Everything You Need to Know About PPE Safety

Understand the importance of PPE safety, its basic types, examples, and tips for proper use

construction worker wearing ppe for safety

What is PPE?

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) refers to protective clothing for the eyes, head, ears, hands, respiratory system, body, and feet. It is utilized to protect individuals from the risks of injury and infection while minimizing exposure to chemical, biological, and physical hazards. PPE serves as the final line of defense when engineering and administrative controls are insufficient in reducing or eliminating risks.

What is PPE Safety?

PPE safety is the practice of ensuring a safe, working environment for employees and visitors through the use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). Safety is paramount to all businesses across industries. Using PPEs, paired with inspections such as workplace and restaurant inspections, assessments like health and safety risk assessments, and analysis such as gap analysis—is essential to protect employees from risks and hazards.

Why is it Important?

According to the hierarchy of controls by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), PPE (sometimes also referred to as PPE equipment)—is recommended to be the last level of defense to prevent occupational injuries, illnesses, and fatalities, but some businesses combined it with other control measures to ensure a safe and healthy environment for their workers. Here are some benefits of using PPEs:

The 4 Basic Types of PPE and Their Examples

However, even the strictest controls will not necessarily eliminate all the risks associated with most job tasks and this is where the need for PPE must be evaluated. A hazard assessment can help identify which specialized PPE will be required. There are numerous types of workplace safety equipment available depending on the hazard exposure and work conditions. The following are basic PPE that can help protect employees:

Types of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

Face and Eye Protection

PPE includes safety goggles and face shields and should be used for tasks that can cause eye damage or loss of vision, sprays of toxic liquids, splashes, and burns.

Safety Tips:

  • Check if safety glasses comply with the ANSI Z87.1 eye protection standard.
  • Ensure that there are no cracks or deformities on the lenses.
  • Ensure the strap is in good working condition and is firmly sealed to the cheek and forehead.
  • Clean and disinfect after use.

Face and Eye Protection - PPE

Respiratory Protection

PPE includes full-face respirators, self-contained breathing apparatus, gas masks, N95 respirators, and surgical masks are used for a task that can cause inhalation of harmful materials to enter the body. This includes harmful gas, chemicals, large-particle droplets, sprays, splashes, or splatter that may contain viruses and bacteria such as COVID-19, viral infections, and more.

Safety Tips:

  • Ensure that the equipment is fit-tested and the employee has undergone proper training before wearing one.
  • Carefully read the instructions to determine if it is designed to help protect against the hazards you may face.
  • Change filters on half-mask or full-mask respirators frequently.
  • Replace disposable respirators with every use.
  • Surgical masks are not to be shared with anyone.
  • Avoid touching the surgical mask after wearing it.
  • Change surgical mask timely and should be disposed of after use.
  • Replace the mask immediately if it is damaged or soiled.

PPE - Respiratory Protection

Skin and Body Protection

PPE includes the following categories to protect employees from physical hazards:

Head Protection

PPE includes hard hats and headgears and should be required for tasks that can cause any force or object falling to the head.

Safety Tips:

  • Ensure that there are no dents or deformities on the shell and connections are tightened inside.
  • Do not store in direct sunlight as extreme heat can cause damage.
  • Choose appropriate cleaning agents as it can weaken the shells of hard hats and may eliminate electrical resistance.
  • Always replace a hard hat if it was used for any kind of impact, even if the damage is unnoticeable.

Body Protection

PPE includes safety vests and suits that can be used for tasks that can cause body injuries from extreme temperatures, flames and sparks, toxic chemicals, insect bites and radiation.

Safety Tips:

  • Ensure that they are clean and free from cuts and burns.
  • Always get a good fit to ensure full body protection.
  • Ensure bodysuit is heat-resistant clothing when working with high-temperature hazards.

Hands Protection

PPE includes safety gloves and should be used for tasks that can cause hand and skin burns, absorption of harmful substances, cuts, fractures or amputations.

Safety Tips:

  • Ensure hand protection fits perfectly with no spaces and is free from cuts, burns, and chemical residue.
  • Always replace them if any sign of contamination was observed.
  • Use rubber gloves when working with heat and electricity to reduce the risk of burn or electrical shock.

Foot Protection

PPE includes knee pads and safety boots and should be used for tasks that can cause serious foot and leg injuries from falling or rolling objects, hot substances, electrical hazards, and slippery surfaces.

Safety Tips:

  • Ensure boots have slip-resistant soles that can protect against compression and impact.
  • Ensure the sole plate is in good condition to prevent punctures.

Fall Protection

PPE includes safety harnesses and lanyards and should be strictly used for tasks that can cause falling from heights and serious injury or death.

