Personal Protective Equipment Safety Tips

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      “PPE only works if you use it!” is the saying when it comes to the last line of defense against injury on the farm. The following are some good farm safety tips…

      Hearing Safety
      • The traditional picture of a farm as a serene and quiet workplace sometimes couldn't be farther from the truth. Machinery, motors, and even sounds made by animals, can create a noisy and often hazardous environment.
      • Noise-induced hearing loss is 100 per cent preventable. Once acquired, this type of hearing loss is permanent and irreversible. Therefore, prevention measures must be taken by employers and workers to ensure hearing protection at all times.
      • Sound is measured in decibels (dB). A normal conversation takes place at about 60 dB, whereas a gun shot is above 130 dB. Most power tools operate at between 90 and 120 decibels, chickens inside a building are about 105 dB and a pig’s squeal can reach up to 130 dB. Hearing protection should be worn if noise levels exceed 85 dB.
      • Here are two easy ways to determine if a noise is loud enough to damage your hearing. First, if you have to raise your voice to talk to someone who is an arm’s length away, then the noise is likely hazardous. Second, if your ears are ringing or sounds seem dull or flat after leaving a noisy place, then you probably were exposed to hazardous noise levels.
      • Some of the most common types of hearing protection include foam ear plugs, pre-moulded ear plugs and earmuffs. The noise reduction rating for these devices ranges from 20-35 dB.
      • Hearing protection that works best is:
      • comfortable
      • convenient
      • close at hand
      • suits the work environment.
      • It is best to keep a variety of noise reducing ear plugs and earmuffs available to suit all situations and preferences.
      Eye Safety
      • Flying or falling objects or sparks can easily strike the eye and often the injurious particle is smaller than a pinhead. Other eye injuries can occur from contact with chemicals, which in agriculture could include anything from cleaning solutions to pesticides to anhydrous ammonia fertilizer.
      • There are three key actions you can do to help prevent an eye injury. First, know the eye safety dangers at work by completing an eye hazard assessment. Second, eliminate hazards before starting work by using machine guarding, work screens, or other engineering controls. And finally, use proper eye protection.
      • The type of safety eye protection you should wear depends on the hazards in your workplace. If you are working in an area that has particles, flying objects, or dust, you must at least wear safety glasses with side protection (side shields).
      • If you are working with chemicals, you should wear goggles.
      • If you are working near hazardous radiation (welding, lasers, or fibre optics) you must use special-purpose safety glasses, goggles, face shields, or helmets designed for that task.
      • Use, fit and access are all key elements to eye protection. Keeping the correct kind of eye protection near hazardous work areas in a variety of sizes and styles will make it easier to work safely. And most importantly – lead by example.
      Head Protection
      Hard hat, helmet or brain bucket - call it what you like.
      • There are many situations on farms and ranches that require head protection such as horseback riding, driving ATVs, construction projects, welding, and chainsaw work to name a few.
      • The best way to deliver a safety message is to lead by example. It is hard for parents and employers to expect children and employees to wear head protection if they do not follow the same practice.
      • Helmets and hard hats must resist penetration, absorb shock, be water resistant, slow to burn, and be adjustable. The hard hat liner must be adjusted to ensure that there is an open space between the rigid helmet and the top of the head, to absorb the blow from a falling object. Adjust headband size so that head wear will stay on when the wearer is bending over, but not so tight that it leaves a mark on the forehead.
      • It is important to replace your protective headgear after it has sustained an impact, when cracks appear in the shell, or when the surface appears dull or chalky. Although there is no set service life for head protection, manufacturers recommend replacement after no more than five years.
      Foot Protection
      • There is an old adage that says, “When your feet hurt, you hurt all over.” This is true for all workers, especially those in agriculture who at times work long hours in extreme temperatures and in a variety of conditions. Proper footwear not only protects your feet from possible injuries, it also prevents the pain and fatigue that can lead to injuries due to distraction, slower reactions and unsafe shortcuts.
      • Good footwear should be comfortable, grip the heel firmly, allow free movement of the toes, have a low wide-based heel, and have a fastening across the instep to prevent the foot from slipping when walking.
      Job and workplace designs also have the potential to increase foot safety.
      • Keep mobile equipment away from areas usually used for foot traffic.
      • Ensure guards are installed properly on all machinery.
      • Keep walkways and work areas tidy.
      • And keep stairs, ramps, walkways and work areas clear of debris and well lit to reduce slips, trips and falls.
      Get a grip on safety – hands
      Hands are one of our most valuable, and vulnerable tools when it comes to performing our jobs. Ironically, these amazing parts of our bodies are also the most susceptible to injuries – injuries that happen all too often on farms and ranches.

