Course 108 Personal Protective Equipment: Basic

Types of PPE (Continued)

Head Protection

Image of workers with PPE
He should have had his hard hat on.

There are primarily two situations when employees must wear protective helmets.

1. Falling Objects

When there is a potential in the workplace for injury to the head from falling objects, the employer must make sure that each affected employee wears a protective helmet.

Some examples of work that might require helmets to protect from falling objects include:

  • working below other workers who are using tools and materials which could fall;
  • working around or under conveyor belts which are carrying parts or materials; and
  • working below machinery or processes which might cause material or objects to fall.

See examples of

  • carpenters
  • electricians
  • linemen
  • mechanics and repairers
  • plumbers and pipe fitters
  • assemblers
  • packers
  • wrappers
  • sawyers
  • welders
  • laborers
  • freight handlers
  • timber cutting and logging
  • stock handlers
  • warehouse laborers

    2. Electrical Hazards

    The second situation requiring a helmet is to protect the worker from electrical hazards. Whenever an employee works near exposed electrical conductors which could contact the head, the employer must make sure that a protective helmet designed to reduce electrical shock hazard is worn by the employee.

    The employer should also furnish and make sure all employees and contractors engaged in construction and other miscellaneous work use proper head protection. Engineers, inspectors, and visitors at construction sites must also wear protective helmets when hazards from falling or fixed objects, or electrical shock are present.

    1. When is a protective helmet required to be worn in the workplace?

    a. When there is a potential for falls to a lower level
    b. When there is a hazard from electrical contact or falling objects
    c. When there is a danger of being caught in or between objects
    d. When there is a possibility of being crushed

    Next Section

    Criteria for Protective Helmets

    Protective helmets with OSHA 1910.135, Head Protection, which states that helmets purchased after July 5, 1994, must comply with ANSI Z89.1 or must be demonstrated by the employer to be equally effective. Purchasing helmets that meet these standards ensures that appropriate testing has been conducted and that the quality of the materials (webbing and shell) is adequate.

    Selection Guidelines for Head Protection

    When selecting head protection, knowledge of potential for falling objects and electrical hazards is important. When it's determined that these hazards exist, choose the most appropriate helmet from the categories listed below.

    ShutterStock image - TFoxPhoto
    Type I helmet - only protects from above.

    Impact Type Helmets

    • Type I: A helmet of Type I is designed to provide protection only to the top of the head. It is not intended to provide impact from side impacts. (This is by far the most commonly used type of hard hat in use.)

    • Type II: A helmet of Type II is designed to provide protection against both top and side impacts.

    Electrical Classes

    • Class G (General): Class G helmets are intended to reduce the danger of contact exposure to low voltage conductors. Test samples are proof-tested at 2200 volts (phase to ground). However, this voltage is not intended as an indication of the voltage at which the helmet protects the wearer.
    • Image of worker with helmet
      Class E (Electrical) hard hat.
    • Class E (Electrical): Class E helmets are intended to reduce the danger of exposure to high voltage conductors. Test samples are proof-tested at 20,000 volts (phase to ground). However, this voltage is not intended as an indication of the voltage at which the helmet protects the wearer.
    • Class C (Conductive): Class C helmets are not intended to provide protection against contact with electrical conductors.

    Bump Caps

    Bump caps/skull guards should be issued and worn for protection against scalp lacerations from contact with sharp objects. However, it's very important to understand that they must not be worn as substitutes for safety caps/hats because they do not provide protection from impact forces or penetration by falling objects.

    2. Which class of safety helmet has been proof-tested to 20,000 volts?

    a. Class G (General)
    b. Class E (Electrical)
    c. Class C (Conductive)
    d. Class B (Bump Caps)

    Next Section

    Hand Protection

    Image of worker with gloves
    Make sure safety gloves are the correct type for the specific substance.

    It's important that employers select and require employees to use appropriate hand protection when exposed to any of the hazards listed below:

    • hazardous chemicals that can cause burns, rashes, and internal injury;
    • cuts or lacerations;
    • abrasions;
    • punctures;
    • thermal burns; and
    • harmful temperature extremes.