Safety Tips:

  • Ensure that the straps are free from tears, deformities, and burn marks.
  • Check the buckles if connected securely and tightly.
  • Dispose of the equipment if used after a falling incident.

PPE - Skin and Body Protection

Hearing Protection

PPE includes ear muffs and plugs and should be used for tasks that can cause hearing problems and loss of hearing.

Safety Tips:

  • Ensure the equipment fit the ear canal perfectly.
  • It is recommended to use formable earplugs to fit different sizes of ear canals.
  • Use protectors that reduce noise exposure to an acceptable level to have room for communication.
  • Ensure earplugs are clean and in good condition.

PPE - Hearing Protection

Learn more about hearing protection.

Other examples of PPE include:

  • safety glasses or goggles
  • safety shoes
  • high-visibility clothing or vests
  • heat-resistant gloves
  • anti-vibration gloves
  • welding PPE such as helmets and and flame-resistant clothing
  • chemical-resistant suits or aprons
  • safety harnesses and lanyards

Improve your EHS Management

Cultivate a safe working environment and streamline compliance with our EHS solutions.

Explore now

Toolbox Talk for PPE

Workplace safety should begin with a hazard assessment. Once the hazards and risks have been identified, a plan can be put forward to prioritize and reduce the risk of injury. Useful systems and tools to perform hazard assessments include performing a risk assessment and a Job Safety Analysis (JSA).

The hierarchy of controls is a proven safety approach that helps protect employees. If elimination, substitution, engineering, and administrative controls are not enough to eliminate the risk, it is vital to choose the appropriate PPE carefully. Ensure employees are properly trained to use the safety equipment and be able to detect and report any damages before commencing work.

A toolbox talk about PPE is recommended to discuss the different kinds of PPE that can be used to minimize the likelihood and mitigate the effects of hazards. A toolbox talk template can help in assessing the sufficiency and availability of safety equipment for all employees.

PPE Safety Requirements

Safety Officers can promote safety in the workplace by following PPE safety requirements:

  • Check work sites regularly for the need for PPE.
  • If PPE is needed, provide employees with properly-fitted PPE.
  • Train employees on OSHA PPE standards.
  • Provide protective goggles or face shields when there is a danger of flying particles or corrosive materials.
  • Require that safety glasses are worn at all times in worksites that pose a risk of eye punctures, abrasions, contusions, or burns.
  • Provide and require protective gloves in situations where employees could be cut or possibly exposed to corrosive liquids, chemicals, blood, and other potentially infectious materials.
  • Require the use of foot protection when there is a risk of foot injury from hot, corrosive, or poisonous substances, and falling objects.
  • Inspect hard hats periodically for damage to the shell and suspension system.
  • Maintain PPE in sanitary and ready-to-use conditions.
  • Ensure that eyewash facilities and quick drench showers are easily accessible for employees when they are accidentally exposed to corrosive materials.
  • Establish safe work procedures for disposing of or decontaminating PPE after hazardous exposures.

PPE Safety Examples

These examples of PPE safety are based on a free PPE checklist provided by SafetyCulture for anyone to download and use for free.

Nature of work: Laboratory (Chemical Handling)
Potential hazards at work:

  1. Eye hazards – Handling/dispensing chemicals and ingredients; working around UV lights; chipping, sanding, grinding, welding, metal working; tasks that generate dust
    Risk/s – Chemical exposure, dust particulates, flying debris
    Description of hazard – Corrosive chemicals which are harmful when they explode
    PPE required – Safety glasses with side shields, chemical splash goggles
    Does equipment undergo testing and in a good condition?
    Goggles are in good working condition. Lenses are clean without any dirt or debris
    Does the equipment fit perfectly?
    They fit perfectly on cheeks and forehead.
  2. Head/Neck/Face hazards – Handling/dispensing chemicals and ingredients, chipping, sanding or grinding metal or wood; working on energized equipment, working in confined spaces
    Risk/s – Chemical exposure, dust particulates, flying debris, UV/IR radiation
    Description of hazard – Dispensing chemicals and spills
    PPE required – Full face shields
    Does equipment undergo testing and in a good condition?
    Face shields have no dents and marks.
  3. Respiratory hazards – Handling/using highly hazardous chemicals; tasks that generate dust and/or fumes; cutting, brazing on certain metals (stainless steel)
    Risk/s – Chemical exposure, dust particulates, flying debris
    Description of hazard – Exposure to dangerous vapors
    PPE required – Respirators
    Does the equipment fit perfectly?
    It fits perfectly. Straps are tight.

To give you a better idea, we’ve created a PPE checklist sample pdf report below:

Digitize the way you Work

Eliminate manual tasks and streamline your operations.

