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Choosing the Right Protective Clothing for Your Industry: A Comprehensive Guide

February 5, 2024

The meat processing industry is one of the biggest pillars of the food trade; however, it remains, if not above all, a very dangerous and regulated sector. 

Risks for workers in this industry include amputation, puncture wounds, thermal burns or scalds from incidents such as: 

  • Slips
  • Trips and Falls
  • Exposure to Chemicals
  • Pathogens
  • Ultraviolet Light
  • Biologic Agents
  • Ionising Radiation Temperatures
  • Shock Pressure Variations and more…

Therefore, there are strict regulations that are enforced for protective clothing as it is designed to maintain the safety and health of workers, as well as product quality, production and hygiene.

Defining PPE

PPE is defined as any piece of clothing or device worn on the body that minimises risk to the wearer from injury, specific hazards or disease. 

PPE can be such clothing as:

  • Suits
  • Overalls
  • Jackets
  • Aprons
  • Surgeon-like Gloves and Sleeves
  • Boots 
  • Helmets
  • Goggles
  • Earplugs
  • Masks and many more…

The requirements for the type and level of protective clothing to be used are dependent upon a particular working environment’s tasks, hazards, and conditions.

PPE should be selected according to the following criteria:

Compliance

The steel should comply with applicable meat processing industry standards and regulations, including:

  • OSHA
  • FDA
  • The EU 
  • And ISO

Similarly, PPE should have a CE mark showing that it complies with the health and safety of work in relation to application requirements.

Suitability

PPE ought to be appropriate for the hazard and threat, based on the fact that a worker could be exposed without it. 

For instance, gloves are to be impervious from cuts and chemicals; boots should have nonslip soles as well as waterproof lining and respirators must strain harmful vapours while inhaling.

PPE should also not adversely interact with other PPE and equipment; rather, it should allow the worker to work effectively or comfortably.

Fit

PPE must be used with a proper fitting so that it does not interfere with the wearer’s ease in doing their tasks and is adjustable to his or her anatomy. 

PPE should not be too tight or loose as both can lead to contamination issues or exposure. PPE should also be comfortable and provide a range of motion and built-in ventilation. All materials garments or plastics must be inspected regularly so you as an owner are aware of wear and tear, or other anomalies after where they are replaced if necessary.

Maintenance

Protective clothing should thus be stored, maintained and cleaned in accordance with the manufacturers’ instructions as well as those of the employer. 

PPE should be kept in a specific, secure location that is far from the sunlight and other heat sources and free of moisture and contaminated substances. 

Inspection must be carried out before and after every use. 

Deficiencies or breakages should be immediately reported for repair. If repairs are not sufficient, all PPE apparatus, as per local regulations and procedures, should also be discarded correctly.

Some of the common types of PPE used in the meat processing industry are:

Head Protection

These are critical items such as:

  • Helmets
  • Caps
  • Hairnets 
  • And Hoods…

All of these protect the head region, including the hairs, from impact forces or falling objects, also exposure to heat or cold plus other areas. 

In places where there is a danger of head injury, like near machines, belts or straps and cutting edges, appropriate hardhats should be worn. 

The headgear should also enclose the hair to ensure the occlusion of human tissue into products or manufacturing equipment.

Eye and Face Protection

These mainly include goggles, glasses, shields and masks, which are designed to protect the eyes or face region from splashes, sparks; dust and smoke, as well as pathogens. 

Goggles, safety glasses or face shields must be worn in eye-ear injury hazard areas during:

  • Cutting
  • Grinding
  • Welding
  • And all Cleaning Activities…

At the same time, eye and face protection should also be closely placed over appropriate areas so that it does not interfere with vision or breathing.

Hearing Protection

These are in the form of earplugs, earmuffs, and head sets protecting the ears against noise, vibration as well as pressure. 

Areas with a potential risk of impairment should have provisions such as hearing protection and other things to prevent any risks from machines, tools, and vehicles. 

Hence, hearing protection should also attenuate noise to a tolerable level. It should not hamper the wearer’s communication or consciousness levels

Hand and Arm Protection

This entails protection by both gloves and sleeves from:

  • Lacerations
  • Punctures
  • Contamination and Burns
  • Chemical Radiation 
  • Pathogens and more…

In places where there is a hazard of injury to the hand or arm, like knives or saws, the right PPE is vital.

Gloves or any type of hand and arm protection should also give abrasion, tear-and-puncture resistance, and a perfect fit over the hands and arms while allowing normal dexterity and grip.

Body Protection

This includes: 

  • Overalls
  • Jackets
  • Aprons
  • Vests and more…

All of which protect the body from any physical injury of being cut or punctured as well as burns while chemicals like pathogens. 

Areas that are prone to cause bodily harm, such as in the presence of sharp or heavy objects, hot-cold liquids and contaminated materials, should have body protection. 

Body armour should also be resistant, flexible and easy to clean. It should be able to provide a sufficient covering for the body without interfering with either the freedom of movement or aeration.

Foot and Leg Protection

This entails footwear, which protects the feet from cuts and stabbing objects when worn due to burns and chemicals, as well as disease-causing organisms or pathogens. 

When working near:

  • Machines
  • Conveyor Belts
  • Chains
  • Or Choppers…

Protective foot and leg gears should be worn to avoid cutting appendages caused by mechanical equipment edges. 

In this area, the chosen grips should become loose due to water seepage and resist ice and slipping, yet hold fast with good insulating qualities.

SUMMARY

It is evident that the selection of the right protective clothing for your industry is a major step toward compliance and ensuring the safety of your workforce. It should also be properly and consistently used, in combination with other safety methods such as training, supervision, and hygiene. You can also reduce the rate of injuries, illnesses and contamination and improve your efficiency. There’s a lot of PPE equipment out there, and they are not all the same, so make sure you speak to the professionals first. Good luck!