    Glove Guide

    Below is a guide to the most common types of protective work gloves and the types of hazards they can guard against:

    • Disposable Gloves: Disposable gloves, usually made of light-weight plastic, can help guard against mild irritants.
    • Fabric Gloves: These gloves are made of cotton or fabric blends. They're generally used to improve grip when handling slippery objects. They also help insulate hands from mild heat or cold.
    • Leather Gloves: These gloves are used to guard against injuries from sparks or scraping against rough surfaces. They are also used in combination with an insulated liner when working with electricity.
    • Metal Mesh Gloves: These gloves are used to protect hands from accidental cuts and scratches. They are used most commonly by persons working with cutting tools or other sharp instruments.
    • Aluminized Gloves: These gloves made of aluminized fabric are designed to insulate hands from intense heat. These gloves are most commonly used by persons working with molten materials.
    • Chemical Resistance Gloves: These gloves may be made of rubber, neoprene, polyvinyl alcohol or vinyl, etc. The gloves protect hands from corrosives, oils, and solvents. When selecting chemical resistance gloves, be sure to consult the manufacturer's recommendations, especially if the gloved hand will be immersed in the chemical.

    3. What kind of gloves would you wear if you had to come into contact with very sharp cutting tools?

    a. Aluminized gloves
    b. Disposable gloves
    c. Metal mesh gloves
    d. Leather gloves

    Next Section

    Selection of Hand Protection

    Image of worker with gloves
    Would these gloves protect against an acid?

    It's important that employers work closely with their PPE supplier to select appropriate hand protection based on an evaluation of the performance characteristics of the hand protection.

    See examples of

    • specific task(s) being performed;
    • environmental conditions present;
    • duration of hand protection use while performing the task;
    • the actual hazards; and
    • potential hazards.

    See examples of

    • the degree of dexterity required;
    • the duration of the task;
    • the frequency of the task;
    • degree of exposure of the hazard; and
    • the physical stresses that will be applied.

    Gloves should be replaced periodically, depending on frequency of use and permeability to the substance(s) handled. Gloves overtly contaminated should be rinsed and then carefully removed after use. With this in mind, there are two important characteristics of gloves to consider.

    Permeation rate: The permeation rate measures the length of time it takes a given material (glove) to become saturated by the chemical through absorption.

    Breakthrough or Penetration rate: The penetration rate measures the speed with which a given chemical breaks through the layer(s) of the glove to contact the skin.

    Gloves should also be worn whenever it is necessary to handle rough or sharp-edged objects, and very hot or very cold materials. The type of glove material to be used in these situations includes leather, welder's gloves, aluminum-backed gloves, and other types of insulated glove materials.

    4. What term is used to describe the length of time it takes a glove material to become saturated by a chemical through absorption?

    a. Permeation rate
    b. Breakthrough rate
    c. Penetration rate
    d. Saturation rate

    Next Section

    Glove Selection Chart

    You can use this chart to help select the proper gloves for the job may serve as a guide to the different types of glove materials and the chemicals they can be used against.

    Type Advantages Disadvantages Use Against
    Natural rubber Low cost, good physical properties, dexterity Poor vs. oils, greases, organics. Frequently imported; may be poor quality Bases, alcohols, dilute water solutions; fair vs. aldehydes, ketones.
    Natural rubber blends Low cost, dexterity, better chemical resistance than natural rubber vs. some chemicals Physical properties frequently inferior to natural rubber Same as natural rubber
    Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) Low cost, very good physical properties, medium cost, medium chemical resistance Plasticizers can be stripped; frequently imported; may be poor quality Strong acids and bases, salts, other water solutions, alcohols
    Neoprene Medium cost, medium chemical resistance, medium physical properties N/A Oxidizing acids, anilines, phenol, glycol ethers
    Nitrile Low cost, excellent physical properties, dexterity Poor vs. benzene, methylene chloride, trichloroethylene, many ketones Oils, greases, aliphatic chemicals, xylene, perchloroethylene, trichloroethane; fair vs. toluene
    Butyl Specialty glove, polar organics Expensive, poor vs. hydrocarbons, chlorinated solvents Glycol ethers, ketones, esters
    Polyvinyl alcohol (PVA) Specialty glove, resists a very broad range of organics, good physical properties Very expensive, water sensitive, poor vs. light alcohols Aliphatics, aromatics, chlorinated solvents, ketones (except acetone), esters, ethers
    Fluoro- elastomer (Viton) Specialty glove, organic solvents Extremely expensive, poor physical properties, poor vs. some ketones, esters, amines Aromatics, chlorinated solvents, also aliphatics and alcohols
    Norfoil (Silver Shield) Excellent chemical resistance Poor fit, easily punctures, poor grip, stiff Use for Hazmat work

    5. Which type of glove has low cost, excellent physical properties, and dexterity?

    a. Norfoil
    b. Butyl
    c. Neoprene
    d. Nitrile

    Next Section

    Foot Protection

    Image of worker with gloves
    A common hazard on construction sites.