      With care, many hand and arm injuries can easily be avoided if you:
      • Make sure all machinery has the proper shields and guards in place.
      • Establish and follow lockout/tag-out procedures.
      • Ensure proper PPE is available at all times.
      • Train employees on how to do the job, including the proper use and fit of any PPE needed.
      • Ensure workers are aware of the safe work procedures and the consequences of non-compliance – then enforce the rules as needed.
      PPE like gloves is the last line of defense for protecting your body, so care must be given to ensure that all other means of protections such as engineering, have been put into practice first.

      Laundering work clothes
      Some people think of personal protective equipment (PPE) as only being hard hats, boots and goggles. In fact PPE can be almost anything that reduces exposure to a hazard - including changes in laundry washing habits that will reduce secondary chemical exposures for chemical applicators and their families.

      Handling and applying pesticides is a common practice in agriculture. Knowing how to minimize agricultural pesticide exposures is important both for farmers and their families. Always wash your clothing immediately after using a pesticide, following these guidelines:
      • Remove Soiled Clothing: Promptly remove ALL clothing worn during pesticide application for laundering. Remove pesticide granules from cuffs and pockets outdoors. Do not wear clothing into living or food preparation areas.
      • Pre-Rinse Soiled Clothing: Rinse clothes in the washing machine in a pre-rinse solution, or on a clothesline outdoors where they can be rinsed with a hose. Always wash your pesticide application clothing separately from any other laundry.
      • Wash Your Work Clothes: For the best results, wash your work clothes with the washing machine set on the highest water level, hottest water temperatures, longest agitation time, and use the fullest recommended amount of detergent.
      • Clean the Washing Machine: After you have removed the clean, wet laundry, add more detergent and run the washing machine through the complete wash and rinse cycles again with no clothes in it. This will clean the washer and prevent contamination of future loads of laundry.
      • Hang Work Clothes to Dry: Hang your pesticide work clothes outside to dry, as exposure to sunlight will help break down any lingering chemicals that may remain in the clothes. If the clothes cannot be dried outside, then place on a clotheshorse inside to dry. Never place clothing that has been used to apply or work with pesticides in the dryer as this increases the risk of contaminating other articles of clothing.
      • Storing Laundered Clothes: Store your cleaned pesticide clothing separately from other clothes.
      Air quality
      • Dusty fields, mouldy hay, silos, grain bins, dust from animal hair or feathers, chemicals, manure, feedstuffs – the list of potential airborne hazards on a farm is endless.
      • Assessing the respiratory hazard is the first step to determining the type of respirator needed. There are three basic categories of hazards: particulates, gases and vapours, and oxygen-deficient atmospheres.
      • Particulate contaminants include dusts, mists, and fumes.
      • Dust can be released when, for example, mouldy hay, silage, or grain is disturbed. Mists are suspended liquid droplets usually found near mixing, spraying, and cleaning operations. Fumes are microscopic solid particles of evaporated metal formed during activities such as welding. Particulate contaminants need air-purifying devices such as particulate or chemical cartridge respirators.
      • Respiratory hazards include gases and vapours.
      • Gases are chemicals that are gaseous at ambient (room) temperature such as hydrogen sulphide, the deadly manure pit gas; nitrogen dioxide, also known as silo gas; and carbon monoxide from operating internal combustion engines.
      • Vapours are released from liquids, such as pesticides, paints, adhesives, and lacquer thinner. A chemical cartridge respirator is the appropriate PPE when working with gases and vapours.
      • The final category of respiratory hazards is an oxygen-deficient atmosphere. Examples of oxygen-deficient atmospheres include confined spaces, manure storage, oxygen-limiting (sealed) silos and controlled atmosphere (CA) storage for fruits and vegetables. In such structures, the oxygen content of breathable air, normally about 21 per cent, is reduced to levels as low as 5 per cent. The reduction in oxygen may occur deliberately, such as with CA storage, or oxygen may be displaced by other gases as in manure storage and conventional silos. For oxygen-deficient atmospheres an oxygen-providing device such as a supplied-air respirator or self-contained breathing apparatus is required.

      Alberta Farm Safety Program
      or toll-free: 310-FARM (3276)

      Alberta Agriculture and Forestry Farm Safety Staff:
      Janice Donkers, Youth Coordinator:
      Kenda Lubeck, Awareness Coordinator:
      Raelyn Peterson, Coordinator:
      Sharon Stollery, Manager:
      Blair Takahashi, Specialist:
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    For more information about the content of this document, contact Kenda Lubeck.
    This information published to the web on February 12, 2009.
    Last Reviewed/Revised on November 6, 2018.