Everything you need to know about Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and how to keep safe at work
Published 3 May 2023
A Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is clothing or equipment designed to reduce employee exposure to chemical, biological, and physical hazards when on a worksite. It is used to protect employees when engineering and administrative controls are not feasible to reduce the risks to acceptable levels.
According to the hierarchy of controls by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), PPE (sometimes also reffered 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:
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:
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.
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.
PPE includes the following categories to protect employees from physical hazards:
PPE includes hard hats and headgears and should be required for tasks that can cause any force or object falling to the head.
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.
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.
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.
PPE includes safety harnesses and lanyards and should be strictly used for tasks that can cause falling from heights and serious injury or death.
PPE includes ear muffs and plugs and should be used for tasks that can cause hearing problems and loss of hearing.
Learn more about hearing protections.
Other examples of PPE include:
The global COVID-19 pandemic widely affects the economy, businesses, and living standards around the world. The implementation of using PPE such as face mask and face shield while in public areas are mandatory in different countries to prevent and control the spread of COVID-19. This protocol, however, doesn’t guarantee that the ongoing risks have materially changed.
The World Health Organization (WHO) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) set forth guidelines on the proper way of wearing face masks to protect oneself from acquiring or spreading the virus. Here are the Do’s and Don’ts of wearing masks.
The battle against the global pandemic requires frontliners including doctors and nurses to wear isolation gown to protect them from acquiring the virus. This would help lessen the chance of getting sick even if they always interact with COVID-19 patients. Below are CDC guidelines they should follow in using 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 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. With a toolbox talk template, it can help in assessing the sufficiency and availability of equipment for all employees.
Safety Officers can promote safety in the workplace by following PPE safety requirements:
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These examples of PPE safety are based on a free PPE checklist provided by SafetyCulture for anyone to download and use for free.
Potential hazards at work:
To give you a better idea, we’ve created a sample pdf report below:
Preview Sample PPE Report
Eliminate manual tasks and streamline your operations.
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 anytime and anywhere.
Here, you’ll find our highly recommended PPE 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-first microlearning platform providing hundreds of free courses such as:
All Training courses can be customized to fit the needs of your organization and be shared to your team in minutes. Workers can access the lessons in these course even offline.
Try out Training now!
SafetyCulture (formerly iAuditor) provides a digital space for safety officers and employees to work towards PPE safety. SafetyCulture helps teams perform hazard assessments to determine if enforcing PPE use is the best control measure for the task. It also allows employees to maintain PPE with ease.
Using the SafetyCulture app, employees can take pictures of PPE defects and even annotate photos to show where the damage is. 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.
Learn more about SafetyCulture features for PPE safety.
By using SafetyCulture for PPE inspections, safety officers are able to protect employees from the hazards of the job by ensuring that their PPEs are always in good condition.
With SafetyCulture , conducting regular PPE inspections is easy with convenient access to inspection data automatically stored in the cloud. Safety officers can also generate PPE inspection reports instantly with just one tap, anytime, and anywhere.
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:
Discover a better, faster, and easier way to empower teams in the workplace.
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.
Here are the frequently asked questions regarding PPE.
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 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.
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) Safety Checklists are used by safety officials and supervisors to help identify tasks that require PPE, ensure staff is using the right equipment, and reduce overall harm. This page features the most downloaded PPE checklists from OSHA and other best practice checklists. Use SafetyCulture a web and mobile inspection app, to conduct regular PPE self-inspections, identify tasks that require PPE and ensure staff is using the right equipment. Get started with these free customizable PPE checklists to find out how you can prevent accidents at work.
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 5-year experience in one of the world’s leading business news organisations helps enrich the quality of the information in her work.
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