University Safety and Assurances

Hazard Assessments for Personal Protective Equipment

A critical first step in developing a comprehensive safety and health program is to identify physical and health hazards in the workplace. This process is known as a "hazard assessment." Potential hazards may be physical or health-related and a comprehensive hazard assessment should identify hazards in both categories.

The hazard assessment involves obtaining information on the types of hazards present, the toxicity of the materials involved, and what other options are available to control exposure. General information about chemicals may be found in Material Safety Data Sheets. The chronic and acute effect of chemicals, biological and radiological materials should also be assessed.

Examples of physical hazards include moving objects, fluctuating temperatures, high intensity lighting, rolling or pinching objects, electrical connections and sharp edges.

Examples of health hazards include overexposure to harmful dusts, chemicals or radiation.

Serious consideration should be given to reducing these hazards by the use of engineering controls and/or administrative controls. Personal protective equipment should be used in conjunction with engineering and administrative controls.

The hazard assessment should begin with a walk-through survey of the facility to develop a list of potential hazards in the following basic hazard categories:

  • Impact: (Examples: Working with or around powered tools or machinery. Use of powered liquid sprayers, air hammers, compressed air, or working in areas with high air turbulence where particles, fragments or chips are present. Working in areas where overhead hazards, falling hazards or moving hazards are present.)
  • Penetration: (Examples: Working with or around powered tools or equipment. Working with glass, wire, metal, sharp objects or other materials that can cut or pierce when broken or fragmented.)
  • Compression -- Pinching/Crushing/Roll-Over: (Examples: Working with or around moving equipment, or parts. Exposure to falling objects. Use of heavy equipment or tools that could cause compression injuries, etc.)
  • Chemical: This is a broad category which may include chemicals ranging from slightly irritating (such as cleaning products) to highly corrosive or toxic substances used in laboratories or industrial settings. Working with carcinogens, mutagens or teratogens.
  • Thermal -- Heat/Cold: (Examples: Operating furnaces, pouring and casting hot metal, welding. Working on steam, refrigerant, high temperature systems, etc. Working with cryogenic materials. Working in temperature extremes (e.g., steam tunnels, freezers, extended work outdoors in winter, etc.)
  • Harmful Dust (Examples: asbestos, fiberglass, silica, animal dander. Woodworking, buffing, and general dusty conditions. High levels of airborne contaminants that cannot be eliminated by engineering controls.)
  • Light (Optical) Radiation: (Examples: Electric arc or gas welding, cutting, or torch brazing or soldering. Working with or around lasers. Working around sources of UV radiation.
  • Biologic: (Examples: Working with human pathogens or materials that may be contaminated with infectious human pathogens.)

Each of the basic hazards should be reviewed and a determination made as to the type, level of risk, and seriousness of potential injury. Consideration should be given to the possibility of exposure to several hazards at once.

The workplace should be periodically reassessed for any changes in conditions, equipment or operating procedures that could affect occupational hazards. This periodic reassessment should also include a review of injury and illness records to spot any trends or areas of concern and taking appropriate corrective action.

The suitability of existing PPE, including an evaluation of its condition and age, should be included in the reassessment.

A copy of the completed Hazard Assessment Survey and Anaylsis should be sent to US&A for review. If you need assistance in conducting your hazard assessment, please contact US&A at x5808.

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