Get Started for Free

Guarantee Proper Usage of PPE with PPE Courses

Giving personal protective equipment (PPE) for your workers alone is not enough to protect them from hazards, injuries, and accidents. This is especially true for industries such as construction, manufacturing, and healthcare. To make sure that their PPEs fully serve their functions, it’s crucial that your workers understand their proper use, maintenance, and disposal to protect themselves and the people around them. Thankfully, training now is made easy and convenient for you with online PPE courses that your workers can take any time and anywhere.

Here, you can use highly recommended premade courses that will cover the different types of PPE and demonstrate when and how to use them properly. Reinforcing PPE training will not only keep your workers safe from hazards but also boost productivity without any threat of unwanted incidents. Try Training, a mobile feature available on the SafetyCulture platform.

All Training courses can be customized to fit the needs of your organization and be shared with your team in minutes. Workers can access the lessons in these courses even offline.

Try out Training now!

SafetyCulture Marketplace: Your One-Stop Work Gear & Equipment Shop

Improve safety in your workplace with SafetyCulture Marketplace as your one-stop shop for all work gear and equipment needs. Get on-demand access to top quality and specialized work gear from trusted equipment brands in the industry—all in one centralized location. Raise the bar of safety and efficiency by empowering employees to request what they need with just a few taps, anytime and anywhere!

PPE Inspections with SafetyCulture (formerly iAuditor)

Tracking the number of usable PPE is easier for safety officers as well and they are better equipped to provide what their employees need to get the job done.

SafetyCulture provides a digital space for safety officers and employees to work towards PPE safety. By utilizing this app, safety officers are able to protect employees from the hazards of the job by ensuring that their PPEs are always in good condition. Make PPE inspections easy by being able to:

  • Take pictures of PPE defects and even annotate photos to show where the damage is
  • Perform hazard assessments to determine if enforcing PPE use is the best control measure for the task
  • Generate PPE inspection reports instantly with just one tap, anytime, and anywhere
  • Store inspection data in a safe and cloud-based recordkeeping

Beyond PPE inspections, SafetyCulture can also be used to develop an organization’s health and safety program by enabling safety officers to do the following:

  • Enforce standardized safety protocols across teams and different sites
  • Mitigate risks with a wide variety of free risk assessment templates
  • Plan corrective actions immediately to prevent incidents from occurring

Discover a better, faster, and easier way to empower teams in the workplace.

SafetyCulture has helped businesses around the world achieve

reduction in reporting time*
savings from safety & compliance improvements*
increased audit & data management efficiency*

*Reported in Forrester’s study: The Total Economic Impact™ of SafetyCulture’s Operations Platform

FAQs about PPE and PPE Safety

The responsibility for buying PPE varies depending on the context of its use. It can also be influenced by regulations, guidelines, and industry standards in place in different regions and sectors. But ultimately, the responsibility can lie with different entities such as individuals, employers, government agencies, and healthcare institutions.

The replacement of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) depends on its type and usage. Manufacturers typically offer guidelines on when PPE should be replaced. However, as a general rule, PPE should be replaced when it becomes damaged, worn out, or no longer provides adequate protection.

According to the World Health Organization, people should not wear masks when exercising, as masks may reduce the ability to breathe comfortably. Once a mask becomes wet it promotes the growth of microorganisms and makes it difficult to breathe.

All Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) should be well maintained, clean, and reliable. Employers should check if it is safely designed and constructed according to their function and usage. It should fit comfortably for users to ensure they are protected and they can work efficiently.

Yes. According to OSHA, employers should conduct PPE training including topics on when to use it, what proper equipment should be used, how to use and adjust it, equipment limitations, and proper maintenance and disposal of equipment.

An OSHA regulation states that employers are responsible to provide and pay for PPE if it is used to comply with OSHA standards.

Employers must ensure that each employee follows PPE guidelines and the equipment is adequate to protect the employees from hazards even when an employee provides their own PPE.

PPE is the last level of defense according to NIOSH. It is a false statement to believe that once an employee wears PPE they are totally protected. PPE only minimizes the likelihood of exposure or may reduce the severity of the injury. Do not use PPE when the risks are higher than how it is designed.

No. Never allow exemptions from wearing PPE even if the job would only take a few minutes. An incident can occur anytime and wearing appropriate PPE can reduce the risk of an accident.

A PPE safety checklist would help identify the appropriate safety equipment/PPE that is required in performing tasks. It would help ensure that the employee is using the right equipment to reduce the risks and overall hazards.

Jona Tarlengco
Article by

Jona Tarlengco

SafetyCulture Content Specialist
Jona Tarlengco is a content writer and researcher for SafetyCulture since 2018. She usually writes about safety and quality topics, contributing to the creation of well-researched articles. Her years of experience in one of the world’s leading business news organisations helps enrich the quality of the information in her work.