Personal protective equipment, or PPE, is equipment worn to protect against exposure to chemical, physical, electrical, mechanical, radiological, or other workplace hazards. Common PPE items include gloves, safety glasses, earplugs, earmuffs, medical masks, eye shields, gowns, booties, aprons, hard hats, respirators, coveralls, vests, protective shoes and, in some cases, full bodysuits.
The general use of PPE has been increasingly important during the COVID-19 crisis. For both healthcare providers and regular citizens, proper PPE creates a barrier between an individual’s skin, mouth, nose, or eyes—and infections like coronavirus. For medical professionals, specifically, gloves, gowns, and N95 respirator masks are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration and must meet its regulations.
How to choose PPE
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has developed standards for the use of PPE and requires that many categories of personal protective equipment meet or exceed the standards set by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI).
Employers must provide PPE to their workers and ensure its proper use. The equipment should be designed and constructed to maximize safety. It should fit comfortably—if an item doesn’t fit properly, it can leave a worker dangerously exposed.
Employers also are required to train each worker:
When PPE is necessary
What kind of PPE is required
How to properly put it on, adjust, and take it off (often called donning and doffing)
About the limitations of the equipment
How to properly maintain and dispose of PPE
Other helpful resources
Thanks for reading our resource posted on June 4, 2020. Please note that this content is intended for educational purposes only. As circumstances surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic change regularly, you should refer to your trusted advisor for specific counsel. If you’re a small business owner, learn more about workplace safety or check your workers’ comp rate in 3 minutes.