Course 108 Personal Protective Equipment: Basic

General PPE Requirements

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Employers must keep employees safe with suitable PPE.

OSHA standards require the use of PPE to reduce employee exposure to hazards when engineering and administrative controls are not feasible or effective in reducing these exposures to acceptable levels. Employers are required to determine if PPE should be used to protect their workers and they must also make sure employees use and maintain PPE in a sanitary and reliable condition.

Employer Responsibilities

In general, employers are responsible for:

  • performing a "hazard assessment" of the workplace to identify and control physical and health hazards;
  • identifying and providing appropriate PPE for employees;
  • training employees in the use and care of the PPE;
  • maintaining and replacing worn or damaged PPE; and
  • periodically reviewing, updating and evaluating the effectiveness of the PPE program

Employee Responsibilities

In general, employees should be:

  • properly wearing PPE,
  • attending training sessions on PPE,
  • properly storing, cleaning, and maintaining PPE, and
  • informing a supervisor of the need to repair or replace PPE

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1. Who is directly responsible for storing, cleaning, and maintaining PPE?

a. Employers
b. Employees
c. Safety Staff
d. Supervisors

Next Section

Who Pays for PPE?

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The employer is required to pay for your PPE.

With few exceptions, OSHA requires employers to pay for personal protective equipment used to comply with OSHA standards.

Employers cannot require workers to provide their own PPE. Employees who use their own PPE must do so voluntarily. Even if an employee provides his or her own PPE, the employer must still ensure the equipment is adequate to protect the worker from hazards at the workplace.

Employers must pay for the following:

  • metatarsal foot protection
  • rubber boots with steel toes
  • non-prescription eye protection
  • prescription eyewear inserts/lenses for full face respirators
  • goggles and face shields
  • firefighting PPE (helmet, gloves, boots, proximity suits, full gear)
  • hard hats
  • hearing protection
  • welding PPE

Payment Exceptions under the OSHA Rule

Employers are not required to pay for some PPE in certain circumstances:

  • Non-specialty safety-toe protective footwear (including steel-toe shoes or boots) and non-specialty prescription safety eyewear provided that the employer permits such items to be worn off the job site. OSHA based this decision on the fact that this type of equipment is very personal, is often used outside the workplace, and that it is taken by workers from jobsite to jobsite and employer to employer.
  • Everyday clothing, such as long-sleeve shirts, long pants, street shoes, and normal work boots.
  • Ordinary clothing, skin creams, or other items, used solely for protection from weather, such as winter coats, jackets, gloves, parkas, rubber boots, hats, raincoats, ordinary sunglasses, and sunscreen.
  • Items such as hair nets and gloves worn by food workers for consumer safety.
  • Lifting belts because their value in protecting the back is questionable.
  • When the employee has lost or intentionally damaged the PPE and it must be replaced.

2. Which of the following PPE items must the employer pay for?

a. Hair nets
b. Rubber boots and parkas
c. Goggles and face shields
d. Normal work boots

Next Section

What About Safety Belts and Back Belts?

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Use of a safety belt for positioning only.

Safety Belts

Safety belts, also called body belts, are worn around the waist to help employees working at heights correctly position themselves in front of a work area or to prevent them from falling over an edge. Safety belts connect to positioning and restraint lanyards that are attached to an anchor point on a building or structure.

Body belts should not be considered personal protective equipment if they do not adequately protect employees from being injured if they fall. OSHA does not allow the use of safety body belts as part of a personal fall arrest system (PFAS). They may only be used for positioning a worker.

Back Belts

Employees may be allowed or even encouraged by the employer to use back belts to provide support for the lower back while lifting heavy objects at work. However, the use of back belts is not recognized by OSHA an adequate control measure to prevent back injury when lifting heavy objects. While back belts may be acceptable to workers because they seem to provide additional support, they may restrict the body's range of motion and eventually cause injury due to atrophy of back muscles. Research by NIOSH indicates that the primary value in back belts is that they "remind" the employee to use proper lifting techniques.

