PPE for Industrial Safety

Stephanie McCauley

PPE for Industrial Safety

PPE for Industrial Safety 

Welcome to Safe Friday, this week we’re going to cover the ins and outs of PPE for industrial safety. Whether you're an experienced professional, or new on the job, today we're going to offer something for everyone!

PPE Types

What is PPE? PPE means “personal protective equipment.” It refers to what you wear to protect against a hazard. Modern PPE is designed to protect you against a variety of workplace hazards. PPE is used in activities ranging from manufacturing to office work.

Despite its widespread use, PPE is often misused. The right PPE will protect you from hazards and not from others. Properly used, PPE will protect you against a hazard, but it doesn’t eliminate the hazard. Let’s review the most common categories and types of PPE available:

  • Eye and face protection: Industrial safety glasses, goggles, face shields, welding helmets
  • Head protection: Protective helmets such as hardhats
  • Hearing protection: Single-use earplugs, molded ear plugs, or earmuffs
  • Respiratory protection: Air-purifying respirators, atmosphere-supplying respirators, combination respirators, and dust masks
  • Foot and leg protection: Metatarsal guards, toe guards, foot and shin guards, steel-toed boots, industrial safety shoes/boots, and leggings
  • Hand and arm: Durable work gloves, fabric/coated fabric protection gloves, chemical/liquid resistant gloves, and insulating rubber gloves
  • Torso protection: Chemical protective clothing (CPC), Flame/heat resistant clothing, cooling vests, surgical gowns, aprons, and full body suits
  • Fall protection: Full-body harnesses and body belts (only when used as part of a positioning system that limits falls to two feet)
  • Musculoskeletal: Back belts, joint braces, and other devices designed to prevent overexertion-type injuries
  • Buoyant protection: Personal flotation devices (PFDs) such as life jackets and vests

Your company should survey the workplace and conduct a hazard assessment to identify hazards, and determine if you need to use PPE. Hazard assessments should be re-evaluated whenever there are changes in the workplace.

PPE is the last line of defense, and should only be used when engineering controls and administrative controls aren’t feasible. In theory, engineering controls are the most effective defense against hazards and administrative controls are the next choice. However, there are environments, processes, operations and tasks that will require PPE. These include mobile jobs, frequently changing production processes and temporary jobs. When engineering controls are too expensive to implement, and administrative controls are not possible, PPE may be the only reasonable control method. However, as work environments change, the PPE you’re using now may not be appropriate in the future.


Make sure you know how to use and maintain the PPE you’re required to wear. Whether you’re wearing hardhats or fully encapsulating suits, you need to understand how your PPE protects you and when it won’t. Training includes the type of PPE necessary and when it must be worn, proper care of your PPE, how to put on, adjust, wear, and remove PPE; when to replace worn-out PPE, and; how to dispose of contaminated PPE.

OSHA requires companies to assess the workplace to determine if hazards are present or likely to be present that require you to PPE. You, in turn, must follow the safety rules and procedures in place and wear all appropriate PPE. In a hazardous environment or operation, the right application and use of PPE will reduce injuries or exposure in the workplace. Follow these industrial safety tips for PPE use.


Hazards exist in every workplace sharp edges, falling objects, flying sparks, chemicals, noise and a host of other potentially dangerous situations. Personal protective equipment, or PPE, is equipment you wear to reduce your exposure to a variety of hazards. PPE includes such items as gloves, foot and eye protection, protective hearing devices (earplugs/muffs), hard hats, respirators and full body suits.

Hazard Control

Controlling a hazard at its source is the best protection method. Using engineering or work practice controls to manage or eliminate hazards is always recommended. PPE is considered the last resort of protection.

The requirement for PPE: Making sure the best possible protection in the workplace is available is a cooperative effort of both the part of company and you. This will help in establishing and maintaining a safe and healthful work environment.

Both employers and employees must understand and do the following:

To understand the types of PPE you may need at work, you should know the basics of how to conduct a hazard assessment of the workplace. This will determine the PPE you’ll need for your job. Once you know this, you’ll need to be trained in the proper use and care of your PPE.

Always notify your supervisor if your PPE needs to be repaired or replaced.

PPE Requirements

All PPE used on the job should meet all ANSI requirements, and will be kept clean and reliable. Fit and comfort will be considered when selecting PPE for the workplace. If your PPE fits well and is comfortable to wear, you’ll be more likely to use it. Always let your supervisor know if there are problems with the fit or comfort of your PPE. PPE that doesn’t fit properly can make the difference between being safely covered or dangerously exposed. If you need to wear different types of PPE together, make sure they’re compatible.

It’s your responsibility to

  • Wear the PPE issued
  • Maintain, clean, and store your PPE properly

Always wear your required PPE to protect you from workplace hazards. Companies usually require you to show that you understand how to wear and use PPE properly before being allowed to perform work requiring the use of the PPE.

