Course 614 Personal Protective and Lifesaving Equipment

Types of Protective Equipment

The Requirement for PPE

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PPE head to toe.

To ensure the greatest possible protection for employees in the workplace, the cooperative efforts of both employers and employees will help in establishing and maintaining a safe and healthful work environment.

In general, employers are primarily responsible for the following actions under the PPE program:

  • 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 PPE, including replacing worn or damaged PPE.
  • Periodically reviewing, updating and evaluating the effectiveness of the PPE program.

In general, employees should:

  • Properly wear PPE,
  • Attend training sessions on PPE,
  • Care for, clean and maintain PPE, and
  • Inform a supervisor of the need to repair or replace PPE

Specific requirements for PPE are presented in many different OSHA standards, published in 29 CFR. Some standards require that employers provide PPE at no cost to the employee while others simply state that the employer must provide PPE. OSHA Publication 3151, Personal Protective Equipment, Appendix A contains OSHA standards that require PPE.

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1. Which of the following is a primary employer responsibility under the company's PPE program?

a. Attend all training sessions
b. Ensure employees pay for their own PPE
c. Perform a hazard assessment
d. Properly wear PPE

Eye and Face Protection

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Welders must have eye and face protection.

Employees can be exposed to a large number of hazards that pose danger to their eyes and face. OSHA requires employers to ensure that employees have appropriate eye or face protection if they are exposed to eye or face hazards from flying particles, molten metal, liquid chemicals, acids or caustic liquids, chemical gases or vapors, potentially infected material or potentially harmful light radiation.

Prescription Lenses. Everyday use of prescription corrective lenses will not provide adequate protection against most occupational eye and face hazards, so employers must make sure that employees with corrective lenses either wear eye protection that incorporates the prescription into the design or wear additional eye protection over their prescription lenses.

Types of Eye and Face Protection

Some of the most common types of eye and face protection include the following:

  • Safety spectacles: These protective eyeglasses have safety frames constructed of metal or plastic and impact-resistant lenses. Side shields are available on some models.
  • Goggles: These are tight-fitting eye protection that completely cover the eyes, eye sockets and the facial area immediately surrounding the eyes and provide protection from impact, dust and splashes. Some goggles will fit over corrective lenses.
  • Welding shields: Constructed of vulcanized fiber or fiberglass and fitted with a filtered lens, welding shields protect eyes from burns caused by infrared or intense radiant light; they also protect both the eyes and face from flying sparks, metal spatter and slag chips produced during welding, brazing, soldering and cutting operations. OSHA requires filter lenses to have a shade number appropriate to protect against the specific hazards of the work being performed in order to protect against harmful light radiation.
  • Laser safety goggles: These specialty goggles protect against intense concentrations of light produced by lasers. The type of laser safety goggles an employer chooses will depend upon the equipment and operating conditions in the workplace.
  • Face shields: These transparent sheets of plastic extend from the eyebrows to below the chin and across the entire width of the employee’s head. Some are polarized for glare protection. Face shields protect against nuisance dusts and potential splashes or sprays of hazardous liquids but will not provide adequate protection against impact hazards. Face shields used in combination with goggles or safety spectacles will provide additional protection against impact hazards.

2. Which of the following eye and face protective devices will NOT provide adequate protection against impact hazards?

a. Face shields
b. Welding shields
c. Goggles
d. Safety spectacles
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Construction worker wearing Class G hard hat.

Head Protection

Protecting employees from potential head injuries is a key element of any safety program. Hard hats can protect employees from impact and penetration hazards as well as from electrical shock and burn hazards.

Employers must ensure that their employees wear head protection if any of the following apply:

  • Objects might fall from above and strike them on the head;
  • They might bump their heads against fixed objects, such as exposed pipes or beams; or
  • There is a possibility of accidental head contact with electrical hazards.

Types of Hard Hats

In addition to selecting protective headgear that meets ANSI Z89.1 standard requirements, employers should ensure that employees wear hard hats that provide appropriate protection against potential workplace hazards. It is important for employers to understand all potential hazards through a comprehensive hazard analysis and an awareness of the different types of protective headgear available.

There are two basic types of hard hats:

  • Type I - Commonly used in the United States. Provides protection to the top of the head. This form of impact, for example, may result from a hammer or nail gun falling from above.
  • Type II - Commonly used in Europe. Provides protection to the top and sides of the head. This form of impact, for example, may result from contact with the sharp corner of a side beam.

Hard hats are divided into three industrial classes:

  1. Class G - General hard hats provide impact and penetration resistance along with limited voltage protection (up to 2,200 volts).
  2. Class E - Electrical hard hats provide the highest level of protection against electrical hazards, with high-voltage shock and burn protection (up to 20,000 volts). They also provide protection from impact and penetration hazards by flying/falling objects.
  3. Class C - Conductive hard hats provide lightweight comfort and impact protection but offer no protection from electrical hazards.
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Non-mandatory tests

ANSI Z89.1 introduced three non-mandatory tests for hard hats:

  1. Reverse donning: Hard hats marked with a "reverse donning arrow" can be worn frontward or backward.
  2. Lower temperature (LT) indicates that the hard hat meets all testing requirements of the standard when preconditioned at a temperature of -30°C (-22°F).
  3. High visibility (HV) indicates that the hard hat meets all testing requirements of the standard for high visibility colors.

