The Basics of Personal Protective Equipment: What Does PPE Stand For?

caution ppe required sign

What Does PPE Stand For?

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) refers to clothing and equipment that are worn to protect individuals from injury or illness caused by workplace hazards. PPE is essential in many work environments, from healthcare to construction. The use of PPE can greatly reduce the risk of injury or illness, making it an essential component of workplace safety. The history of PPE dates back centuries, from ancient civilizations using leather aprons and metal helmets to modern-day respiratory masks and safety goggles. Today, PPE has evolved to meet the needs of various industries and continues to play a critical role in ensuring workplace safety.

The Six Different Categories of Hazards

In determining the type of PPE required in a particular environment, it is crucial to first know the different categories of hazards that exist in the workplace.

  1. Physical Hazards: These include objects or conditions that can cause physical harm, such as falling objects, sharp edges, extreme temperatures, noise, and vibration. Workers in construction, manufacturing, and transportation industries are often exposed to physical hazards.
  2. Chemical Hazards: These hazards are caused by exposure to harmful chemicals, such as gases, vapors, liquids, and solids. Workers in the chemical, pharmaceutical, and agricultural industries are at risk of exposure to chemical hazards.
  3. Biological Hazards: These hazards arise from exposure to biological agents, such as viruses, bacteria, fungi, and parasites. Healthcare workers, laboratory technicians, and animal handlers are at risk of exposure to biological hazards.
  4. Electrical Hazards: These hazards include the risk of electrocution or electric shock, which can be caused by exposed wiring, damaged electrical equipment, or contact with power lines. Workers in the electrical, construction, and maintenance industries are at risk of electrical hazards.
  5. Mechanical Hazards: These hazards are caused by moving machinery or equipment, such as conveyors, forklifts, and heavy equipment. Workers in manufacturing, construction, and transportation industries are at risk of mechanical hazards.
  6. Radiological Hazards: These hazards arise from exposure to ionizing radiation, such as x-rays, gamma rays, and radioactive materials. Workers in the nuclear, healthcare, and laboratory industries are at risk of radiological hazards.

It is important for employers to identify the type of hazards present in the workplace and provide appropriate PPE to protect workers from harm. By understanding the different categories of hazards, employers can ensure that workers have the necessary equipment to do their jobs safely.

It is important for employers to identify the type of hazards present in the workplace and provide appropriate PPE to protect workers from harm. Different work environments require particular PPEs.

In the healthcare and medical industry, workers may be exposed to infectious diseases, bloodborne pathogens, and harmful chemicals. PPE such as gloves, gowns, masks, and eye protection can help prevent exposure. Construction workers may be exposed to fall hazards, noise, and electrical hazards. PPE such as hard hats, safety glasses, hearing protection, and fall protection equipment can help prevent injuries. Workers in the chemical industry may be exposed to toxic chemicals, corrosives, and carcinogens.

PPE such as chemical-resistant gloves, coveralls, respirators, and eye protection can help prevent exposure. Food workers may be exposed to biological hazards such as bacteria and viruses. PPE such as gloves, hairnets, and face shields can help prevent contamination. Workers in the manufacturing industry may be exposed to hazards such as noise, dust, and machinery. PPE such as earplugs, respirators, safety glasses, and hard hats can help prevent injuries.

Types of PPE

what are the types of ppe

PPE comprises different types of equipment and clothing designed to protect workers from workplace hazards. The types of PPE include:

  1. Respiratory Protection: This type of PPE protects workers from inhaling harmful particles, gases, or vapors. Respiratory protection includes respirators, masks, and air-purifying respirators.
  2. Eye and Face Protection: Eye and face protection prevent eye injuries and facial burns caused by exposure to chemicals, projectiles, or radiation. Examples of eye and face protection include safety glasses, goggles, face shields, and welding helmets.
  3. Head Protection: Head protection includes hard hats and helmets designed to protect workers from head injuries caused by falling objects or electrical hazards.
  4. Hand and Arm Protection: This type of PPE protects workers' hands and arms from cuts, abrasions, and chemical exposure. Examples of hand and arm protection include gloves, arm guards, and gauntlets.
  5. Foot and Leg Protection: Foot and leg protection protect workers' feet and legs from slips, trips, falls, and electrical hazards. Examples of foot and leg protection include safety shoes, boots, and leggings.
  6. Body Protection: Body protection includes protective clothing and equipment designed to protect workers' bodies from chemical exposure, fire, and electrical hazards. Examples of body protection include coveralls, vests, aprons, and full-body suits.

