Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is the last line of defense for keeping a person safe. Every effort should be made to protect the wearer ahead of time. The Irish Health & Safety Authority provides the following precautionary statements with regard to PPE.
- PPE only protects the wearer.
- It is ineffective if not working or fitted properly.
- Theoretical levels of protection are seldom reached in practice.
- The use of PPE always restricts the wearer to some degree.
- The psychological effect of PPE may be such that the individual wearing the PPE feels more protected than he or she actually is.
- In Europe the PPE should carry the ‘CE’ mark.
It is generally the responsibility of the employer to provide, maintain and repair the PPE that workers need. In the United States, for example, OSHA's 29 CFR 1926.95 OSHA states,
. . . the protective equipment, including personal protective equipment (PPE), used to comply with this part, shall be provided by the employer at no cost to employees.
Standard PPE typically includes:
- Hard hat.
- Full cover shoes. They should have non-slip soles. Many companies require that shoes always have toe protection — often in the form of a steel toecap.
- Safety glasses with side shields.
- High visibility clothing that may also be fire resistant in areas where flammable materials are being handled.
- Life jackets when working around ships or on docks.
Gloves and hearing protection should be readily available, even if they are not used all the time.
The second type of PPE is situation-specific. For example, if a worker is catching a sample of a hazardous chemical he or she must wear protective gloves that are resistant to that particular chemical.
There are many regulations and standards to do with PPE. Some of them are listed in Table 14.1 of the book Plant Design and Operations. The first page of the Table is shown below.