    The employer must make sure that each affected employee uses protective footwear when working in areas where there is a danger of foot injuries due to:

    • falling or rolling objects;
    • objects piercing the sole; and/or
    • where feet are exposed to electrical hazards.

    Criteria for Protective Footwear

    Protective footwear purchased after July 5, 1994 must comply with ANSI Z41-1991, ANSI Z41-1999, or ASTM F-2413-2005, "Standard Specification for Performance Requirements for Protective Footwear" (before July 5, 1994 - ANSI Z41.1-1967) or must be demonstrated by the employer to be equally effective.

    Footwear that meets established safety standards will have an American National Standards Institute (ANSI) label inside each shoe.

    Types of Footwear

    1. Steel-Reinforced Safety Shoes

    These shoes are designed to protect feet from common machinery hazards such as falling or rolling objects, cuts, and punctures. The entire toe box and insole are reinforced with steel, and the instep is protected by steel, aluminum, or plastic materials. Safety shoes are also designed to insulate against temperature extremes and may be equipped with special soles to guard against slips, chemicals, and/or electrical hazards.

    2. Safety Boots

    Safety boots offer more protection when splash or spark hazards (chemicals, molten materials) are present.

    • When working with corrosives, caustics, cutting oils, and petroleum products, neoprene or nitrile boots are often required to prevent penetration.
    • Foundry or "Gaiter" style boots feature quick-release fasteners or elasticized insets to allow speedy removal should any hazardous substances get into the boot itself.
    • When working with electricity, special electrical hazard boots are available and are designed with no conductive materials other than the steel toe (which is properly insulated).

    6. Which type of protective footwear offers more protection when splash or spark hazards are present?

    a. Steel-reinforced safety shoes
    b. Safety boots
    c. Steel-toed boots
    d. Insulated safety shoes

    Next Section

    Electrical Protective Equipment

    Electrical Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

    123rf image -
    Electrical protective gloves can save your life

    Employees working in areas where there are potential electrical hazards must be provided with, and use, electrical protective equipment that is appropriate for the specific parts of the body protected and for the work performed. Personal Protective Equipment refers to items typically worn by a worker to provide protection from recognized hazards. PPE for the electric power industry generally includes:

    • safety glasses,
    • face shields,
    • hard hats,
    • safety shoes,
    • insulating (rubber) gloves with leather protectors,
    • insulating sleeves, and
    • flame-resistant (FR) clothing.
    Protector gloves must be worn over insulating gloves.

    Electrical Protective Gloves

    Electrical protective gloves must be worn over insulating gloves. An exception is when using Class 0 gloves, under limited-use conditions, where small equipment and parts manipulation necessitate unusually high finger dexterity.

    Any other class of glove may be used for similar work without protector gloves if the employer can demonstrate that the possibility of physical damage to the gloves is small and if the class of glove is one class higher than that required for the voltage involved. Insulating gloves that have been used without protector gloves may not be used at a higher voltage until they have been tested.

    Insulating Protective Equipment (IPE)

    Mil image - protective blanket
    Heavy blankets can limit the effective of arc blast or flash.

    Electric power workers working on high voltage circuits (600 V and above) often use Insulating Protective Equipment (IPE). Since IPE is not worn, it is technically not considered to be electrical PPE.

    To prevent injury from exposure to electrical conductors, it's important that all IPE be maintained in a safe and reliable condition. IPE includes the following:

    • line hoses,
    • rubber hoods,
    • rubber blankets, and
    • insulating live-line tools (for example, hotsticks, switchsticks, or shotgun sticks) for protection.

    7. Which of the following is a category of insulating protective equipment (IPE)?

    a. safety shoes
    b. rubber blankets
    c. hard hats
    d. gloves

    Next Section

    Inspecting Equipment

    To make sure electrical protective equipment actually performs as designed, inspect it for damage before each day's use and immediately following any incident when you suspect damage. Insulating gloves must be given an air test, along with the inspection.


    Insulating equipment must not be used if you find any of the following defects:

    • a hole, tear, puncture, or cut;
    • ozone cutting or ozone checking (the cutting action produced by ozone on rubber under mechanical stress into a series of interlacing cracks);
    • an embedded foreign object;
    • changes in the texture including, swelling, softening, hardening, or becoming sticky or inelastic; or
    • any other defect that damages the insulating properties.


    Electrical protective equipment must be subjected to periodic electrical tests. Click on the button to see a table of the required maximum intervals between tests.

