Hesperian Health Guides
Clothing and shoes
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Cloth or plastic protection over your clothing can protect your skin and clothes from some dusts and chemicals. Chemical-resistant clothing, such as aprons, suits, and boots, are necessary if you work with dangerous chemicals, especially acids. These chemicals can hurt you quickly and permanently.
Coats, aprons, and suits
Coveralls on top of your clothes will protect your skin and clothing from dust and splashes. But protective clothing, such as rubber aprons, long sleeves, and other PPE, can make you feel very hot, especially if your workplace is hot. Drinks lots of water, take breaks, and pay attention to signs of heat stress. Keeping the factory cooler will help reduce heat stress.
Cotton cloth coats and aprons will not protect you from many chemicals, but they can provide a barrier from dusts and small splashes from mild chemicals. They might give you some protection from sharp or rough materials. They should be washed in the factory. If you take them home to wash, wash them separately from your clothes.
Many body suits are made with a material that is thin and looks and feels like paper. They are meant to be worn only one time. Body suits used in cleanrooms, also called "bunny suits," protect the product, not the worker. They do not offer real protection from chemicals.
Chemical-resistant clothing is made from rubber, neoprene, or other plastic. These protect you from chemical splashes when they are the right kind for the chemical you are working with. If you work with corrosive chemicals, wear chemical-resistant protective clothing.
Closed-toe shoes and boots protect your feet better than sandals. If you wear sandals, wear ones with straps so they do not easily come off. A sturdy sole with some texture will not slip as easily as one that is smooth.
Shoe covers or strap-on protectors are often made of a plastic or paper-like material. They may prevent dust and dirt from coming into the work area but provide only a little protection to you. If they cover the whole shoe and you throw them away after using them, they may prevent you bringing home dusts and chemicals on your shoes.
Most disposable shoe covers are slippery. Ask your employer for non-skid shoe covers that have texture on the bottom.
Safety shoes are made of leather or a heavy material that will not melt. Wear safety shoes if you work in an area where things might fall on your feet. They might need chemical-resistant or strong soles that will not slip, and have metal or other material in the toe area to protect against something heavy dropping on it. If you work in an area where electrical static is common, shoes that conduct electricity will prevent you from making sparks while walking. However, if you might be exposed to electrical dangers (see Chapter 10), you should not wear shoes that conduct electricity.
Heavy plastic boots protect you best in areas where chemicals splash.
|If you wear plastic boots, wash your socks and feet every day to prevent fungal infections. If your feet itch, air your feet as often as you can and use a foot powder.|
When you wear safety shoes and boots:
- Make sure they fit you well. Your toes should be comfortable without too much space. If you trip when you wear them, they are not the right size.
- Look for tears, cracks or holes, or any area where the shoe might be breaking or coming apart.
- Check the bottom of the shoe every day to make sure there are no metal or objects stuck on it.
- Wear long pants over boots and shoes so chemicals do not get on your legs or in your boots.
- Keep safety shoes at work or wear shoe protectors so you do not bring dust or chemicals home with you.