Does your employer provide you with the necessary personal protective equipment to keep you safe in your work environment, or do you have to buy your own PPE? The Occupational Safety and Health Administration mandates that your employer must protect you from known hazards that could cause injury or illness. This responsibility includes personal protective equipment to keep you safe when administrative and engineering controls provide insufficient protection. This applies to all industries in Illinois, regardless of whether you work in a hotel kitchen, construction site or factory.
Personal protective equipment serves to protect you from the hazards of your occupation. Do not let your boss tell you a hard hat is all you need. A hard hat will not protect you from hearing or vision loss, nor will it prevent respiratory harm or amputation injuries.
PPE that your employer must provide
Your employer must pay for all the personal protective equipment you need to comply with prescribed OSHA standards — with a few exceptions. The following are examples of the PPE your employer must provide at no charge to you:
- Hearing protection
- Goggles, face shields
- Prescription lenses or eyewear inserts for use with full-face respirators
- Non-prescription eye protection
- Hard hats
- Welding PPE
- Steel-toed rubber boots
- Metatarsal foot protection
- Helmet, gloves, boots, proximity suits and full firefighting gear
If you bring along your own PPE, your employer must inspect it to make sure it provides the necessary protection.
What are your employer’s obligations?
OSHA provides guidelines for employers to follow — their responsibilities do not stop with providing PPE. Further obligations include the following:
- Identify health and physical hazards by performing hazard assessments
- Control identified hazards
- Identify and provide appropriate PPE for workers
- Provide employee training in the care and correct use of the PPE
- Maintain all PPE and replace damaged or worn items
- Establish a schedule to review, evaluate and update the PPE program periodically
Maximum efficiency must be the goal of any PPE program.
Take note that you also play a role in the PPE program. You must do the following:
- Attend all training sessions that deal with PPE
- Wear the protective equipment properly
- Always clean, care and maintain your PPE
- Report damaged or worn PPE to your supervisor or employer
Even with all the necessary personal protective equipment, accidents happen, and when they do, you will likely have to deal with lost workdays and mounting medical bills. Do not despair; help is available.
Although you could pursue financial assistance through the Illinois workers’ compensation insurance system, dealing with the benefits claims process could be daunting. Fortunately, an attorney with experience in fighting for the rights of injured workers can provide the necessary support and guidance. With the help of legal counsel, your chances of receiving maximum compensation under applicable laws are significantly higher than dealing with it on your own.