What is personal protective equipment (PPE)?
PPE is equipment worn by a worker to minimize exposure to specific hazards. Examples of PPE include respirators, gloves, aprons, fall protection, and full body suits, as well as head, eye and foot protection.
Using PPE is only one element in a complete hazard control program that would use a variety of strategies to maintain a safe and healthy environment. PPE does not reduce the hazard itself nor does it guarantee permanent or total protection.
What is the role of PPE?
Hazards exist in every workplace so strategies to protect workers are essential. The priority should be to follow the “hierarchy of control” including elimination, substitution, or engineering control(s) of hazards at their source or along the path between the source and the worker. Many methods are available, and those most appropriate to the specific situation should be used.
Controls are usually placed:
- At the source (where the hazard “comes from”).
- Along the path (where the hazard “travels”).
- At the worker.
Example of control areas: at the source, along the path, and at the worker.
Controlling a hazard at its source is the first choice because this method will eliminate it from the workplace altogether or isolate it from the worker. This approach may require substitution of a material with nonhazardous ones, isolation of hazards, ventilation, addition of safety features to existing equipment, redesign of the work processes, or purchase of new equipment. Administrative controls such as work practices, education/training, and housekeeping are also ways to control hazards.
When the hazard cannot be removed or controlled adequately, personal protective equipment (PPE) may be used.
PPE is considered as the last level of protection when all other methods are not available or possible.
Contact Safety Services for assistance and to arrange for advice and PPE specific testing, if applicable.