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Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) - Frequently Asked Questions and Standards for Workplace

Q. What is PPE?


PPE or Personal Protection Equipment refers to a set of personal safety devices used to safeguard against hazards by minimizing exposure to such hazards. These include respirators, face coverings, eye and ear protection, gloves, hard hats, protective footwear, and vests, coveralls, and bodysuits. PPE use is required in a variety of workplaces such as construction sites, healthcare facilities, places with electrical, chemical, radiological, and biohazards, etc. At the workplace, PPE Signs are used to constantly remind employees to wear relevant gear before entering the worksite.

Q. Which OSHA standard governs the use of PPE?


There is not one but several OSHA standards surrounding the use of PPE. General industry standards are provided in 29 CFR 1910.132 and provide information about when to use the equipment, selection of the right equipment, employee training, and the maintenance and financial responsibility related to the protective gear. 

29 CFR 1910.133 details the use of eye and face protection as well as the ANSI requirements that such equipment must comply with. Respiratory protection is covered under 29 CFR 1910.134, requiring employers to put a respiratory protection program in place. 

The use of ANSI-compliant helmets to protect workers from falling objects and a potential injury because of exposed electrical conductors is detailed in 29 CFR 1910.135. Occupational foot protection requirements and responsibilities are detailed in 29 CFR 1910.136, while 29 CFR 1910.137 governs the design, use, and care of electrical protective equipment. 

29 CFR 1910.138 provides information regarding selecting and using appropriate hand protection based on actual or potential hazards, exposure duration, application, and other such factors. Additionally, 29 CFR 1910.140 governs the use, performance and care of all personal fall protection systems like fall arrest systems. 

PPE requirements specific to the construction industry are covered in the following standards:

There are several other standards regarding PPE use in worksites such as shipyards and marine terminals. Please visit www.osha.gov for more information.

Q. Are there any guidelines for PPE use during Covid-19?


While the use of face coverings is recommended for everyone as part of the social distancing protocol, the CDC has rolled out detailed guidelines surrounding the use of PPE in healthcare facilities. The guidelines state that potential and confirmed Covid-19 cases use a facemask during a medical evaluation and healthcare workers use the recommended PPE as detailed in the Infection Control Guidance

The guidelines provide information about wearing and taking off the PPE, including gloves, gown, face protection, and respirator. Best practices regarding PPE and the dos and don’ts of using face masks are also detailed in the CDC resource. 

Q. Can employees use their own PPE?


There is no restriction on employees using their own PPE. However, even in such cases, the employer is required to ensure that the employee equipment is adequate to protect them from the hazard. Employers are also responsible for the proper maintenance and sanitation of such PPE.

Q. How should PPE be selected?


Your selection of PPE shall take into consideration factors such as equipment durability and whether it can be disinfected and cleaned easily. The PPE should provide adequate protection from hazards that it is designed to keep at bay while not turning into a hazard itself. It should be safe and reasonably comfortable to let the workers perform their job without restricting their movement excessively. The PPE should be marked so that its manufacturer may be identified.

Q. How can employees determine if PPE use is required in the workplace?


OSHA requires employers to conduct a hazard assessment to identify hazards and determine PPE usage. This assessment involves a walkthrough survey of the facility to identify hazards related to electricity sources, machines, falling/dropping objects, chemicals/biological/radiation hazards, wet/slippery surfaces, etc. These should be put into categories such as chemical, biological, impact, dust, heat/cold, etc. The employer should also pay attention to the facility layout and review past illnesses/injuries. Based on the survey data, the employer can determine the PPE required for the workplace. 

The hazard assessment should be done periodically to determine the suitability of existing PPE and identify changes in working conditions, procedures, and equipment if any.

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