Employers are responsible for providing personal protective equipment (PPE) such as safety glasses, goggles, face shields, gloves, lab coats, and bench top shields. Employees are responsible for using these devices.
As part of its chemical hygiene plan, the employer needs to specify the circumstances under which an employee should use PPE. When should safety glass be worn versus chemical splash goggles? When should gloves be used? What about lab coats and portable shields? Is hearing protection an issue? Should hearing protection devices be used?
The employer has an additional responsibility. The employer needs to make sure that the PPE is used. Working safely should be a condition of employment. Employees who fail to use required PPE should receive appropriate warnings, disciplinary action and then be dismissed.
Any policy that falls short of providing for the provision of dismissal is inviting violations that can not be addressed and prevented. It allows employees to jeopardize their own health and safety and that of others around them without the possibility of necessary disciplinary action. Normally, it will not be necessary to invoke this final action. However, the availability of the sanction improves the compliance efforts.
The OSHA Personal Protection Standard requires employers to do workplace hazard assessment to determine the protective equipment needed. The employer must then provide the equipment and train employees in its use.
Dr. James A. Kaufman is the founder and president of The Laboratory Safety Institute (LSI) www.labsafety.org – an international, non-profit center for safety in science and science education. LSI provides workshops, seminars, onsite training programs, lab safety program development consultations, facilities inspections and regulatory compliance assistance. Contact LSI with all your lab safety questions: 800-647-1977 or email@example.com.