Bump Caps: Another class of protective headgear on the market is called a "bump hat," designed for use in areas with low head clearance. They are recommended for areas where protection is needed from head bumps and lacerations. These are not designed to protect against falling or flying objects and are not ANSI approved.

3. Which class of hard hats provides the highest level of protection against electrical hazards?

a. Class G - General
b. Class C - Conductive
c. Class E - Electrical
d. Class I - Impact

Foot and Leg Protection

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Nothing better than a good pair of safety shoes.

Employees who face possible foot or leg injuries from falling or rolling objects or from crushing or penetrating materials should wear protective footwear. Employees whose work involves exposure to hot substances or corrosive or poisonous materials must have protective gear to cover exposed body parts, including legs and feet. If an employee's feet may be exposed to electrical hazards, non-conductive footwear should be worn. Workplace exposure to static electricity may make the use of conductive footwear necessary.

Examples of situations in which an employee should wear foot and/or leg protection include:

  • When heavy objects such as barrels or tools might roll onto or fall on the employee’s feet;
  • Working with sharp objects such as nails or spikes that could pierce the soles or uppers of ordinary shoes;
  • Exposure to molten metal that might splash on feet or legs;
  • Working on or around hot, wet or slippery surfaces; and
  • Working when electrical hazards are present

Foot and leg protection choices include the following:

  • Leggings protect the lower legs and feet from heat hazards such as molten metal or welding sparks. Safety snaps allow leggings to be removed quickly.
  • Metatarsal guards protect the instep area from impact and compression. Made of aluminum, steel, fiber or plastic, these guards may be strapped to the outside of shoes.
  • Toe guards fit over the toes of regular shoes to protect the toes from impact and compression hazards. They may be made of steel, aluminum or plastic.
  • Combination foot and shin guards protect the lower legs and feet, and may be used in combination with toe guards when greater protection is needed.
  • Safety shoes have impact-resistant toes and heat-resistant soles that protect the feet against hot work surfaces common in roofing, paving and hot metal industries. The metal insoles of some safety shoes protect against puncture wounds. Safety shoes may also be designed to be electrically conductive to prevent the buildup of static electricity in areas with the potential for explosive atmospheres or nonconductive to protect employees from workplace electrical hazards.
  • Electrically conductive shoes provide protection against the buildup of static electricity. Employees working in explosive and hazardous locations such as explosives manufacturing facilities or grain elevators must wear conductive shoes to reduce the risk of static electricity buildup on the body that could produce a spark and cause an explosion or fire.
  • Electrical hazard, safety-toe shoes are nonconductive and will prevent the feet from completing an electrical circuit to the ground. These shoes can protect against open circuits of up to 600 volts in dry conditions and should be used in conjunction with other insulating equipment.
  • Foundry Shoes insulate the feet from the extreme heat of molten metal, and keep hot metal from lodging in shoe eyelets, tongues or other shoe parts.

4. Employees working in explosive and hazardous locations such as explosives manufacturing facilities or grain elevators must wear _____.

a. electrically conductive shoes
b. electrically non-conductive shoes
c. electrically insulative shoes
d. electrical hazard, safety-toe shoes

Hand and Arm Protection

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Gloves can really save your hands.

If a workplace hazard assessment reveals employees face potential injury to hands and arms that cannot be eliminated through engineering and work practice controls, employers must ensure employees wear appropriate protection including the following: gloves, finger guards and arm coverings or elbow-length gloves

Factors When Selecting Protective Gloves

The following are examples of some factors that may influence the selection of protective gloves for a workplace.

  • type of chemicals handled
  • nature of contact (total immersion, splash, etc.)
  • duration of contact
  • area requiring protection (hand only, forearm, arm)
  • grip requirements (dry, wet, oily)
  • thermal protection
  • size and comfort
  • abrasion/resistance requirements

Gloves made from a wide variety of materials are designed for many types of workplace hazards. In general, gloves fall into four groups:

  1. Gloves made of leather, canvas or metal mesh: Sturdy gloves made from metal mesh, leather or canvas provide protection against cuts and burns. Leather or canvas gloves also protect against sustained heat.
  2. Fabric and coated fabric gloves: Fabric and coated fabric gloves are made of cotton or other fabric to provide varying degrees of protection.
  3. Chemical- and liquid-resistant gloves: Chemical-resistant gloves are made with different kinds of rubber: natural, butyl, neoprene, nitrile and fluorocarbon (viton); or various kinds of plastic: polyvinyl chloride (PVC), polyvinyl alcohol and polyethylene. These materials can be blended or laminated for better performance. As a general rule, the thicker the glove material, the greater the chemical resistance but thick gloves may impair grip and dexterity, having a negative impact on safety.
  4. Insulating rubber gloves: See 29 CFR 1910.137 and the following section on electrical protective equipment for more requirements on the selection, use and care of insulating rubber gloves.

