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What Is PPE?

The practice of occupational health and safety requires the knowledge of many acronyms; read on for an answer to the question 'What is PPE?'


What is PPE? PPE is Personal Protective Equipment.

Equipment that is worn to limit exposure to potentially harmful substances or conditions is known as PPE. It is designed to protect an employee against hazards including impact, heat or cold, harmful chemicals, dust and others.

Types of PPE generally fall under one of the following categories of protection: eye and face, head, foot and leg, hand and arm, body and hearing.

When worn properly, PPE effectively reduces risk of injury or death due to exposure to workplace hazards.

What is PPE? PPE is a last line of defense.

PPE has been proven to effectively protect workers against workplace hazards, but protective equipment physically worn by the worker should be considered a last line of defense.

Free PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) Guide

A complete reference to PPE

What is PPE's level of priority on the list of potential hazard controls? OSHA recommends the following defensive measures be considered before PPE is assigned:

  • Engineering controls - physical alterations to equipment or the work environment to improve safety (e.g. constructing a barrier between the employee and the hazard)
  • Administrative controls - changes to work schedules to limit exposure to hazards (e.g. scheduling shorter shifts or rotating workers frequently to maintain worker alertness and reduce time exposed to hazards)
  • Work practices - training workers to perform work duties in a manner which reduces hazard exposure (e.g. prohibiting eating in a particular workspace to ensure full attention is devoted to the task at hand)

What is PPE? PPE is industry- and work environment-specific.

When these controls have been implemented to the extent possible and PPE is still deemed necessary, care should be taken to ensure that the PPE purchased and utilized is appropriate for the work conditions in which it will be used.

Consider, for example, eye protection. The goal is simple: to protect the eyes from exposure to potential hazards. The specific kind of eye protection selected, however, will depend greatly upon the specific industry conditions that the worker may encounter. Basic safety spectacles guard against flying objects. Goggles fit tightly around the eye socket to provide additional protection against chemical splashes and dust. Welding shields have a special coating that protects the eye tissue from burns caused by intense radiant light. Face shields protect against splashes, but are not strong enough to deflect potentially harmful impact.

Before selecting appropriate PPE, a careful hazard assessment should be performed to ensure that the PPE selected will protect against all relevant hazards. Additionally, workers should be trained to recognize industry-specific hazards and use PPE effectively to protect themselves from injury. Properly trained workers know the drill and take proper preventative measures on a routine basis, rather than turning to each other in the face of hazards and asking "What is PPE?".

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