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Personal Protective Equipment, PPE


Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) includes all clothing and other work accessories designed to create a barrier against workplace hazards. Examples include safety goggles, blast shields, face shields, hard hats, hearing protectors, gloves, respirators, aprons, and work boots.

Additional Info

PPE should not be used as a substitute for engineering, work practice, and/or administrative controls to prevent exposure to hazardous chemicals. For example, a respirator is not meant to be worn by an assembly line worker during his/her entire work shift; other methods such as a ventilation system or replacement of hazardous substances/processes should be utilized. However, PPE can work in conjunction with such preventative measures or when such controls are not possible.

Also keep in mind that PPE protects only the user - it does nothing to remove the hazard from the workplace. For example, a respirator may help protect the wearer from toxic fumes, but does nothing to protect others in the vicinity.

In that context, in March 2021 the US EPA announced that if a review of a new chemical under TSCA found that the substance poses a potential unreasonable risk to workers, it would consider the possibility that necessary safeguards such PPE might not be provided as a "reasonably foreseen" condition of use, and mandate additional actions as appropriate.

Some of the most important OSHA PPE regulations for those who work with chemicals include.

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  1. 29 CFR 1910.132 PPE: General Requirements. Each employer must perform a written hazard assessment, select appropriate PPE to protect workers, and a maintain a written record indicating that all such employees have been properly trained in the following before performing any job task requiring PPE:
  2. 29 CFR 1910.133 PPE: Eye and Face Protection. The employer shall ensure that each affected employee uses appropriate eye or face protection when exposed to eye or face hazards from flying particles, molten metal, liquid chemicals, acids or caustic liquids, chemical gases or vapors, or potentially injurious light radiation.
  3. 29 CFR 1910.134 PPE: Respiratory Protection. In any workplace where respirators are necessary to protect the health of the employee or whenever respirators are required by the employer, the employer shall establish and implement a written respiratory protection program with worksite-specific procedures.
  4. 29 CFR 1910.138 PPE: Hand Protection. Employers shall select and require employees to use appropriate hand protection when employees' hands are exposed to hazards such as those from skin absorption of harmful substances; severe cuts or lacerations; severe abrasions; punctures; chemical burns; thermal burns; and harmful temperature extremes.

Additional standards cover items such as hearing protection, foot protection etc. Many of OSHA's other standards require the use of PPE.

With few exceptions, such as prescription safety glasses and safety-toe boots, OSHA requires employers to pay for personal protective equipment when it is used to comply with OSHA standards. See Final Rule 72:64341-64430 dated Nov 15, 2007.

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SDS Relevance

OSHA requires that Section 8 (exposure controls/personal protection) of Safety Data Sheets list information about appropriate PPE for each substance. Pay careful attention to these as not all PPE is appropriate at all times. For example, certain gloves will do little to protect you from certain chemicals; see the glove selection guide links below for more information. Likewise, an organic vapor cartridge respirator will be useless at protecting you from an atmosphere deficient in oxygen.

In addition to using PPE appropriately, remember that every piece of PPE has limitations. For example, gloves may develop small holes and respirator cartridges generally do not indicate when they need replacement. Even appropriate PPE does not provide a 100% guarantee of safety.

Remember, the preferred methods for reducing chemical exposure, in order of general effectiveness, are illustrated in this diagram:

Specifically, these steps are:

  1. Eliminate or remove the hazard.
  2. Substitution of less hazardous materials or processes.
  3. Engineering controls
  4. Administrative controls
  5. Personal protective equipment (PPE)
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Further Reading

Technical articles on glove testing:

See also: action level, administrative controls, engineering controls, HMIS, permissible exposure limit.

Additional definitions from Google and OneLook.

Entry last updated: Saturday, January 7, 2023. This page is copyright 2000-2023 by ILPI. Unauthorized duplication or posting on other web sites is expressly prohibited. Send suggestions, comments, and new entry desires (include the URL if applicable) to us by email.

Disclaimer: The information contained herein is believed to be true and accurate, however ILPI makes no guarantees concerning the veracity of any statement. Use of any information on this page is at the reader's own risk. ILPI strongly encourages the reader to consult the appropriate local, state and federal agencies concerning the matters discussed herein.