PPE (Personal Protective Equipment); Everything You Should Know

What Is PPE

PPE (Personal protective equipment) is an equipment that will protect the user against health or safety risks at work. It can include items such as safety helmets, gloves, eye protection, high-visibility clothing, safety footwear and safety harnesses. It also includes respiratory protective equipment (RPE).

It is considered as the last line of defense; when all the control fails, it will be our last line of defense.


The purpose of personal protective equipment is to reduce employee exposure to hazards when engineering controls and administrative controls are not feasible or effective to reduce these risks to acceptable levels. PPE is needed when there are hazards present. It has the serious limitation that it does not eliminate the hazard at the source and may result in employees being exposed to the hazard if the equipment fails.

It is the duty of the employer to provide personal protective equipment to his employee; it is their legal obligation.


Examples Of PPE

  • Hearing protective devices, such as ear muffs and ear plugs
  • Respiratory protective equipment
  • Eye and face protection, such as safety glasses and face shields
  • Safety helmets
  • Fall arrest harnesses for working at heights
  • Skin protection, such as gloves, gauntlets and sunscreen
  • Clothing, such as high visibility vests, life jackets and coveralls
  • Footwear, such as safety boots and rubber boots. Etc.

Qualities Of A Good PPE

  • All personal protective equipment should be safely designed and constructed, and should be maintained in a clean and reliable fashion.
  • It should fit comfortably, encouraging worker use. If the personal protective equipment does not fit properly it should make the difference between being safely covered or dangerously exposed.
  • When engineering, work practice, and administrative controls are not feasible or do not provide sufficient protection, it should offer cover.

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Personal Protective Equipment Regulation

The Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992. These regulations seek to ensure that where the risks cannot be controlled by other means, Personal Protective Equipment is correctly selected and used.

The Regulations do not apply where requirements are detailed in other regulations e.g. respirators in the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations (COSHH).

When must PPE be used

The fundamental principle is that personal protective equipment should only be used as a last resort. The safety and health of employees must be first safeguarded by measures to eliminate workplace risks at source, through technical or organisational means (e.g by substituting hazardous chemical ) or by providing protection on a collective basis (e.g providing scaffolding instead of harnesses). Collective protective measures covering numbers of employees in a workplace must have priority over protective measures applying to individual employees. If these measures are not sufficient, only then should PPE be used to protect against the hazards that are unavoidable.

Selection Criteria

  • Choice must be suitable for the job and hazard identified
  • It must be comfortable for use
  • Must consider the impact of the environment on the PPE


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OSHA’s Position On PPE

Personal protective equipment, commonly referred to as “PPE”, is equipment worn to minimize exposure to hazards that cause serious workplace injuries and illnesses. These injuries and illnesses may result from contact with chemical, radiological, physical, electrical, mechanical, or other workplace hazards. Personal protective equipment may include items such as gloves, safety glasses and shoes, earplugs or muffs, hard hats, respirators, or coveralls, vests and full body suits.

What can be done to ensure proper use of personal protective equipment?

All personal protective equipment should be safely designed and constructed, and should be maintained in a clean and reliable fashion. It should fit comfortably, encouraging worker use. If the personal protective equipment does not fit properly, it can make the difference between being safely covered or dangerously exposed. When engineering, work practice, and administrative controls are not feasible or do not provide sufficient protection, employers must provide personal protective equipment to their workers and ensure its proper use. Employers are also required to train each worker required to use personal protective equipment to know:

  • When it is necessary
  • What kind is necessary
  • How to properly put it on, adjust, wear and take it off
  • The limitations of the equipment
  • Proper care, maintenance, useful life, and disposal of the equipment

If PPE is to be used, a PPE program should be implemented. This program should address the hazards present; the selection, maintenance, and use of PPE; the training of employees; and monitoring of the program to ensure its ongoing effectiveness.


Personal protective equipment is addressed in specific OSHA standards for general industry, maritime, and construction. OSHA requires that many categories of personal protective equipment meet or be equivalent to standards developed by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). This section highlights OSHA standards and documents related to personal protective equipment.

OSHA Standards
General Industry (29 CFR 1910)
General Industry (29 CFR 1910)
Related Information
1910 Subpart G – Occupational Health and Environmental Control 1910.94, Ventilation. Related Information
1910.95, Occupational noise exposure. Related Information
1910 Subpart H – Hazardous Materials 1910.120, Hazardous waste operations and emergency response. Related Information
1910 Subpart I – Personal Protective Equipment 1910.132, General requirements. Related Information
1910.133, Eye and face protection. Related Information
1910.134, Respiratory Protection. Related Information
1910.135, Head protection. Related Information
1910.136, Foot protection. Related Information
1910.137, Electrical Protective Equipment. Related Information
1910.138, Hand Protection. Related Information
1910.140, Personal fall protection systems. Related Information
1910 Subpart J – General Environmental Controls 1910.146, Permit-required confined spaces. Related Information
1910 Subpart Q – Welding, Cutting and Brazing 1910.252, General requirements. Related Information
1910 Subpart Z – Toxic and Hazardous Substances Related Information
Maritime (29 CFR 1915, 1917, 1918)
Maritime (29 CFR 1915, 1917, 1918)
Related Information
1915 Subpart I – Personal Protective Equipment Related Information
1917 Subpart E Related Information
1918 Subpart J – Personal Protective Equipment Related Information

For information related to the construction, see the Personal Protective Equipment – Construction page.