Work Clothing

Clothing must be worn which is appropriate to the work performed and conditions encountered. Loose sleeves, ties, lapels, cuffs, or other loose clothing must not be worn near moving machinery.

Make sure that you immediately remove clothing that becomes saturated or impregnated with flammable liquids, corrosive or toxic substances, irritants, or oxidizing agents. Don't wear it again until it's properly cleaned.

Defective and Damaged Equipment

Of course, defective or damaged personal protective equipment must not be used. It's important to inspect PPE regularly, and before each use, to make sure it's capable of adequately protecting an employee from exposure to hazards. Remember, PPE that is defective is not PPE.

3. Safety belts may NOT be used _____.

a. as part of a personal fall arrest system (PFAS)
b. as part of a positioning system
c. as a reminder to lift properly
d. to maintain proper posture

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PPE Selection - One Size Does Not Fit All

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Make sure all PPE fits properly.

All PPE clothing and equipment should be of safe design and construction, and should be maintained in a clean and reliable fashion. Employers should take the fit and comfort of PPE into consideration when selecting appropriate items for their workplace. PPE that fits well and is comfortable to wear will encourage employee use of PPE. Most protective devices are available in multiple sizes and care should be taken to select the proper size for each employee. If several different types of PPE are worn together, make sure they are compatible. If PPE does not fit properly, it can make the difference between being safely covered or dangerously exposed. It may not provide the level of protection desired and may discourage employee use.

Conduct a Hazard Assessment

To help determine the best PPE for the job, conduct a hazard assessment of each employee's task, the likelihood that the employee would be injured without PPE, and the severity of a potential injury. For example:

The task: A worker uses a plasma cutter to remove the bottom of a 55-gallon drum that contains traces of motor oil. His only PPE is a pair of synthetic gloves. The outcome: The drum explodes and the worker receives severe burns on his face and hands. An effective PPE hazard assessment would produce the following information:
  • Task: Using a plasma cutter.
  • Hazards: The plasma-cutting arc produces hot metal and sparks, especially during the initial piercing of the metal. It also heats the work piece and the cutting torch. Never cut closed or pressurized containers such as tanks or drums, which could explode. Do not cut containers that may have held combustibles or toxic or reactive materials unless they have been cleaned, tested, and declared safe by a qualified person.
  • Likelihood of injury without PPE: High
  • Severity of a potential injury: Life-threatening burns PPE necessary for the task:
    • Body: dry, clean clothing made from tightly woven material such as leather, wool, or heavy denim
    • Eyes and face: safety glasses with side shield or face shield; welding helmet with shaded eye protection for welding tasks
    • Feet: high-top leather shoes or boots
    • Hands: flame-resistant gloves

4. What should you do to determine the best PPE for the job?

a. Use good common sense.
b. Ask the employee doing the job.
c. Conduct a hazard assessment.
d. Find out what others have been wearing.

Next Section

PPE Training (Hands-On-How-To)

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PPE training must be

You are told to mix a certain chemical with water to use as a cleaning agent to wash down your company trucks. You check out the chemical. It looks like water, doesn't feel any different than water... so you assume PPE isn't really necessary. So, you go about washing the trucks. Your hands and arms get pretty wet with the solution you've mixed, but, heck... no pain, no sting... must be safe. No worse than water, right? Wrong, very wrong.

You've been using a mixture of hydrofluoric acid and water. By the time you get home your arms are hurting like crazy. You hurry off to the hospital, but by the time you arrive, it's too late. The hydrofluoric acid has penetrated your skin on both of your arms, clear through to the bone. Fluorine ions have replaced calcium ions in the bone, effectively turning it into a sponge-like consistency. But, you are lucky; only one arm must be amputated. The doctors were able to save the other arm.

