Whether you’re dealing with contaminated water, falling objects, or potential electrical hazards, you need to have the most important PPE when working in the water treatment industry. Going into the job without wearing the proper equipment will lead to exposure to hazardous substances or expose you to the risk of other injuries such as lacerations and electrocution.
Be aware of what the threats are on any given job site. Know what type of protective gear your company provides and what you should bring. Being prepared doesn’t just benefit you, but it also promotes a safer working environment for your coworkers by ensuring that no one else risks severe injury.
Protect Your Face
When dealing with water, chemicals, and other liquids of questionable safety, it’s imperative that you protect your face and eyes from anything that may spray into them. Harmful chemicals that make direct contact with skin can be absorbed into the bloodstream and cause serious illness.
The same can happen when you expose your eyes to these substances, but because the eyes are sensitive, chemicals can irritate the retinas. In the worst-case scenario, exposing your eyes to chemicals can cause severe visual impairment or permanent blindness.
Know Where To Flush Your Eyes
In facilities that deal with chemicals, there is typically an eyewash station for workers who accidentally get substances into their eyes. Make sure you locate this area before starting work in case you need it. Knowing its location will allow you to flush out your eyes before chemicals can cause long-term damage.
Prevent Head Injuries
In addition to protecting your eyes, you need to wear the proper headgear to protect your skull from sudden impacts. Every job site has different circumstances, but there’s always the likelihood you’ll be working next to heavy machinery or in areas with falling object hazards.
Even a small object, if it’s dense enough or dropped from a sufficient height, can cause traumatic brain injury to workers without hardhats. Never enter a hazard-prone area without protection; your head is vulnerable to blows, and a helmet will absorb most of the impact.
Cover Your Hands
Just like protecting your face, you need to cover your hands to protect them from hazardous substances that could be absorbed into the skin. Your hands manipulate objects and are the most at risk for exposure, making it vital to shield and protect them. Always wear gloves when handling chemicals and wash your hands before and after. You never know what microscopic particles attach to your skin, but washing your hands will eliminate whatever may be on them.
Sharp Objects and Cutting Hazards
Beyond worrying about chemical exposure, you need to have durable gloves that can protect your hands from cuts and other lacerations. You’ll deal with all sorts of surface textures and materials, and any one of them can have sharp edges that you do not notice. Having both water-resistant and cut-resistant gloves will benefit you in any situation you encounter while on the job.
Don’t Neglect Your Feet
Many workers focus on their hands when putting on protection, but they often forget the importance of sealing their footwear. It’s best if you protect your work boots from heavy objects as well as hazardous liquids. To guard against the first, invest in sturdy steel-toe boots to absorb the damage from heavy falling objects. The material should be able to take extreme pressure, so it does not buckle upon contact with falling debris.
Prepare for Liquid Substances
In the other scenario—protecting against liquid substances—you need to wear a cover over your work boots. A protective material, such as shoe covers, will prevent water and other liquids from making direct contact with your footwear. Water can degrade your boots’ material, weakening their structure and increasing the likelihood of foot-related injuries. Liquids may also be contaminated, and without shoe covers, that contamination will soak into the skin, uninhibited.
Another reason that shoe covers are one of the most important PPE in the water treatment industry is that they allow you to keep your footing on slick surfaces. Slips, trips, and falls are all too common parts of working in the water treatment industry and performing general contracting work; they cause a large portion of work-related injuries. It will depend on the shoe cover, but there are many available that have rough soles and will help you maintain traction.
While they may not seem like a significant threat to your body and health, even same-level slips can cause severe damage to your muscle tissue and bones. Tripping and hitting the ground in just the right way can lead to the fracturing or dislocation of bones or cause head injuries if you land on your skull. Don’t underestimate the dangers of a momentary loss of traction.
Many of the dangers mentioned thus far have been water-borne illnesses and physical trauma such as cuts or blows, but you must also be careful of air-borne particles. Fine particles that float through the air can easily enter your body through the nose or mouth and make their way towards the lungs. Inhaling these particles can result in breathing complications and other illnesses related to the respiratory system.
Know When to Switch Out Respirator Filters
Most respirators utilize filters to separate dangerous particles from the air you breathe; however, these filters become clogged over time. You will need to periodically change your filters to ensure proper airflow, and that breathing does not become a chore.
When you overwork your filters, you not only make your breathing more difficult but also risk inadvertently poisoning yourself. They rapidly decrease in effectiveness when they’re clogged, exposing you to all the harmful substances from which you’ve attempted to protect yourself.
Never Show Up Unprepared
When you go into a worksite and decide not to put on the proper protective wear, you’re risking your safety and the well-being of those around you. You risk cutting, infecting, and permanently damaging your body when you don’t utilize the right equipment, and that can create dangerous circumstances for others when they’re trying to deal with the situation. Always consider the short-term as well as the long-term effects of your actions and whether or not the risk of working without the proper PPE is worth it.