Course 600 - Introduction to Occupational Safety and Health

Safety guides and audits to make your job as a safety professional easier

Personal Protective Equipment

Image of Man Wearing PPE
PPE, such as the gloves and eye protection seen here, must be provided to the employee at no cost.

What is Required?

OSHA requires the use of personal protective equipment (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 have an obligation to provide PPE, including personal protective equipment for eyes, face, head, and extremities, and protective clothing and barriers. Employers must also make sure employees use and maintain PPE in a sanitary and reliable condition.

What is Proper Use?

Personal Protective Equipment must be worn and used in a manner that will make full use of its protective qualities. Personal protective equipment used incorrectly potentially exposes an employee to hazards, defeating the idea behind using PPE.

Low rates of compliance in wearing PPE usually indicate the safety management system is failing in some way.

When employees don't wear or use PPE correctly, it is usually because the employer:

  • does not provide quality PPE,
  • does not properly supervise the use of PPE,
  • fails to enforce the use of PPE, or
  • does not properly train employees on the use of PPE.

What Subjects Must be Trained?

Image of Man Wearing PPE
Workers using high voltage arc-flash electrical protective equipment.

According to the standard, to meet the minimum training requirements, each employee receiving PPE training must be trained to know at least the following topics:

  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 topic is missing:

  1. why PPE is necessary

Why is this topic 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.

Teaching the "what, when, how, and limitations" of PPE increases knowledge and skill.

Educate the "Why"

Image of Man Wearing PPE
Knowing why PPE is important can save your life.

As we mentioned previously, the first five topic elements in the list required by OSHA describe the "what, when, and how" of PPE use. The goal is to increase both knowledge and skill so the employee is better able to properly use PPE.

The methods used to train the employee are primarily discussion and hands-on demonstration. To measure knowledge and skill, the instructor usually tests the employee by asking them to demonstrate using the PPE (harness, respirators, etc.).

Educate About the Consequences

The final "why" training topic addresses the importance of using PPE and what the consequences of behavior (compliance and failure to comply) will be. There are two primary types of consequences:

  • Natural consequences include some form of resulting injury or illness to the employee that inevitably occurs. For instance, a natural consequence might be an eye injury as a result of not using eye protection.
  • System consequences describe the discipline or recognition given by others in the company in response to the employee's performance. For example, an employee might be recognized for properly using PPE during a hazardous task.

The goal of this last element is to increase employee motivation to use PPE. When employees understand the consequences, they are more likely to use PPE properly and consistently.

The goal of teaching the "why" is to increase employee motivation to use PPE.

Demonstration is the Key

Before an employee is allowed to do work requiring PPE, the employer must require each affected employee to demonstrate:

  • an understanding of the training topics, and
  • the skills and ability to use PPE properly.
Image of Man Wearing PPE
Demonstration of skills proves adequate knowledge and ability.

Demonstration is the most common and probably the most efficient method to determine employee knowledge and skills. How does the employee demonstrate an understanding of the six PPE training subjects listed previously? Simple, their level of knowledge is measured by asking the employee questions similar to those listed below.

  • What PPE is required for your particular job?
  • When is the PPE required to be used in your job?
  • What are the possible defects your PPE might have?
  • How do you properly care for and maintain/store your PPE?
  • What is the useful life of your PPE?
  • From what hazards does the PPE protect you?

Employees may be required to individually complete written tests or answer questions orally. The standard is that tests must measure individual knowledge. Asking groups of employees questions is not appropriate. OSHA does prefer written exams.

It is the intent of most OSHA law that knowledge be measured by written exams.

Who Should Conduct the Training?

Image of Man Wearing PPE
Competent persons should conduct training.
(Click to Enlarge)

This is a very important question. Whoever the person training PPE is, he or she needs to be an expert who not only understands how to use PPE correctly, but has a thorough understanding of the importance of doing so. It's critical that the employee understands the importance of wearing PPE, not only for their safety, but their "continuing employment."

The employer must verify each affected employee has received and understood the required training by a competent person.

Training Documentation

PPE training must be completed using a written certification document containing:

  1. the name of each employee trained,
  2. the date(s) of training, and
  3. the subject of the certification.

When documenting safety training, and specifically PPE training, it's also important to formally certify employees have demonstrated (proved) to the trainer, adequate knowledge and skills with respect to safety training.

PPE training documentation will be strengthened when it contains the elements below:

  • A statement by the employee that they have received training by the employer on the six subjects listed previously, and that the trainer has demonstrated proper use of the PPE and answered all employee questions about PPE use satisfactorily.
  • A statement by the trainer that, through an oral or written test, the employee has satisfactorily demonstrated an understanding of the subjects covered during training, and has, through practice, demonstrated the skills needed to properly don, doff, use, care for, and maintain the PPE.

When is Retraining Required?

Image of Man Wearing PPE
Annual retraining is important to maintain PPE skills that are not used regularly.
(Click to Enlarge)

When the employer has reason to believe any affected employee who has already been trained does not have the understanding and skill required by the PPE standard, the employer must retrain the employee.

Circumstances where retraining is required include, but are not limited to, situations where:

  • when use of PPE is only required rarely;
  • changes in the workplace render previous training obsolete;
  • changes in the types of PPE to be used render previous training obsolete; or
  • deficiencies in an affected employee's knowledge or use of assigned PPE indicate that the employee has not retained the requisite understanding or skill

Online Training

According to an OSHA letter of interpretation (February 4th, 2009) about online training, OSHA states that an employer may not rely solely on the use of an online or video training program when training the use of PPE.

According to OSHA, the trainee must be able to "don, doff, touch, feel and otherwise manipulate a particular piece of personal protective equipment that an employer may require or provide to protect their employees to prevent injury or illness." To be considered adequate, online PPE training must also include a hands-on practice component so that the employee can practice using the employer's specific PPE.

PPE training must include a hands-on portion so employees can practice using the PPE.

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

Disposable Glove Removal Demonstration

How to Use a Fire Extinguisher - Diamond Protection Video

Viewing this video is optional.


Before beginning this quiz, we highly recommend you review the module material. This quiz is designed to allow you to self-check your comprehension of the module content, but only focuses on key concepts and ideas.

Read each question carefully. Select the best answer, even if more than one answer seems possible. When done, click on the "Get Quiz Answers" button. If you do not answer all the questions, you will receive an error message.

Good luck!

1. Employers must make sure employees use and maintain PPE _____.

2. Which of the following PPE training topics is not required by OSHA, but should be taught?

3. Before an employee is allowed to do work requiring PPE, the employer must require each affected employee to _____.

4. When the employer believes a trained employee, who violates PPE safety rules, lacks understanding and skill required by the PPE standard, the employer must discipline the employee for failure to comply with safety rules.

5. To meet minimum rule OSHA requirements, the employer must verify each affected employee has received and understood the required PPE training. What form must this certification take?

Have a great day!

Important! You will receive an "error" message unless all questions are answered.