This scenario would not have occurred had you been properly trained in using PPE. The PPE standard mandates the employer must provide "hands-on-how-to" (practice) training to each employee who is required to use Personal Protective Equipment. To meet the minimum training requirements, each employee receiving PPE training must be trained to know at least the following:

  1. when PPE is necessary;
  2. what PPE is necessary;
  3. how to properly don, doff, adjust, and wear PPE;
  4. the limitations of the PPE; and
  5. the proper care, maintenance, useful life, and disposal of the PPE.

So far, we meet minimum OSHA requirements... but one very important element is missing: The PPE standard does not specifically require education on "why" PPE is necessary.

So, why is this element so important? Because study after study tells us the most common reason employees don't follow rules in the workplace is because they don't know why the rules are important.

5. Which PPE training topic is missing from OSHA criteria, but should be a part of every training presentation?

a. When PPE is necessary
b. What PPE is necessary
c. Limitations of the PPE
d. Why PPE is necessary

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Types of PPE

Eye and Face Protection

Protective eye and face devices must comply with ANZI Z87.1, "American National Standard Practice for Occupational and Educational Eye and Face Protection," and OSHA Standard 1910.133, Eye and Face Protection.

Woodworker using goggles
Woodworker using safety glasses.


Protective eyeglasses or spectacles are made with safety frames, tempered glass or plastic lenses, temples and side shields which provide eye protection from moderate impact and particles encountered in job tasks such as carpentry, woodworking, grinding, scaling, etc. Safety glasses are also available in prescription form for those persons who need corrective lenses.


  • Vinyl-framed goggles of soft pliable body design provide adequate eye protection from many hazards. These goggles are available with clear or tinted lenses, perforated, port vented, or non-vented frames.
  • Single-lens goggles provide similar protection to spectacles and may be worn in combination with spectacles or corrective lenses to ensure protection along with proper vision.
  • Welders goggles provide protection from sparking, scaling, or splashing metals and harmful light rays. Lenses are impact resistant and are available in graduated shades of filtration.
  • Chipper/Grinder goggles provide eye protection from flying particles. The dual protective eye cups house impact resistant clear lenses with individual cover plates.

6. Which type of goggles provides protection similar to spectacles and may be worn in combination with spectacles or corrective lenses to ensure protection and proper vision?

a. Chipper/Grinder goggles
b. Single-lens goggles
c. Vinyl-framed goggles
d. Welders goggles

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This face shield protect against biohazards.

Eye and Face Protection (Continued)

Face Shields

These normally consist of an adjustable headgear and face shield of tinted/transparent acetate or polycarbonate materials, or wire screen. Face shields are available in various sizes, tensile strength, impact/heat resistance and light ray filtering capacity.

Face shields may be used in operations when the entire face needs protection and should be worn to protect eyes and face against flying particles, metal sparks, and chemical/biological splash.

Welding Shields

These shield assemblies consist of:

  • vulcanized fiber or glass fiber body
  • a ratchet/button type adjustable headgear or cap attachment
  • a filter and cover plate holder
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Wear the shield or go blind.

These shields will be provided to protect workers' eyes and face from infrared and ultraviolet light burns to the retina, flying sparks, metal spatter, and slag chips encountered during:

  • welding;
  • brazing;
  • soldering;
  • resistance welding;
  • bare or shielded electric arc welding;
  • oxyacetylene welding; or
  • cutting operations.

7. Welding shields protect the welder from which of the following injuries?

a. Long-term chemical absorption
b. Fogging of spectacles
c. Vision fatigue
d. Burns to the retina

Next Section


Respiratory Protection

Respiratory Protection is important when employees are exposed to potentially hazardous atmospheres. Respirator use must conform to ANSI/ASSE Z88.2, Practices for Respiratory Protection, and OSHA Standard 1910.134, Respiratory Protection.

Respirator Types

To understand how respirators can be used to protect employees, it is important to understand what a respirator is and what it is not. A respirator protects against respiratory hazards by removing specific air contaminants from the ambient (surrounding) air or by supplying breathable air from a safe source.

