October 21

Personal Safety Equipment: What’s “Overkill” and What’s Non-Negotiable?


Many jobs across multiple industries require the use of personal safety equipment. Safety is always a good idea, but there are occasions when specialized safety gear is not only suggested, it’s a must.

It’s important to use the right type of equipment for each task or situation. Completing a job without proper personal safety protection or not enough precautions may lead to dangerous incidents. On the other hand, if too much protection is applied, it could lead to unsafe conditions as well.

Instead of going with the one-size-fits-all approach regarding your personal safety equipment, you must follow specific guidelines for each possible hazard and consider the area of the body that needs protection during a given job.

Here are some factors to consider when determining whether your personal safety equipment is too much, too little, or just right.

Head Safety

One of the most vulnerable spots on a person’s body is their head. A head injury can be catastrophic. Head protection keeps a worker safe from falling objects, hazards they could bump into, and electrical shocks.  

The most common type of head protection is a hard hat. There are several different varieties of hard hats that vary from industry to industry and that depend on the line of work being completed. Instead of choosing the largest and heaviest hat by default, make sure your company takes time to identify the most appropriate headwear for employees on the job.  

Ear Protection

Ear protection is also part of a safe work setting. If your workplace exposes employees to high levels of noise, it may be necessary to equip them with protective headgear for their hearing.

There are two main types of ear protection: ear plugs and earmuffs. Ear plugs can be either disposable or a customized reusable variety. For jobs that require tasks with heavy machinery or other noisy tools, ear plugs may be appropriate. Alternatively, extended and heavy-duty ear protection may require earmuffs.

It is important to understand that employees who use heavy-duty hearing protection may not be able to hear much of anything at all. Ensure that your company is using the right amount of equipment for the job. Too much ear protection can make an employee less aware of his or her surroundings, which could lead to entirely new safety issues.  

Protective Glasses and Masks

Eye protection is another key component of personal safety equipment. Many companies utilize masks, darkened safety glasses, or protective goggles to help maintain a safe work space. Eye protection can help safeguard against debris or dust and can prevent eyes from being damaged by various types of lights or heat that may be used in your facility.   

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While a large face mask may seem like the perfect way to protect eyes in almost any type of situation, they’re only appropriate for certain hazards. It’s best to go with OSHA’s recommendations for your industry so you can be sure your employees are able to complete their work safely and without losing their ability to properly see during their shift.  

Hand Protection

Industrial environments that require employees to work with or near hot or hazardous materials using their hands usually require the employer to provide protective safety gloves. This type of protection may range from heavy-duty thermal gloves to thin, disposable latex gloves.

It’s essential to match your line of work with the right type of glove. If you go with something that is thick and bulky, be sure your workers will be able to complete their job tasks without causing additional problems from possible mishandling of materials. On the other hand, choosing the thinnest type of glove protection possible may not be enough to keep your workers’ hands safe from dangerous substances.

Protective Shoes

Many industrial settings are dangerous for workers who aren’t wearing proper footwear. Some companies may need to provide their employees with specialized footwear protection, while others may benefit from insisting on simple toe guard boots that keep toes from being injured if something heavy falls on a worker’s foot. Some industries may benefit from requiring special shoes that prevent electricity buildup and spark creation.

If your organization wants to ensure your environment is as safe as possible, choose the shoe that fits your type of work. With all the different options out there, it can get confusing knowing which type of footwear works best with your workplace’s hazards. If you choose the biggest and heaviest steel-toed shoe, that may not be the best thing for your specific line of work. Putting too much protection on your employees’ feet could lead to more trips and falls around your facility or worksite.  

Whole Body Protection

Some lines of work require special whole-body protection. If there are possible hazards to the skin within the working environment, a worker must wear protective suiting. This suiting must provide protection while also maintaining enough air circulation so the employee can breathe and move comfortably.

There are 4 basic types of body protection suits a worker can wear in a toxic environment: disposable paper suits, leather protective suits, plastic gear, and neoprene protection suits. You must understand the various factors affecting your workplace when choosing the right suit, such as facility temperature, toxicity of substances, the purpose of the work, and the specific way your employee will be moving around during the procedures.

Choosing a suit that goes beyond your safety requirements could put an employee in danger. For example, picking a heavy leather suit when only a disposable suit is required could put an employee at risk of overheating. It’s best to carefully evaluate your employees’ working conditions and industry safety regulations before committing to any specific equipment.  

If you’re not sure where to start when choosing the proper type of personal safety equipment, assess your workplace’s hazard risks first. Once you understand the true dangers to your workers, you can then begin to outfit them in the right gear to help them do their jobs safely.


Heavy Equipment, landscaping, OSHA, personal safety, safety equipment

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