What is the role of PPE in workplace safety?

Personal protective equipment, or PPE, is any type of equipment or clothing worn by a person to protect them from a specific hazard and minimize exposure to the hazard. Industrial workplaces can often be a dangerous place, and PPE is an effective and proven way to improve the safety of a facility.

Every day workers are protected from potential injury and illness by wearing PPE. PPE typically provides a level of protection from a number of hazards like physical, radiological, chemical, electrical, biological, and mechanical hazards. Common PPE you will find at an industrial workplace include safety gloves, steel-toed boots, hi-vis safety vest, hard hats, and much more.


OSHA has specified it is the employer’s responsibility to provide properly fitting PPE at no cost to the worker. PPE should be comfortable and reliable. It should be stored in a clean environment and be kept clean. Employers are also obligated to train each employee who will be using personal protective equipment in their role. Workers should know when PPE is necessary, what kind is necessary, how to properly don and wear PPE, the limitations of the equipment, and how to properly care and maintain the equipment. A majority of the PPE standards OSHA enforces are standards that have been developed by ANSI.

Although PPE is critical to workplace safety, it should never be considered the first line of protection. When attempting to eliminate or reduce hazards in your facility, it is best to approach it through the hierarchy of hazards. It is a hierarchy that ranks hazard control from most effective and the ideal choice to the last line of defense, from elimination to personal protective equipment.

PPE is at the bottom of the hierarchy because the employer should address the hazard before purchasing PPE and calling it a day. It would be evaluated if the hazard can be elimination or substituted, or if the risk could be reduced with administrative and engineering controls. Once you have exhausted these options, you can then select the appropriate PPE and ensure you have it readily available in the workplace.


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