Selection, Use and Maintenance of PPE

After knowing the different categories of hazards and the types of PPEs available, employers can now properly select, use, and maintain these safety equipment. Selection and proper use of PPE are essential in ensuring worker protection. The following are some key considerations in selecting and using PPE:

Risk assessment and PPE selection is the first important step. Employers should conduct a risk assessment to identify workplace hazards and determine the appropriate PPE to protect workers. The assessment should take into account the nature of the hazard, the severity of the potential injury or illness, and the likelihood of exposure.

Proper use of PPE involves training workers on how to properly wear, use, and maintain the equipment. Workers should be trained on how to inspect and put on PPE, how to adjust and secure the equipment, and how to remove and dispose of it properly.

Lastly, employers should ensure that PPE is properly maintained and replaced when necessary. Workers should be trained on how to clean and store PPE, and how to recognize signs of wear and tear. Employers should also establish a program for regularly replacing PPE that has reached the end of its service life.

Regulations and Standards for PPE

Regulations and standards play a crucial role in ensuring the quality and effectiveness of PPE. The following are some of the key regulations and standards for PPE:

  • OSHA Regulations: The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires employers to provide their workers with PPE when necessary to protect against workplace hazards. Employers are also required to train workers on the proper use and maintenance of PPE. The OSHA 1910 Subpart I standard details their general requirements and guidelines pertaining to Personal Protective Equipment.
  • ANSI Standards: The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) standard for PPE covers topics such as design, performance, testing, and labeling. The ANSI/ISEA 107-2020 sets forth criteria and general guidelines on PPE. Compliance with ANSI standards is voluntary, but many employers and manufacturers choose to follow them to ensure the quality and effectiveness of PPE.
  • CE Marking: The CE marking is a symbol that indicates that a product complies with European Union (EU) safety, health, and environmental protection standards. PPE that is sold in the EU must bear the CE marking. The marking indicates that the PPE meets certain safety requirements and has been tested and certified by a third-party organization.
  • ISO Standards: The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) standards for PPE cover topics such as performance, quality management, and environmental management. The ISO/TS 20141:2022 covers guidelines on the compatibility testing of PPE. Compliance with ISO standards is voluntary, but many employers and manufacturers choose to follow them to ensure the quality and effectiveness of PPE.

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is an essential tool in preventing work-related injuries and illnesses. With the evolution of PPE over the years, the current market offers a wide range of PPE products tailored to meet specific workplace hazards. Adherence to regulatory standards and thorough risk assessments can ensure the optimal selection, use, and disposal of PPE in various industries. By utilizing PPE correctly, workers can reduce the risk of injury or illness and promote a safer work environment.


1. What is the purpose of PPE?
PPE is designed to protect workers from workplace hazards that can cause injury or illness. It acts as a barrier between the worker and the hazard, reducing the risk of exposure.

2. What are the different types of PPE?
The six different types of PPE are respiratory protection, eye and face protection, head protection, hand and arm protection, foot and leg protection, and body protection.

3. Who is responsible for providing PPE?
Employers are responsible for providing and maintaining PPE for their employees at no cost to the worker. Employees are responsible for wearing and properly maintaining their PPE.

4. How do I select the appropriate PPE?
A proper risk assessment should be conducted to identify the hazards present in the workplace. The appropriate PPE can then be selected based on the level of protection required.

5. Can PPE be reused or shared?
PPE should not be reused or shared, as it may become contaminated and lose its effectiveness. PPE must be properly cleaned and stored after use.

The material provided in this article is for general information purposes only. It is not intended to replace professional/legal advice or substitute government regulations, industry standards, or other requirements specific to any business/activity. While we made sure to provide accurate and reliable information, we make no representation that the details or sources are up-to-date, complete or remain available. Readers should consult with an industrial safety expert, qualified professional, or attorney for any specific concerns and questions.


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Author: Herbert Post

Born in the Philadelphia area and raised in Houston by a family who was predominately employed in heavy manufacturing. Herb took a liking to factory processes and later safety compliance where he has spent the last 13 years facilitating best practices and teaching updated regulations. He is married with two children and a St Bernard named Jose. Herb is a self-described compliance geek. When he isn’t studying safety reports and regulatory interpretations he enjoys racquetball and watching his favorite football team, the Dallas Cowboys.