5. Which of the following is NOT a factor that may influence the selection of protective gloves?

a. Sequence of contact
b. Size and comfort
c. Duration of contact
d. Type of chemicals handled

Body Protection

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This job requires some serious body protection.

Employees who face possible bodily injury of any kind that cannot be eliminated through engineering, work practice or administrative controls, must wear appropriate body protection while performing their jobs. In addition to cuts and radiation, the following are examples of workplace hazards that could cause bodily injury:

  • temperature extremes
  • hot splashes from molten metals and other hot liquids
  • potential impacts from tools, machinery and materials
  • hazardous chemicals

Employers are required to ensure that their employees wear personal protective equipment only for the parts of the body exposed to possible injury. Examples of body protection include laboratory coats, coveralls, vests, jackets, aprons, surgical gowns and full body suits.

If a hazard assessment indicates a need for full body protection against toxic substances or harmful physical agents, the clothing should:

  • be carefully inspected before each use,
  • fit each employee properly, and
  • function properly and for the purpose for which it is intended.

Body Protection Materials

Protective clothing comes in a variety of materials, each effective against particular hazards, such as:

  • Paper-like fiber used for disposable suits provide protection against dust and splashes.
  • Treated wool and cotton adapts well to changing temperatures, is comfortable, and fire-resistant and protects against dust,abrasions and rough and irritating surfaces.
  • Duck is a closely woven cotton fabric that protects against cuts and bruises when handling heavy, sharp or rough materials.
  • Leather is often used to protect against dry heat and flames.
  • Rubber, rubberized fabrics, neoprene and plastics protect against certain chemicals and physical hazards. When chemical or physical hazards are present, check with the clothing manufacturer to ensure that the material selected will provide protection against the specific hazard.

6. Which of the following fabrics adapts well to changing temperatures, is fire resistant, and protects abrasion?

a. Leather
b. Rubber, rubberized fabrics
c. Paper-like fiber
d. Treated wool and cotton
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Hearing protection helps prevent diseases like tinnitus..

Hearing Protection

Determining the need to provide hearing protection for employees can be challenging. Employee exposure to excessive noise depends upon a number of factors, including:

  • The loudness of the noise as measured in decibels (dB).
  • The duration of each employee’s exposure to the noise.
  • Whether employees move between work areas with different noise levels.
  • Whether noise is generated from one or multiple sources.

Generally, the louder the noise, the shorter the exposure time before hearing protection is required. For instance, employees may be exposed to a noise level of 90 dB for 8 hours per day (unless they experience a Standard Threshold Shift) before hearing protection is required. On the other hand, if the noise level reaches 115 dB hearing protection is required if the anticipated exposure exceeds 15 minutes.

The table below shows a sample of the permissible noise exposures that require hearing protection for employees exposed to occupational noise at specific decibel levels for specific time periods.

Sample Permissible Exposure Levels

Duration per day Sound level in dB*

8 hrs


4 hrs


1 hr


15 min or less


*When measured on the A scale of a standard sound level meter at slow response. Source: 29 CFR 1910.95, Table G-16.

Some types of hearing protection include:

  • Single-use earplugs are made of waxed cotton, foam, silicone rubber or fiberglass wool. They are self-forming and, when properly inserted, they work as well as most molded earplugs.
  • Pre-formed or molded earplugs must be individually fitted by a professional and can be disposable or reusable. Reusable plugs should be cleaned after each use.
  • Earmuffs require a perfect seal around the ear. Glasses, facial hair, long hair or facial movements such as chewing may reduce the protective value of earmuffs.

Attenuation: If engineering and work practice controls do not lower employee exposure to workplace noise to acceptable levels, employees must wear appropriate hearing protection. It is important to understand that hearing protectors reduce only the amount of noise that gets through to the ears. The amount of this reduction is referred to as attenuation, which differs according to the type of hearing protection used and how well it fits.

Action Level: Manufacturers of hearing protection devices must display the device’s NRR on the product packaging. If employees are exposed to occupational noise at or above 85 dB averaged over an eight-hour period (the action level), the employer is required to institute a hearing conservation program that includes regular testing of employees' hearing by qualified professionals.

7. At what level of exposure to occupational noise over an eight-hour period, must employers institute a hearing conservation program?

a. 70 dB
b. 85 dB
c. 90 dB
d. 115 dB

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Optional Video

This NAHB video explains why personal protective equipment, or PPE, is important for every construction worker. Every worker on the jobsite should have and use the appropriate PPE. It helps reduce exposure to a variety of hazards while working on the jobsite such as protecting against sharp edges, falling objects, flying sparks, and chemical splashes.

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