Hazards exist in every workplace in many different forms: sharp edges, falling objects, flying sparks, chemicals, noise and a myriad of other potentially dangerous situations. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires that employers protect their employees from workplace hazards that can cause injury.
Controlling a hazard at its source is the best way to protect employees. Depending on the hazard or workplace conditions, OSHA recommends the use of engineering or work practice controls to manage or eliminate hazards to the greatest extent possible. For example, building a barrier between the hazard and the employees is an engineering control; changing the way in which employees perform their work is a work practice control.
When engineering, work practice and administrative controls are not feasible or do not provide sufficient protection, employers must provide personal protective equipment (PPE) to their employees and ensure its use. Personal protective equipment, commonly referred to as "PPE", is equipment worn to minimize exposure to a variety of hazards. Examples of PPE include such items as gloves, foot and eye protection, protective hearing devices (earplugs, muffs) hard hats, respirators and full body suits.
This guide will help both employers and employees do the following:
- Understand the types of PPE.
- Know the basics of conducting a "hazard assessment" of the workplace.
- Select appropriate PPE for a variety of circumstances.
- Understand what kind of training is needed in the proper use and care of PPE.
The information in this guide is general in nature and does not address all workplace hazards or PPE requirements. The information, methods and procedures in this guide are based on the OSHA requirements for PPE as set forth in the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) at 29 CFR 1910.132 (General requirements); 29 CFR 1910.133 (Eye and face protection); 29 CFR 1910.135 (Head protection); 29 CFR 1910.136 (Foot protection); 29 CFR 1910. 137 (Electrical protective equipment); 29 CFR 1910.138 (Hand protection); and regulations that cover the construction industry, at 29 CFR 1926.95 (Criteria for personal protective equipment); 29 CFR 1926.96 (Occupational foot protection); 29 CFR 1926.100 (Head protection); 29 CFR 1926.101 (Hearing protection); and 29 CFR 1926.102 (Eye and face protection); and for the maritime industry at 29 CFR 1915.152 (General requirements); 29 CFR 1915.153 (Eye and face protection); 29 CFR 1915.155 (Head protection); 29 CFR 1915.156 (Foot protection); and 29 CFR 1915.157 (Hand and body protection).
This guide does not address PPE requirements related to respiratory protection (29 CFR 1910.134) as this information is covered in detail in OSHA Publication 3079, "Respiratory Protection". There is a brief discussion of hearing protection in this publication but users should refer to OSHA Publication 3074, "Hearing Conservation" for more detailed information on the requirements to protect employees' hearing in the workplace.