be addressed.

An inspection program must be established and respirators should be cleaned and disinfected regularly, ideally each person should be issued with his own where possible, to avoid the risk of cross-contamination. Records must be kept on the care and maintenance of any respiratory equipment that is in use for over 20 days.

Foot protection

EPSS Technical Guideline No 19 - Foot protection

As with gloves, there are many styles and types of foot protection. Again, they need to fit well, be comfortable to wear and provide adequate protection against a hazard.

Safety footwear should be manufactured in compliance with the following EN standard numbers-344, 345, 346 and 347.

Hand protection

EPSS Technical Guideline No 18 - Hand protection

Advice should be sought from the manufacturer or other competent person when selecting gloves from the wide range available. They need to fit well and be comfortable to wear and give adequate protection against a hazard.

A system of cleaning, repair and replacement should be established, unless the gloves are deemed to be disposable. In a few cases, some of the materials used to manufacture gloves may cause allergic responses in some users. Sweating is a common problem when using gloves from impermeable or synthetic materials for which glove liners can be a useful aid. The majority of barrier creams available are not suitable for use in conjunction with the wearing of gloves and care should be taken to adhere to the manufacturer's instructions. The following EN standard numbers may apply: 374-1, 420, 421, 511 or 659.

Help and advice

If a company is unsure where to start or needs further information on H&S management and the use of PPE, it can contact:

• The author at

• Dubai Municipality Environmental Protection & Safety Section on +971 (4) 2064244

• Institution of Occupational Safety and Health at

• UK's Health & Safety Executive at

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