The Importance of Personal Protective Equipment in Manufacturing


Read Time: 3 min

Factories and other types of manufacturing environments can be dangerous places. From toxic or corrosive chemicals to sharp fragments and splinters, preventing workers from injuries and accidents is paramount—and that’s where personal protective equipment (PPE) comes in.

PPE is a catch-all term that describes a broad range of safety-orientated clothing and accessories; it's also a term that's gotten considerable press recently, with companies across all sectors leveraging PPE to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.

The idea of PPE is either to create a physical barrier that prevents the wearer from harm by items and materials they come into contact with on the factory floor, whether that’s hazardous substances or flying debris produced during normal work operations, as well as protection from the impact of a slip or fall.

Top 5 types of personal protective equipment for manufacturing

  • Eyewear: Safety glasses and similar items stop splinters, fragments of material, and harmful substances from injuring workers’ eyes during manufacturing operations.
  • Respirators: Breathing masks prevent workers from inhaling dangerous particles, dust, or harmful chemicals.
  • Headphones: Noise-canceling headphones prevent hearing damage from manufacturing machinery that produces a lot of noise.
  • Skin and hand protection: Gloves or hazmat suits may be necessary if your workforce handles corrosive or potentially poisonous substances.
  • Fall protection: Harnesses can prevent injuries if workers fall from a height.

Digital manufacturing and safety controls

Of course, the safest thing for workers would be to remove themselves from a dangerous physical situation altogether. This may have seemed an absurd suggestion in the past, but the rise of digital manufacturing technologies is making it possible to create distance between workers and hazards while actually maximizing productivity.

Remote monitoring and control

Using digital manufacturing solutions, many facilities are exploring ways to wrap and extend their existing infrastructure with new control capabilities. In other words, they are able to trigger certain actions, or turn machines on or off, remotely. This is particularly useful during emergency shutdowns or even maintenance, when safety and climate control systems may have been cut off or switched off, or when a malfunctioning machine could be dangerous to approach, even with PPE. It also helps address issues where PPE can’t tackle all the hazards to health, for example when a worker needs to enter a very hot production area in order to turn off or adjust equipment.

If you have machinery arms, pulleys, and similar heavy-duty equipment working at height, controlling these remotely allows operators to stay safe, instead of working at a height where they are at an increased risk of injury.

Increased automation

As manufacturing facilities undergo digital transformation, more and more companies edge towards automating tasks, processes, and production lines. Automation doesn’t just improve productivity, consistency, and cost-efficiency; it’s also a key strategy for improving safety on the factory floor

Deploying digital manufacturing technology means you can continually collect sensor data to monitor equipment performance. This allows you to intervene if any of your machines show any sign of experiencing problems before they become a danger to workers. You can also set up equipment to automatically stop or shut down if a person or object gets too close, or the system otherwise senses danger. The more processes you automate, the more your workforce shifts focus to monitoring and management roles—ultimately reducing exposure to dangerous situations.

Protecting Your People

There is nothing more important than the safety of your workforce. Distributing the right personal protective equipment is absolutely necessary to prevent accidents. That said, as digital manufacturing technologies become more sophisticated, so do the measures you can take to improve safety. Workforce protection has evolved beyond goggles and hard hats; through digital controls and automation, it’s now possible to reduce exposure to previously dangerous working conditions, ultimately leading to safer factory jobs.

Tags: CAD Industrial Internet of Things Industrial Equipment Life Sciences Connected Devices Digital Transformation

About the Author

Prema Srinivasan, Digital Content Marketing Manager

As a Digital Content Marketing Manager, I bring the latest technology stories to the forefront. I'm passionate about engaging readers and empowering decision makers with relevant, up-to-date content.