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The Basics of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

  • Personal protective equipment, also known as PPE, protects more than just your employees. It also safeguards your bottom line, your insurance premiums, and your OSHA compliance. Beyond the safety training and consulting offered by Safety International, you should also know about the types of PPE available, your obligations as an employer, and your employees’ responsibility for their own safety.

    Common Types and Uses of PPE

    There are several types of PPE, falling under two broad categories: general industry, and construction, with additional provisions for shipyards, marine terminals, the medical profession, and several other fields. The types of protection often overlap, but the OSHA requirements for each type of industry can vary; for this reason, education — not guesswork — is vital. Among the OSHA-mandated forms of protection:

    • Eye and face protection
    • Respiratory protection
    • Head protection
    • Hand protection
    • Electrical and mechanical protection devices
    • Hearing protection
    • Occupational foot protection

    Employer PPE Obligations

    Employers have a number of PPE-related obligations under OSHA rules. These include safety assessments in workplaces and on job sites, identifying proper PPE to address existing and potential hazards, implementing PPE programs and training, reviewing and evaluating the effectiveness of those programs, and the appropriate maintenance or replacement of PPE.

    Remember that the employer is also responsible for the provision of most PPE — meaning it comes out of your funds, not your employees’. That PPE must comply with OSHA standards, and it’s the employer’s responsibility to ensure that it’s adequate to protect against workplace hazards. The types of PPE included under this OSHA PPE rule include (but are not limited to) eye protection, including prescription inserts for full-face respirators; hard hats; welding PPE; fire fighting PPE; rubber boots with steel toes; and much more.

    Worker PPE Responsibilities

    At this point, it probably seems as though the onus for PPE falls entirely on the employer. However, your employees also have a stake in their own safety, and have certain responsibilities of their own when it comes to their personal protective equipment.

    Proper and consistent use of PPE is the foundation of all that follows. That means attending all safety training sessions related to PPE, properly cleaning and maintaining gear, and informing supervisors of any equipment in need of repair or replacement.

    There are also several types of PPE that are the employee’s responsibility to purchase. That includes non-specialty footwear and eyewear, everyday work clothing, outerwear, hats, sunscreen, and the like. Because of their questionable utility, lifting belts are also employees’ responsibility. And, perhaps most importantly, the employee — not the employer — can be made to pay for equipment that’s been lost or intentionally damaged.

    A Closing Thought on PPE

    If OSHA were the only regulatory or legal body to which your business had to answer, that would often be complicated enough. However, there’s often an additional overlay of state, local, and industry-specific regulations to navigate as well. With so much at stake, you’re best off leaving as little to chance as possible. That’s why we suggest a safety audit, followed by any appropriate safety consulting and training, tailored to your needs. For help making your workplace or job sites safer, contact Safety International at (314) 486-3141 today.


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