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Beyond Bulletproof—PPE for Law Enforcement

When you think officer safety, is a ballistic vest the first item that comes to mind? Safety for law enforcement personnel involves much more. OSHA law, with few exceptions, is based on activity or function, not the name of the employer or the job description. There are no “law enforcement” standards as such. Instead, it is necessary to examine each activity that a law enforcement officer might do, individually, and apply the appropriate OSHA standard.

Many law enforcement activities require the use of personal protective equipment, or PPE. When PPE is required, the employer must provide the required PPE and also provide training in its proper use and care.

Following are common examples of PPE that may be required for law enforcement officers based on OSHA standards. Remember, AMLJIA members can use their Safety Savings account to help purchase required PPE. Contact the AMLJIA at 800-337-3682 for more information.

Hearing Protection
The Hearing Conservation standard covers employees exposed to excessive noise – regularly or intermittently. For example, this would include gunfire during law enforcement training. Exposed employees should be provided hearing protection and informed of the need to use it when appropriate.

Respiratory Protection
For law enforcement, OSHA’s Respiratory Protection standard would cover, at the least, officers who do some form of hazardous materials response. The standard requires that officers be properly fitted and provided with appropriate respiratory equipment, and that the equipment be properly maintained and stored. Responders who might be required to use respirators must be provided appropriate medical evaluations to ensure that they are suited for using SCBA. Training under this standard requires that employees understand the need for the respirator, when to use it and how to use it properly.

Eye and Face Protection
Employees who may be exposed to the hazard of flying particles, etc. must be provided with appropriate face and eye protection. An example for law enforcement would be officers involved in scheduled shooting activities at the range. The Bloodborne Pathogens standard also requires eye and face protection when there is the potential for exposure to potentially infectious materials.

Hand Protection
Today’s first responders face serious threats from exposure to dangerous drugs and bloodborne pathogens. High-quality, single-use nitrile gloves should be part of your daily uniform.

High-visibility Vest
OSHA requires that all workers, including emergency response personnel, must wear high visibility and retro reflective vests when working in an area where exposed to public traffic. Studies have clearly demonstrated that high visibility personal protective equipment (PPE) significantly improves the visibility of emergency responders working on the roadways. Law enforcement operations on the road are inherently hazardous situations—operating on the roadway is one of the most dangerous law enforcement duties.

Personal Flotation Device (PFD)
Another form of PPE that some agencies may be called upon to provide is a personal flotation device (PFD), should personnel be required to work in the vicinity of any body of water.

Ice Cleats
Although this equipment is not required by any OSHA standard, the best protection against slips and falls in icy conditions is ice cleats. Ice cleats are a cost-effective way to reduce injuries in the workplace and can be purchased with your Safety Savings Account. Before winter weather returns, contact your AMLJIA Risk Control Specialist at 800-337-3682 and learn how to put an effective ice gripper program and employee training in place to protect officers and reduce injuries.