An effective PPE program involves the selection and maintenance of the right equipment, thorough employee training, and a monitoring program to evaluate and improve the program over time.

Will Flower


Vince Lombardi, the great football coach of the Green Bay Packers, continually stressed the importance of focusing and practicing “the basics.” In 1961, Coach Lombardi opened pre-season training camp in front of 36 gifted athletes with five words: “Gentlemen, this is a football.” In those simple five words, the Coach communicated his point that his team was going to start with the basics and make sure they were executing on all the fundamentals. That season, the Packers posted an 11–3 record, a first-place finish in the Western Conference and a 37–0 victory in the NFL Championship Game.


Getting Back to Basics

Getting back to the basics is true for football, and it’s also true for safety. A fundamental aspect of every safety program is Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)—the equipment worn to reduce the risk of serious workplace injuries. In the recycling and solid waste business, the risks are many. Contact with sharp objects, working in traffic and around heavy rolling stock, uneven ground and household chemicals in the trash can all result in serious injuries.


PPE may include items such as gloves, safety glasses, work boots and high visibility vests, shirts or jackets. For other jobs, PPE may include earplugs, dust masks, hard hats and safety sleeves.

To determine the proper PPE for a given job, a manager, supervisor or safety officer should conduct a “hazard assessment” of the tasks including the working environment. From the hazard assessment, the employer should work to eliminate physical and health hazards and identify the need for appropriate PPE. Policies and work rules should be established to require the proper use of PPE while performing specific tasks.


Work with Experts

Working with safety experts, equipment manufacturers and distributors can help in the selection, procurement, training and use of proper PPE. When selecting PPE, make sure the equipment is well-designed, durable and safe. All PPE should fit properly and be comfortable to wear. If PPE is hot or uncomfortable, a worker may remove the equipment putting himself/herself in danger.  Poor-fitting PPE should be immediately replaced to prevent excessive exposure to potential threats.


Regular Inspection

PPE also needs regular inspection. Items that are worn out, torn or excessively dirty should be replaced and discarded. Employers are also required to train workers in the proper use and care of PPE. Employees should know the requirements for the use of PPE, the proper wearing of PPE and how to self-inspect PPE to ensure the equipment is in good condition. Employees should also know the procedure for requesting a repair or replacement of PPE.


Using PPE

It’s important to remember that the use of PPE does not make anyone Superman.  The proper use of PPE provides a basic level of protection and is used to lower the risk of workplace injury.  That said, employees and employers need to be ever vigilant for potential dangerous situations and work to eliminate the threat of workplace hazards whenever possible.


The use of PPE is a basic part of every safety program. But “basic” does not mean it’s easy.  An effective PPE program involves the selection and maintenance of the right equipment, thorough employee training, and a monitoring program to evaluate and improve the program over time.


Next month’s safety series will focus on safety while approaching intersections.


Will Flower is the Vice President of Corporate and Public Affairs at Winters Bros. Waste Systems.  Will has 32 years of experience in the area of solid waste management and environmental protection.  He has held operational and executive leadership positions at the Director’s Office of the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, Waste Management, Inc., Republic Services. Inc. and Green Stream Recycling. 


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