PPE- An Ultimate Guide

Working in safety should be the number one priority of any employer. While standard methods and procedures, construction technology, and on-going training are all part of a well-run workplace, all workers should have the appropriate protective workwear as the ultimate barrier to safety. Our ultimate guide to PPE aims to inform and dispell any myths with regards to Personal Protective Equipment.

What is PPE?

PPE is Personal Protective Equipment. It is required by construction workers, factory workers and other specialist jobs when they are working near or on potential hazards like a steep drop off or even a dangerous chemical.

According to the OSHA, employers should provide safe and healthy workplaces for their workers, and that includes the supply of PPE workwear, where they are needed.

While workers might not prefer to wear personal protective equipment, it not only drastically reduces the risk of employees’ injuries, but it also assists employers bottom line by reducing employees’ compensation costs. Since maximizing profits and minimizing risks are the key goals for every construction firm, a tough safety gear plan is vital to any growing construction business.

If you would like to ramp up your safety wear program or are looking for a refresher program on PPE, this post will give you the ultimate PPE guide that will keep your employees safe and productive.

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Understanding PPE

Personal protective equipment, popularly known as PPE, refers to equipment worn by workers to reduce their exposure to dangers that cause severe workplace illnesses and injuries. These illnesses and injuries might result from contact with radiological, physical, chemical, mechanical, electrical, or other job site dangers.

Personal protective equipment might include items like gloves, earplugs, muffs, safety shoes and glasses, hard hats, coveralls or respirators, full-body suits, and vests.

All the personal protective equipment must be safely built and designed, and should also be maintained reliably and cleanly. The safety gear should also fit comfortably, to encourage worker use. If it doesn’t fit properly, the safety gear can bring the difference between being dangerously exposed and safely covered. If engineering, administrative, and work practice controls are not viable or do not offer enough protection, PPE is the last resort.

PPE is built to differing standards that are constantly updated. it is worth checking on your region’s health and safety organizations website.

Employers should provide PPE safety workwear to their employees in circumstances that require it. Training should be provided also to ensure its right use.

Employers should train all the workers required to wear personal protective workwear to know:

  • What type is necessary
  • What times should PPE be necessary?
  • How to correctly wear, adjust, and remove it
  • The limitations of the safety equipment
  • Proper maintenance, care, lifespan, and the disposal of the safety equipment

If personal protective equipment is to be used on a job site, a PPE program must be implemented. The program should address all the potential hazards; the selection, use, and maintenance of PPE; the on-job training of workers; and monitoring of the PPE program to ensure its continued effectiveness.

Importance of PPE

In the risk control hierarchy, personal protective equipment ranks lowest. PPE is the last resort option. It’s only suitable where the risk in question can’t be removed or controlled totally in such a way that danger is unlikely. In this framework of the last resort control mechanism, PPE is incredibly important because it is only used where all other measures are inadequate and as such it plays a significant role when it comes to reducing and preventing many occupational injuries, diseases, and fatalities. Why is PPE important?-An infographic

Here are some of the reasons for this kind of approach:

•    You can rarely achieve theoretical maximum levels of protection using PPE, which means the real level of safety is challenging to evaluate. Effective protection can only be accomplished by protective equipment that is properly fitted, maintained, and correctly used at all times.

•    Personal protective equipment only protects the individual using it, while measures controlling the risks at the source can safeguard everyone at the job site.

•    The use of PPE might alter workers’ perception of the risks they’re dealing with.

•    PPE might restrict the gear wearer by limiting visibility, mobility, or by requiring extra weight to be carried.

Types of PPE Safety Work Wear

Collection of PPE items. Gloves, Hard Hat, Hi Vis Vest, Safety Glasses, Ear Muffs and Respirator

There are many types of personal protective equipment that are available for use on job sites. The Safety and Health Executive offer general information and guidance about types of personal protective equipment used in the sector but does not cover less-used and specialized gear. You should obtain comprehensive information from suppliers when it comes to specialized items. Prospective users should also be actively involved in the selection of safety gear they’ll be expected to put on, and if possible, you should ensure that more than one PPE model is available to them. The various types of personal protective equipment include:

•    Scalp and head protection- hard hats

•    Hearing protection

•    Eye protection

•    Arm and hand protection

•    Leg and foot protection

•    Respiratory protection

•    Access and height protection

•    Body protection & High Visibility Clothing

1. Scalp and head protection

All types of scalp and head protection should be correctly fitted, suitable, and have an adjustable headband, as well as chin and nape strap when necessary. The recommended standards are for the USA ANSI Z89.1. Here are the primary purposes of the scalp and head protection.

•    It protects the head in case of falls.

•    The gear protects against falling objects, wielded weapons, and the impact of fixed objects.

•    Head safety gear protects against laceration to the head and entanglement

•    It protects against entanglement or scalping, especially on machinery where the injuries are still many.

•    It protects the head by providing thermal insulation

Accessories for head protection like headlamps are available to offer further protection.

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2. Hearing protection gear

When it comes to hearing protection, you should select ear protectors which are ideal for the job site and also consider how hygienic and comfortable they are. Just like other personal protective equipment, the hearing protection should be compatible with other safety gear worn by workers. Employers might also consider providing a wide range of protectors to allow their workers to select the ones that suit them.