  • Air-purifying respirators: Respirators that remove contaminants from the ambient air are called air-purifying respirators. Particulate respirators are a type of air-purifying respirator. The part of a respirator that forms a protective barrier between the user’s respiratory tract and air contaminants is called an inlet covering. Most inlet coverings are classified as either tight-fitting or loose-fitting.
  • Tight-fitting respirator: A tight-fitting respirator has an inlet covering, also called a face piece or mask, designed to form a seal with the face of the wearer. It is available in three types: quarter mask, half mask, and full face piece.
  • Loose-fitting respirator: A loose-fitting respirator has an inlet covering that typically covers the user’s head and may extend over the shoulders. It is designed to form a partial seal with the face. These include loose-fitting face pieces, as well as hoods, helmets, or full suits, all of which cover the head completely.
  • Atmosphere-supplying respirators: Respirators that supply air from a safe source other than the ambient air are called atmosphere-supplying respirators. There are two types of atmosphere-supplying respirators: Supplied-Air Respirators (SARs) and Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus (SCBA).

8. Which type of respirator removes contaminants from the ambient air?

a. Air-purifying respirators
b. Tight-fitting respirator
c. Loose-fitting respirator
d. Atmosphere-supplying respirator

Next Section

non-air purifying

Respiratory Protection (Continued)

Air-Purifying Respirators (APR)

The air-purifying respirator, or “APR,” has an air-purifying filter, cartridge, or canister that removes specific air contaminants, such as particulates, gases, and vapors, or both from the air.

Selecting an appropriate filter, cartridge, or canister can be complicated because there are many types, and none protect against all contaminants. That’s why it’s necessary to identify each respiratory hazard in your workplace before you select a respirator.

Air-purifying respirators are available in non-powered and powered types:

air purifying
  1. Non-Powered Air-Purifying Respirators: When using a non-powered air-purifying respirator, the user operates it simply by breathing. Consequently, the breathing tends to be a little more labored. The three basic types are:
    • Half Mask/Dust Mask,
    • Half Mask (Elastomeric), and
    • Full Facepiece (Elastomeric).
  2. Powered Air-Purifying Respirators: This type of respirator has a blower that forces ambient air through one or more filters attached to an inlet covering. The powered type is easier to breathe through than the non-powered type but needs a fully charged battery to work properly.

9. Which respirator requires more labored breathing?

a. Non-powered air-purifying respirator
b. Powered air-purifying respirator
c. Supplied-air respirator
d. Loose-fitting mask

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Respiratory Protection (Continued)

atmosphere supplying

Atmosphere-Supplying Respirators

Atmosphere-supplying respirators are used to provide breathing air from a source independent of the ambient atmosphere. Respirators that supply breathing air are generally used in highly hazardous work environments. It is critical that such respirator systems provide breathing air of optimal quality and that the equipment operates reliably.

The two types of atmosphere-supplying respirators are:

  • Supplied-air respirators (SARs) (also known as airline respirators), receive air from a connecting hose. The source of air is either a pressurized cylinder or an air compressor. Because the employee does not carry the air on his or her back when using a SAR, breathing air can be provided over a longer time period than is the case with an SCBA.
  • Self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) units: Air is supplied from a tank (a cylinder of compressed air or oxygen). For this type of respirator, the source of the breathing air is designed to be transported by or with the equipment user.

10. Which respirator will provide a positive pressure air supply over a longer period of time?

a. Non-powered air-purifying respirator (NPAPR)
b. Powered air-purifying respirator (PAPR)
c. Supplied-air respirator (SAR)
d. Self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA)

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Optional Video

This OSHA video highlights the steps in how to properly use different types of air-purifying and atmosphere-supplying respirators. The video also discusses employer responsibilities to employees under OSHA 1910.134 Respiratory Protection Standard.

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