State Standards

There are 28 OSHA-approved State Plans, operating state-wide occupational safety and health programs. State Plans are required to have standards and enforcement programs that are at least as effective as OSHA’s and may have different or more stringent requirements.

Additional Federal Register notices

Note: The notices in this list provide additional information that is not necessarily connected to a specific OSHA standard highlighted on this Safety and Health Topics page.

Additional Directives

Note: The directives in this list provide additional information that is not necessarily connected to a specific OSHA standard highlighted on this Safety and Health Topics page.


Hazards and Solutions

The following references aid in recognizing the need for personal protective equipment (PPE) and provides information about proper PPE selection and usage.

Related Safety and Health Topics Pages
OSHA Publications and Fact Sheets on PPE
  • Personal Protective Equipment. OSHA Fact Sheet (Publication 3603), (2012). Also available in Portuguese and Spanish. This is one in a series of informational fact sheets highlighting OSHA programs, policies or standards.
  • Personal Protective Equipment. OSHA Publication 3151, (2004). This guide was created by OSHA and is intended to help employers in complying with OSHA’s general PPE requirements.
  • Updated Small Business Safety and Health Handbook. OSHA Publication 2209, (2021). Summarizes the benefits of an effective safety and health program, provides self-inspection checklists for employers to identify workplace hazards, and reviews key workplace safety and health resources for small businesses.
  • OSHA Technical Manual. OSHA Directive TED 01-00-015 [TED 1-0.15A], (January 20, 1999). Section VIII of the OSHA Technical Manual describes the various types of clothing that are appropriate for use in chemical operations and provides recommendations in their selection and use.
OSHA eTools
PPE selection and managing workplace PPE programs
  • Personal Protective Equipment. Centers for Disease Control (CDC), National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). Contains links to PPE related topics such as eye protection, hearing protection, skin exposures and protective clothing.
  • Recommendations for Chemical Protective Clothing Database. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), (February 1998). Provides chemical protective clothing guidelines for chemicals listed in the NIOSH pocket guide.
  • Personal Protective Technology Program. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), (June 2017). Evaluates and improves equipment worn by workers and develops interventions to protect them from hazards.
  • National Personal Protective Technology Laboratory (NPPTL). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). Focuses expertise from many scientific disciplines to advance federal research on respirators and other personal protective technologies for workers. Also features links to PPE related topics.
  • Personal Protective Equipment Compliance Guide. The University of Alabama. Provides information to employers working toward compliance with certain provisions of Subpart I of 29 CFR 1910.
  • OSH Answers Fact Sheets: Designing an Effective PPE Program. Canadian Center for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS). Gives an overview of designing a personal protective equipment (PPE) program.
  • Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Chemical Hazards Emergency Medical Management (CHEMM). Provides a number of resources for managing an effective PPE program.
PPE Training Materials and Training Resources
  • Assessment the Need for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). OSHA. A guide created by the OSHA Training Institute intended to help readers to conduct PPE assessments, includes assessment checklists.
  • Personal Protective Equipment. OSHA. Includes a PPE PowerPoint presentation created by the OSHA Training Institute intended as an aid to authorized OSHA Outreach Instructors teaching PPE safety.
  • PPE Workshop Lesson Plan. National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS). Applicable for hazardous waste worker and emergency response training. Exercise for reinforcing and enhancing worker’s knowledge of PPE.
PPE in Agriculture
PPE for Emergency Responders
  • Emergency Preparedness and Response Resources. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). Addresses respirators, protective clothing, latex allergy and eye protection as they relate to emergency response settings.
  • Emergency Response Guidebook (ERG). U.S. Department of Transportation, Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA). Provides guidance for firefighters, police, and other emergency services personnel who may be the first to arrive at the scene of a transportation incident involving a hazardous material. This guidebook was developed jointly by the U.S. Department of Transportation, Transport Canada, and the Secretariat of Communications and Transportation of Mexico (SCT).
  • Guide for the Selection of Personal Protection Equipment for Emergency First Responders. Developed by the Office of Law Enforcement Standards at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Guide 102–06 (2nd Edition), (January 2007). Provides information on personal protection equipment (PPE) for consideration by emergency first responders when purchasing and using PPE, including duration of protection, dexterity/mobility, laundering, and use/reuse.
Additional PPE resources
  • Exemption for Religious Reason from Wearing Hard Hats. STD 01-06-005 [STD 1-6.5], (June 20, 1994). OSHA Instruction STD 1-6.5 dated June 20, 1994 states that OSHA has granted an exemption from citations to employers of employees who, for reasons of personal religious convictions, object to wearing hard hats in the workplace.
  • Laboratory Safety. Environmental Health and Safety at Stony Brook University.


Payment for Personal Protective Equipment

Many Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standards require employers to provide personal protective equipment, when it is necessary to protect employees from job-related injuries, illnesses, and fatalities. With few exceptions, OSHA requires employers to pay for personal protective equipment when it is used to comply with OSHA standards. These typically include: hard hats, gloves, goggles, safety shoes, safety glasses, welding helmets and goggles, face shields, chemical protective equipment and fall protection equipment.

Training Material
Federal Register Notices
  • Employer Payment for Personal Protective Equipment; Final Rule. Final Rules 72:64341-64430, (November 15, 2007). Stipulates that the employer must pay for required PPE, except in the limited cases specified in the standard. Safety-toe protective footwear and prescription safety glasses were excepted from the employer payment requirement, in large part because these items were considered to be very personal in nature and were often worn off the jobsite.


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