Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is a set of clothing, accessories, and devices that are used to protect workers from physical hazards such as injury or infection. The most common types of PPE are safety helmets, face shields, gloves, goggles or other garments or equipment that protect the wearer’s body from injury or infection. They are essential for anyone who works with dangerous substances or equipment. PPE can also protect workers from other hazards, like electrical shocks or flying objects. Protective clothing and gear can be used for occupational safety purposes as well as for sports and recreational activities.
The overall goal of personal protective equipment is to reduce risk, however, it cannot eliminate the hazard and may result in employees being exposed to a particular hazards if the equipment wears out or is used improperly.
PPE places a barrier between the worker and their environment. That can cause additional strain, physically impair their ability to complete work, create significant levels of discomfort and discourage them from using the equipment correctly. Any of these factors can discourage the wearer from using PPE correctly and place them at risk of injury, illness, or in a worst case scenario, death. Good ergonomic design minimizes these constraints and helps ensure safe and healthy working conditions through the proper use of PPE
Occupational safety and health practices use a hierarchy of controls to mitigate workplace hazards, which pose a threat to the safety and quality of life of workers. Eliminating hazards entirely or replacing them with safer alternatives are ranked as the top controls, followed by engineering controls and administrative controls that reduce the hazard through design. Personal protective equipment ranks last, as workers are exposed to hazardous conditions continuously but do not have barriers protecting them.