Truck and bus drivers perform dangerous work every day. Sometimes, being safer at work can be as simple as wearing the right clothing.
What is PPE?
PPE stands for Personal Protective Equipment. This means anything that you wear that can assist in keeping you safe as a truck driver or bus driver.
What types of PPE are there?
There are many types of PPE depending on the hazards that are in your workplace. All of them are specifically to protect you against particular hazards. Here is a list of some PPE which may be worn by truck and bus drivers:
Each year more than 11,000 serious accidents (notifiable incidents to SafeWork) involve mobile plants or vehicles. Working around forklifts, cranes, trucks, buses and other mobile plant and vehicles can be dangerous. The risk of being hit is high. By wearing high visibility clothing, drivers and operators have more chance of seeing pedestrians working in the same area. To be most effective, high visibility clothing must not be dirty or damaged and working in darker conditions may require the use of reflective strips.
Ear plugs and ear muffs:
More than 2,000 people per year suffer from noise-related injuries in the workplace. Unlike many other injuries, more than 90% of these result in a permanent disability, meaning they never heal or recover.
Hearing isn't the only risk in noisy workplaces. Working in these conditions can lead to higher levels of stress in workers as well as increased risk of cardiovascular disorders including high blood pressure and heart disease.
The use of earplugs and earmuffs in noisy workplaces can seem annoying but it is important that workers are constantly protected from this hazard.
There are various types of hearing protection. Some workplaces use disposable earplugs. By using new ones regularly, dirt and grease don't build up, maximising the effectiveness. Moulded hearing protection can also provide customised protection for the user.
There is a range of different hazards for feet in the workplace. An example of such a hazard is having things dropped on them, being crushed, slipping, tripping and chemicals coming in contact with the skin. Every hazard must be taken into account when selecting appropriate footwear. Sometimes, enclosed footwear that covers the toes is sufficient. In other workplaces, specific materials and foot and ankle coverage are required.
Around 1,000 injuries a year include the feet and toes. By wearing the correct footwear you can reduce the likelihood and severity of a foot injury in the workplace. Boots that have study soles, support and protect the ankle, and have a protective cap can all help protect the foot.
Many transport companies move materials or products that are hazardous to the eyes, even if they don't appear to be.
Glass in sheets or bottles by itself is not a high risk to the eyes. But when glass breaks it shatters into lots of small pieces. These pieces can become airborne. These very small and very sharp particles can be extremely dangerous.
Liquid chemicals are prone to splashing when they are moved. It is also easy for small amounts to end up on the outside of drums or IBCs. (An IBC is a 1,000-litre container that sits on a pallet base). Workers can easily touch these things, and without realising, touch their face and eyes.
Wearing safety glasses can reduce the risk of these glass pieces or chemicals getting in the eyes and causing permanent sight loss.
After back injuries, injuries to hands are the most likely injury of any part of the body. Higher likelihood means higher risk. Higher risk means that companies and workers need to be more vigilant in stopping these injuries from occurring.
Wearing gloves to perform dangerous work can help. Here are three times when gloves should be worn.
1 - When working with dangerous chemicals: we use our hands to pick up, carry, move, push, pull and restrain things at work. This means our hands have direct contact with containers that hold dangerous chemicals like corrosive materials. Wearing gloves stops these chemicals from direct contact with the skin on our hands.
2 - When working with sharp objects: if you work in a place like a food production line and you have to use a knife to cut things then you may need to use a steel mesh glove. This will help reduce the risk of the knife cutting you. Reducing the risk of injury, as well as reducing the risk of the product being contaminated by human body parts or fluids like blood.
3- Pinch points: often workers use machines or equipment that has pinch points. Pinch points are places where a finger or hand can get crushed. For example where a door or hatch closes.
How effective is PPE?
PPE is very important but it is not the only way to workers can be protected. The hierarchy of control lists different ways to protect workers from hazards. Some ways are more effective than others. The effectiveness is related to how much it relies on the worker to follow it or use it.
Elimination and substitution are the most effective. Both of them make it very difficult for the worker to hurt themselves. In both of these cases, the original hazard is no longer present in the workplace. Either it is removed (elimination) or something safer is there (substitution). This does not rely on the worker to be effective.
Engineering and isolation are the next most effective methods of controlling hazards. These make it more difficult for a worker to get hurt, but it is still possible. Engineering means modifying the equipment that the worker uses to make it safer. Isolation means separating people from the hazard like barriers in a bus depot between the pedestrian walkways and the driveways for the buses. Both of these methods make it more difficult to get hurt, but the hazard is still there.
The least effective measures are administration and PPE. Administration refers to policies, procedures, training, signage etc in the workplace. PPE is anything you wear to make you safer, like high visibility clothing. A procedure is only safe if the worker follows it. PPE is only helpful if the worker puts it on. For both of these to be effective, the worker needs to make sure they are doing the right thing; they are accountable.
Even though PPE is not as effective as other methods of keeping workers safe, it is an important part of the overall system in the workplace. Truck and bus drivers should always make sure they follow the PPE requirements in the workplace and make sure their PPE is properly fitted, clean and worn properly.