What is PPE?

PPE is equipment designed to be worn or held by a person to provide protection against risk to that person’s health or safety.

Though PPE should not be relied on as the sole protection from hazards, it is often an essential part of an employee’s protection when performing specialist or non-routine tasks such as those required during routine maintenance.

It is also important to understand that PPE includes the use of connections to other types of safety equipment, for example mechanical fastenings to a rigid anchor point used when working at height, or an air supply line used where breathing safely becomes difficult. These connectors or additional parts may be supplied separately to the equipment, but they must be considered PPE.

Disposable or replacement parts such as dust filters must also be considered PPE because the function of the interchangeable part is critical to the safe operation of the PPE.

In all instances the protection equipment provided must be selected in relation to the nature of the hazard.

Common examples of PPE equipment in different industries:

  • Manufacturing
    • Safety footwear
    • Gloves (puncture and abrasion protection)
    • Overalls
    • Eye protection
    • Hearing protection
  • Construction
    • As above
    • Hard hats
    • High-visibility clothing
  • Medical
    • Gloves (infection control)
    • Airborne contamination

PPE is often used in response to specific health and safety regulations. It might be better to consider these points rather than a specific industry. For example:

  • Control of noise at work
  • Working at height
  • Control of substances hazardous to health (airborne, blood borne, chemicals, flammable substances)
  • Hand-arm vibration
  • Control of ionising and non-ionising radiation
  • Electricity at work

In all applications the nature of the hazard must be identified and an appropriate engineered solution given. For example:

  • Noise at work – an engineered protective solution based on the frequency content and the amplitude of the noise signal with relation to the frequency response of the human auditory system (the ‘A’ weighting hence dBA)
  • The control of hazardous substances – an engineered solution to a wide range of hazards:
    • The particulate size of dust or fibres (such as asbestos) considered to ensure entrapment by a breathing filter
    • The persistence of a virus or bacteria for protection in medical environments
    • The characteristic of a corrosive chemical – can the material of a glove or overall withstand the corrosion?
  • Work at height – fall prevention equipment is suitable for static and shock loading of a falling person

All PPE must be CE marked, and the PPE directive is now an EU regulation.

Some of the major standards:

EN 132:1998 – Respiratory protective devices – Definitions of terms and pictograms
EN 133:2001 – Respiratory protective devices – Classification
EN 134:1998 – Respiratory protective devices – Nomenclature of component
EN 166:2001 – Personal eye-protection – Specification
EN 352-1:2002 – Hearing protectors – General requirements – Part 1: Ear-Muffs
EN 353-1:2014+A1:2017 – Personal fall protection equipment – Guided type fall arresters including an anchor line – Part 1: Guided type fall arresters including a rigid anchor line
EN ISO 374-1:2016 – Protective gloves against dangerous chemicals and micro-organisms – Part 1: Terminology and performance requirements for chemical risks


Eye Protection



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