Personal protective equipment, more commonly known as PPE, is equipment worn to protect a worker from hazards that can lead to workplace injuries or illnesses. Hazards can present at the workplace and can result from contact with chemical, biological, physical, electrical, or other workplace hazards.
What is PPE?
Employers are required to establish a program to determine what specific types of PPE are required to keep an employee safe. PPE programs should include engineering, work practice, and administrative controls to help mitigate the risk of exposure to hazards; when these measures do not provide enough protection, employers must provide PPE to employees. Employers are required to determine the following:
- What PPE is required
- When PPE is necessary
- Ensure PPE is properly fitted and comfortable for the employee
- Provide training on how to use and wear PPE
- Provide training to ensure the PPE is properly maintained, cleaned, and stored
What are Examples of PPE?
PPE is used to protect workers from hazards when all other measures fail. Examples of PPE include:
- Gloves help protect against biological or chemical hazards, but some gloves can also help protect against illnesses associated with vibration. Examples can include nitrile gloves, rubber gloves, anti-vibration gloves, surgical gloves, etc.
- Hard hats. Hard hats help protect workers from falling debris, impacts, or bumps.
- Safety glasses or goggles. Safety glasses or goggles can protect the eyes from splashes of biological agents, respiratory droplets, or chemicals.
- Face shields. Face shields protect the face and mucous membranes of the eyes, nose, lips from splashes.
- Safety shoes. Safety shoes help protect workers’ feet from potentially serious injuries from falling objects, piercing objects, or electrical hazards such as static discharge hazards to the feet.
- Hearing protection. Earplugs, canal caps, or earmuffs can help protect a worker from noise exposure while at work.
- Gowns can help protect any exposed skin and clothing from being contaminated with biological hazards such as body fluids or chemical exposures.
- Masks or other respirators. Masks and other respirators are used to protect a worker from exposure to biological or chemical particles or liquids that can lead to inhalation injuries or illnesses.
PPE should meet OSHA requirements. OSHA often refers to standards developed and maintained by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) or the American National Standards Institute (ANSI).
National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, “Personal Protective Equipment,” https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/ppe/
Occupational Safety and Health Administration, “Personal Protective Equipment Standards,” https://www.osha.gov/personal-protective-equipment/standards
Occupational Safety and Health Administration, “Personal Protective Equipment,” https://www.osha.gov/personal-protective-equipment