    Type of Equipment When to Test
    Rubber insulating line hose Upon indication that insulating value is suspect and after repair.
    Rubber insulating covers Upon indication that insulating value is suspect and after repair.
    Rubber insulating blankets Before first issue and every 12 months thereafter1 upon indication that insulating value is suspect; and after repair.
    Rubber insulating gloves Before first issue and every 6 months thereafter1 upon indication that insulating value is suspect; after repair; and after use without protectors.
    Rubber insulating sleeves Before first issue and every 12 months thereafter1 upon indication that insulating value is suspect; and after repair.

    1 If the insulating equipment has been electrically tested but not issued for service, the insulating equipment may not be placed into service unless it has been electrically tested within the previous 12 months.

    You can read more about electrical protective equipment in OSHA 1910.137, Electrical Protective Equipment. Learn more about electrical safety in OSHAcademy Course 715.

    8. In addition to inspecting insulating gloves for damage, the inspector must also _____.

    a. check the gloves for bubbles with soap and water
    b. ensure the gloves pass a temperature test
    c. send the gloves to a lab within 30 days
    d. give the gloves an air test

    Next Section

    Hearing Protection - fuzzbones
    See how much louder everything is when you put your hand up to your ear.

    Noise-induced hearing loss is the term for hearing damaged by exposure to excessive noise. The damage to hearing caused by excessive noise at work may not be apparent for years. Hearing loss can't be treated or cured, but it can be prevented.

    Sound and Noise

    Sound is what you hear. Our sensation of very small, rapid changes in air pressure.

    Noise is any sound that you don't want to hear.

    Sound is measured in two ways: decibels and frequency.

    Decibels indicate the pressure of sound. Sound waves transfer that pressure from place to place and are expressed in units on a logarithmic scale.

    123rf image - in8finity
    As the wavelength shortens, the pitch gets higher.

    Frequency is related to a sound's pitch and is measured in units called hertz (Hz), or cycles per second. The pitch of a sound - how high or low it seems - is how you perceive its frequency.

    Human hearing is most sensitive to frequencies between 3,000-4,000 Hz. That's why people with damaged hearing have difficulty understanding higher-pitched voices and other sounds in the 3,000-4,000 Hz range.

    Hearing Conservation Program

    Your workplace must have a hearing conservation program if employees are exposed to noise levels that are equal to or greater than 85 dBA average over an eight-hour period (called the 8-Hour Time Weighted Average). This is called the "Action Level." Check out course 751 Hearing Conservation Program Management for more in-depth information regarding hearing conservation.

    9. When must your employer establish a hearing conservation program?

    a. If employees are subject to sudden impact noise or prolonged noise levels.
    b. If employees are exposed to noise levels that are equal to or greater than 85 dBA over 8 hours.
    c. If anticipated noise levels exceed reasonably expected or anticipated levels.
    d. If noise levels exceed 95 dB over any 15 minute period.

    Next Section

    Hearing Protectors

    Are those dust masks hiding behind the hearing protection? Another OSHA citation!

    As you are probably well aware, there are basically four types of hearing protectors.

    • Molded earplugs
    • Custom-molded earplugs
    • Self-molded earplugs
    • Ear muffs

    Molded earplugs are usually made of plastic or silicone rubber. They are available in a variety of shapes and sizes and are usually characterized by one or more ribs or contours. They are considered multiple use; therefore, they must be cleaned and properly stored after each use.

    Custom-molded earplugs are generally made of plastic and are designed from a molded wax insert of the wearer's ears. They are considered multiple use but cannot be switched ear to ear.

    Self-molded earplugs are generally made of mineral down or plastic foam and are molded or formed by the wearer. Generally one size fits all and they may be either single or multiple use.

    Earmuffs are designed to be multiple use and may be designed to be worn with the harness over or behind the head, or below the chin. They are generally more comfortable, but usually provide less noise reduction, thus less protection, than ear plugs.

    Click here to see how to insert earplugs!

    Check out this short audio clip by Dan Clark of the that discusses muffs, ear plugs and "NRR".

    10. Which of the following hearing protection devices are generally more comfortable, but provide less noise reduction?

    a. Molded earplugs
    b. Self-molded earplugs
    c. Custom molded earplugs
    d. Earmuffs

    Check your Work

    Click on the "Check Quiz Answers" button to grade your quiz and see your score. You will receive a message if you forgot to answer one of the questions. After clicking the button, the questions you missed will be listed below. You can correct any missed questions and check your answers again.



    You have the right to work in a safe environment. Watch this Montana State Fund video and learn about the benefits and use of personal protective equipment.

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