Remember that the hypothetical attenuation is hardly achieved and it’s, therefore, vital to over-specify the ear protection. When shopping for hearing protection, utilize the detailed noise estimation to determine the required attenuation at low, medium, and high frequencies and then match that against appropriate products.

If earplugs are used, remember that training will be required to make sure that your workers use them correctly. If they are using ear defenders, ensure that your employees do not use buds or music headphones simultaneously. For the high noise job sites, it might be necessary to specify both defenders and plugs.

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3. Eye protection gear

Safety gear for the eyes is meant to offer protection against cuts, splashes, impact, sprays, and mists. All safety gear should be cleaned regularly, but that is particularly essential in the case of eye protectors because dirty lenses can cause poor vision and might even contribute to accidents in the workplace. If the lenses are pitted, cracked, or have a lot of scratches, they should be replaced as soon as possible.

Workers who should wear corrective lenses should ensure that this requirement is included in their PPE provision in the form of some prescription lenses if needed or protective over glasses where appropriate. If the job site requires your workers to wear eye protectors on a prolonged and regular basis, then any safety-glasses or goggles can meet their prescription requirements.

4. Arm and hand protection gear

Most jobs require a certain degree of manual skill, and so the hands will get exposed to a wide array of dangers including burns, abrasions, cuts, infection,  cold, heat, vibration, chemical contamination, dermatitis, and skin irritation. Before buying arm and hand protection gear, the control measures hierarchy should be adhered to. Gauntlets and gloves provide workers with the main form of arm and hand protection against a broad range of hazards, but some other types of PPE like wrist cuffs, armlets or mitts can also be used as well.

For manual handling tasks where your workers might be a risk of getting pierced by abrasive, pointed, or sharp objects, you should provide gloves to them if these hazards cannot be isolated, removed, or reduced to a standard level. In the case of chemical exposure hazards where the risk extends to the arms, you should provide gauntlets instead of gloves. However, gloves and gauntlets should not be worn where there’s a risk of them getting caught in machines. Gloves are available for a wide range of different conditions like winter safety gloves.

5. Leg and foot protection

There’s a wide range of footwear on the market that protects against various hazards to your legs or feet including slipping, crushing, piercing, cutting, chopping, electricity, chemicals, and temperatures. Depending on the potential risks, many PPE options might be suitable, including safety shoes and boots with penetration-resistant mid-sole and protective toe caps; leggings; spats; and gaiters.

6. Respiratory protection

Respiratory safety gear covers equipment that ranges from pressure powered respirators and breathing apparatus to close-fitting full-face respirators, disposable face masks, half mask respirators, and protective hoods. It‘s always vital to select the right equipment both for the individual and the risk to ensure that there’s sufficient training in its use. Face fit testing specifications should also apply to every close-fitting respirator. However, you should know that the only type of respiratory protection that’s suitable when working in confined places is the breathing apparatus because other types of respiratory protection don’t provide any source of oxygen or air.

7. Access and height protection

This type of safety gear is extensive and includes fall-arrest systems, body harnesses, lowering and rescue lifting harnesses, lanyards, and energy absorbers. Such personal protective equipment is specialized and calls for thorough training by professionals when it comes to correct use as well as user checks. The anchorage points of this safety gear will require periodic testing, and this form of protection will also require regular inspection by an expert.

8. Body protection

Body protection might be needed when working outdoors for prolonged periods. This form of protection safeguards against the weather, and also ensures high visibility when working, especially when there’s mixed pedestrian and vehicle traffic.

Personal protective equipment for the body might also be needed where employees are exposed to extreme temperatures whether indoors or outdoors or, as well as spray guns, or spray from pressure leaks, penetration or impact, excessive wear, contaminated dust, metal or chemical splash, the risk of drowning, or entanglement of clothing. When selecting body safety gear, you should consider the following factors:

•    Personal preference

•    Practicality and cost of cleaning

•    Thermal comfort

•    The required level of hygiene

•    Personal contamination level

•    Movement restrictions

•    The fluctuation of humidity and temperature

•    Storage

•    Dry or wet processes

•    Emergency procedures in hazardous situations

How to Maintain PPE Devices

Maintenance of PPE is equally as important as the original purchase. Cleaning and storing personal protective devices in dry and well-kept storage areas are essential for PPE device maintenance, but your maintenance process should not end there. Good device maintenance involves regular inspections twice a day or every day before an employee wears something and when they remove it.

Construction work is generally physically demanding not just to employee’s bodies but also the equipment. A cord can trip, or a screw might go loose at any moment. Taking a few seconds to check the PPE devices for any damages might be the difference between a smooth day of work or a serious injury in the construction site. It’s also vital to keep some replacement parts at hand at in case something breaks down and to train employees on how to replace the individual pieces of the PPE devices.

Who Monitors PPE regulations in your country?

  • The UK-the Health and Safety Executive (HSE)
  • Canada- The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health & Safety
  • In the USA- Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)
  • In Australia- Safe Work Australia


Workplaces are full of dangers and reducing hazards with the right equipment and processes will better ensure that your employees can ultimately continue working, happily and healthily. The right safety gear is vital for keeping them productive and safe on different projects. By adopting the above PPE practices, you can boost your chances of getting all the tasks done with fewer risks and costs. Please keep updated with your region’s regulations and check back on the Ultimate Guide to PPE.

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