Industrial Safety for Back Health

Back injuries are one of the most common and debilitating injuries in the U.S. today. Whether the injury is from playing sports, working around the house, from a car accident, or while at work, the injury can have a lasting effect on your health, comfort and lifestyle. Understanding the nature of back injuries, back injury prevention, proper lifting techniques and proper back support are all necessary to reduce the chance of injuring your back. PPE for your back is commonly referred to as back braces, industrial safety belts, back belts, and back supports. All of these are used to support the back while lifting. Some studies have shown this equipment can reduce your chance of a painful injury; however, using back braces incorrectly can weaken your back and increase your chance of injury. Here are some guidelines to follow when using this type of PPE.


Inspect and test your belt carefully before use to make sure there aren’t any defects, and that the belt fits properly. Belts come in different sizes and are designed for different body types. Wearing the wrong size belt can increase your chance of injury

  • Never weaken your belt or strap by cutting or punching extra holes in it
  • Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for proper care and handling of your belt
  • Wear your only as instructed. Most belts are designed to be worn and to provide support to your lower back. If you’re wearing your belt in the wrong place, you can increase your chance of injury
  • Never wear someone else’s belt. Some belts are designed and fitted for a specific user by a doctor or physical therapist to protect them from a specific injury. These belts should be labeled and only worn by that user
  • Don’t wear your belt all day. Wearing your belt when you don’t need it can weaken your back because you’re not exercising and using your back muscles properly
  • If while wearing a belt, you lift improperly, the strain on your lower back may simply be transferred to your upper back, shoulders or knees. Therefore, it’s still necessary to use proper lifting techniques even while wearing a belt
  • Take 1-2 minutes to stretch your back before you begin work

Special Note: Back belts may help maintain the proper curvature of the spine during lifting or physical exertion, however, there’s no proof that wearing a back belt prevents back injuries. Some concerns regarding the use of back belts are that they:

  • Provide a false sense of security and lead employees to lift loads beyond their capabilities.
  • Are used instead of other more proven options like team lifting or mechanized lifting
  • Might not be worn properly
  • May lead to decreased abdominal muscle strength over time 

Back belts can protect you when used properly. However, if you wear a belt and you start to feel as though you’re suddenly stronger and fail to observe proper lifting techniques, you increase your risk of injury. Always ask for help when you need it, and always lift properly.

Hierarchy of Controls PPE 

The final course of action in the hierarchy of controls is personal protective equipment (PPE). This is the last defense between a hazard and an employee injury.

It is important to note that while the hierarchy considers PPE to be the least desirable control option, it does not diminish its importance. On the contrary, even if suitable engineering and administration controls are present, wearing the correct PPE for the job is essential. PPE control is rated lowest in the hierarchy simply because it does not isolate or remove industrial safety hazards – it only reduces the likelihood and severity of injury.

PPE should never be used as the only method of protection, as it can easily fail with little warning under certain circumstances. Consider “PPE breakthrough”, for example, which would involve tear, breakage or failure of equipment such as gloves, clothing or respirators. Make sure that you have addressed both engineering and administration control options before relying exclusively on PPE.

Selecting PPE

Always select the right PPE for the job. Your employer should have a complete PPE program in place; review the program regularly to address any changes in procedure. When selecting a piece of protective equipment, take into consideration the possibility of multiple hazards from a single source. For example, if you are working with a highly-toxic chemical, you are exposing yourself to several safety hazards:

  • Toxic chemicals often create severe reactions upon coming into contact with human tissue.
  • They also emit fumes and vapors that can seriously damage the lungs and respiratory system.
  • Depending on the circumstances and how you are handling the chemical during your work procedure, liquid splash can occur and contact with the eyes may be possible.

Toxic Chemicals

In the case of toxic chemicals, you may need to consider multiple, specific pieces of PPE in order to fully address every safety hazard. The toxicity of a given chemical may warrant equipment such as arm-length gloves, coveralls, face masks/respirators, or safety goggles. Having a full program of training on procedure and your employer's PPE standards behind you will allow you to evaluate risks and select the appropriate equipment.

Fitting PPE

Once you have selected the right PPE for the job, you must inspect it for fit and quality. The effectiveness of a pair of gloves would be significantly reduced if they were damaged or did not fit properly. As another example, if you are wearing safety goggles that are secured to your face by a strap around your head, you will want to inspect the integrity of both the eye shield as well as the fitting strap. With all PPE, employee comfort is important. Equipment that does not fit and wear comfortably will only deter employees from using it.

Personal protective equipment is a measure of last resort against workplace safety hazards. Being well trained on your company's procedures and policies regarding PPE may be the deciding factor in whether a hazard becomes an injury.

We have complete OSHA & Contractor Management compliant industrial safety solutions for all your needs. Call (877) 640-6571 today to speak with one of our highly skilled safety experts.

Please join us next Friday for more safety and compliance tips!

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