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PERSONAL PROTECTIVE EQUIPMENT; An Introduction; clarifying common misconceptions

Published : 09/14/2016 13:00:46
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PERSONAL PROTECTIVE EQUIPMENT; An Introduction; clarifying common misconceptions


An Introduction; clarifying common misconceptions


Educationists will say if Education is expensive try Ignorance. If you also thing Personal Protective Equipments are too expensive, consider the effects of not using them. Most persons see Personal Protective Equipments as colourful or decorative clothing for engineers, foremen, and labourers at work sites. Some other persons see it as an object that identifies engineers. Profit maximizing managers might see it as an unnecessary expense which their firm should pay less attention to. Most engineers are also ignorant of what this equipment stands for.

But what is Personal Protective Equipment all about? Find out


Belonging to or affecting a particular person rather than anyone else


The term protective refers to the state of being protected.  The state of being kept from harm, loss, etc, something that keeps a person or thing from being harmed, lost, etc. something that protects someone or something.


The term equipment refers to necessary items for a particular purpose. The set of articles or physical resources serving to equip a person or thing


Personal Protective Equipments often referred to as (PPE) includes a wide range of protective clothing and safety equipments ranging from boots, face masks, hard hats, ear plugs, respirators, gloves, safety harnesses, high visibility clothing, etc used or worn by an individual to minimise risk to the person’s health or safety.

There has been a misconception that Personal Protective Equipments is meant just for workers in the industry. However Personal Protective Equipments (PPE) is a clothing and equipment worn by employees, students, contractors or visitors to protect or shield their bodies from workplace hazards,

The purpose of personal protective equipment is to reduce employee exposure to hazards when engineering and administrative controls are not feasible or effective to reduce these risks to acceptable levels. PPE is needed when there are hazards present. PPE has the serious limitation that it does not eliminate the hazard at source and may result in employees being exposed to the hazard if the equipment fails

In essence this implies that Personal Protective Equipments is for anybody (everybody) who is exposed to potential hazard.


Personal protective equipment can be categorized by the area of the body protected, by the types of hazard, and by the type of garment or accessory. The protective attributes of each piece of equipment must be compared with the hazards expected to be found in the workplace. 


  • Hazards : Chemical or metal splash, dust, projectiles, gas and vapour, radiation
  • Options: Safety spectacles, goggles, face screens, face shields, visors
  • Note: It is important that the eye protection chosen has the right combination of impact/dust/splash/molten metal eye protection for the task and fits the user properly


  • Hazards: Impact from falling or flying objects, risk of head bumping, hair getting tangled in machinery, chemical drips or splash, climate or temperature
  • Options : Industrial safety helmets, bump caps, hairnets and fire-fighter’s helmets
  • Note: It is important to note the following;
  1. Some safety helmets incorporate or can be fitted with specially-designed eye or hearing protection
  2. Don't forget neck protection, e.g. scarves for use during welding
  3. Replace head protection if it is damaged


  • Hazards: Noise – a combination of sound level and duration of exposure, very high-level sounds are a hazard even with short duration
  • Options: Earplugs, earmuffs, semi-insert/canal caps
  • Note: It is important to note the following
  1. Provide the right hearing protectors for the type of work, and make sure workers know how to fit them
  2. Choose protectors that reduce noise to an acceptable level, while allowing for safety and communication


  • Hazards: Abrasion, temperature extremes, cuts and punctures, impact, chemicals, electric shock, radiation, vibration, biological agents and prolonged immersion in water
  • Options : Gloves, gloves with a cuff, gauntlets and sleeving that covers part or all of the arm
  • Note: It is important to note the following;
  1. Avoid gloves when operating machines such as bench drills where the gloves might get caught
  2. Some materials are quickly penetrated by chemicals – take care in selection, see HSE’s skin at work website
  3. Barrier creams are unreliable and are no substitute for proper PPE
  4. Wearing gloves for long periods can make the skin hot and sweaty, leading to skin problems. Using separate cotton inner gloves can help prevent this


  • Hazards: Wet, hot and cold conditions, electrostatic build-up, slipping, cuts and punctures, falling objects, heavy loads, metal and chemical splash, vehicles
  • Options: Safety boots and shoes with protective toecaps and penetration-resistant, mid-sole wellington boots and specific footwear, eg foundry boots and chainsaw boots
  • Note: It is important to note the following;
  1. Footwear can have a variety of sole patterns and materials to help prevent slips in different conditions, including oil - or chemical-resistant soles. It can also be anti-static, electrically conductive or thermally insulating
  2. Appropriate footwear should be selected for the risks identified


  • Hazards: Oxygen-deficient atmospheres, dusts, gases and vapours
  • Options – respiratory protective equipment (RPE):
  1. Some respirators rely on filtering contaminants from workplace air. These include simple filtering face pieces and respirators and power-assisted respirators
  2. Make sure it fits properly, e.g. for tight-fitting respirators (filtering face pieces, half and full masks)
  3. There are also types of breathing apparatus which give an independent supply of breathable air, eg fresh-air hose, compressed airline and self-contained breathing apparatus
  • Note: It is important to note the following;
  1. The right type of respirator filter must be used as each is effective for only a limited range of substances
  2. Filters have only a limited life. Where there is a shortage of oxygen or any danger of losing consciousness due to exposure to high levels of harmful fumes, only use breathing apparatus – never use a filtering cartridge
  3. You will need to use breathing apparatus in a confined space or if there is a chance of an oxygen deficiency in the work area
  4. If you are using respiratory protective equipment, look at HSE’s publication Respiratory protective equipment at work: A practical guide


  • Hazards: Heat, chemical or metal splash, spray from pressure leaks or spray guns, contaminated dust, impact or penetration, excessive wear or entanglement of own clothing
  • Options: Conventional or disposable overalls, boiler suits, aprons, chemical suits
  • Note: It is important to note the following;
  1. The choice of materials includes flame-retardant, anti-static, chain mail, chemically  impermeable, and high-visibility
  2. Don't forget other protection, like safety harnesses or life jackets

Lastly, the last but not the least

Emergency equipment

The selection of emergency equipment needs extreme carefulness. Careful selection, maintenance and regular and realistic operator training is needed for equipment for use in emergencies, like compressed-air escape breathing apparatus, respirators and safety ropes or harnesses.


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