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American Towman Magazine Presents the Week in TowingFebruary 20 - February 26, 2019

The Ins and Outs of PPE

TowBusiness 07c19By Brian J Riker

Many tow owners do a fair job of making personal protective equipment available to their staff although they don't always have the correct gear or enforce its proper usage. Several agencies, most notably OSHA, cover the use of PPE through regulations or contract stipulations.

The most common type of PPE that towmen are familiar with is high-visibility clothing. The American National Standards Institute controls this apparel. ANSI/ISEA standards 107 and 207, updated in February 2016, apply to all workers exposed to traffic. The latest standards make allowances for different work site conditions and job tasks that the previous standard did not.

Given the various levels of exposure a towman can face, I recommend always complying with the highest level of protection. This would require operators to properly wear ANSI Class 3 Type R garments.

Properly means clean, correct size and closed as designed. A vest or jacket must be zipped closed to meet the standard. Simply throwing a vest over your uniform and having it hang loose violates not only the ANSI standard, but can be a hazard under OSHA regulations.

We are exposed to many other worksite and environmental hazards daily. How many of us take the time to wear safety glasses or a face shield and gloves when jump-starting a vehicle? What about safety-toe shoes? How about hearing protection when the time weighted average noise level exceeds 90 decibels? Do you have ergonomic workstations and proper lighting for your office staff?

PPE regulations require employers to complete an assessment for each job task an employee performs. The assessment must be documented as part of a specific job hazard assessment. This means, per OSHA standard 1910.132(d), an employer must determine what PPE is required to be worn, assure that it is provided and used properly.

As the employer, you are responsible for providing most required PPE at no cost; however, employees may choose to provide their own for comfort or other reasons. The employer must inspect and approve employee-owned PPE and are still fully responsible for any violations that result from employee-provided PPE.

During an investigation, the OSHA auditor determines compliance by the amount of documentation you have. It is imperative that you take immediate and documented steps to compel your employees to use PPE. Simply speaking to them or having a policy in the employee handbook is not enough to satisfy OSHA.

When you observe an employee using PPE incorrectly, you need to write a report. A simple one-page note in their file is sufficient. The fines for non-compliance can start at $10,000 per violation per day.

Employers must also train their employees in the proper use of PPE. This can be accomplished with a periodic safety meeting, short talks at the beginning of a shift and during new-hire orientations. This must be documented and acknowledged by the employee. I suggest refresher training during the year. Pick a piece of PPE and include a few minutes on its proper use at your monthly safety meeting.

Drivers: I urge you to wear your PPE correctly every time you do a job. I have seen good, hard-working towers lose out on large amounts of compensation after an injury because they were in violation of their employer's PPE policy.

The lawyer for the impaired driver that strikes you at roadside is going to use a concept called "contributory negligence" to defend their client. This means that even though their client was impaired, your failure to follow all applicable regulations regarding PPE, scene control, lighting, lane closure and more helped lead to the accident.

Further, I have seen insurance companies attempt to deny claims for injury and death when the injured party was not using proper PPE.

Stay safe and protect what is important—your family. Accidents happen, but please do not be part of the reason your family does not get the financial support they will need if you are injured or killed on the job.

Brian J. Riker is a third-generation towman and President of Fleet Compliance Solutions.

He specializes in helping non-traditional fleets such as towing, repossession, and construction companies navigate the complex world of Federal and State transportation regulatory compliance.

With 25 years of experience in the ditch as a tow operator Brian truly understands the unique needs and challenges faced by towing companies today.

He can be reached at
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