Here is exactly what is PPE

What is PPE
What is PPE

        WHAT IS PPE

The recent outbreak of the pandemic Coronavirus has lead to the continuous use of the term PPE.

Medical practitioners who deal with infected patients complain about the insufficiency of PPE supply.

To curb the spread of the virus the medical personnel who relate closely to these infected patients have to be fully protected and shielded to avoid contacting the virus.

According to world health organization the shortage of PPE Is caused not only by the Coronavirus but by the panic buying lot of people are engaging in caused by the fear that there would soon be a scarcity of PPE.

10 out of 50 people should have heard the word PPE but only half may actually know what the term PPE means.

The word PPE is the acronym for personal protective equipment. It is used by certain industries(health, construction) as a cover or safety gadget used to protect the user from infection, illness, or injury.

The illness or injuries could be contacted from chemical, physical, radiological, mechanical exposure a particular hazard or illness.

Personal protective equipment serves as a shield between the individual using it and hazardous illness and injuries from the infected person or a potentially dangerous environment.

What are the components of the PPE kit?

The PPE kit varies depending on the industry or the kind of infection or illness the user is dealing with.

The kit contains; gloves, safety goggles, masks, hard helmet, boots, respirator(N95), full bodysuit.

The basic five points of a PPE includes;

  • Safety goggles
  • Gloves
  • Hard hat
  • Closed toe shoes (preferably boots).
  • Bodysuit or vet.
What is PPE
What is PPE
             Types of PPE

Personal protective equipment can be classified based on the protective function it renders to the user.

Also, the particular kind of protective gear for a particular part of the body will vary due to occupation, workplace, or site alignment.

Head protection

The head of the user has to be protected from the risk of head injuries that may occur as a result of certain injuries such as falling objects.

Head protection also shields the hair from getting entangled with certain instruments in the work.

Head protection equipment includes;

  • helmet,
  • caps,
  • hard hats.

When to use head protection?

If you are engaging in construction work( building or renovating a house) or a sport related activities like cycling, you need a headgear.

Also, you need head protection when working in the lab to avoid certain incidents (entanglement) that could lead to hazardous accidents.

Eye protection

According to the National institute for occupational safety and health over 2000 U.S workers sustain eye injuries that require medical attention.

This shows that the eye is a very sensitive organ that needs to be protected against certain work accidents such as a sudden splash of chemicals into eyes, penetration of sharp objects, or flying particles.

Eye protection equipment include,

  • safety goggles (laser, chemical and general safety goggles),
  • Face shield,
  • Safety glasses,
  • Visor
  • Over specs.

When to use an eye protection

You are advised to use an eye protector if you engage in activities that expose you to the use of laser, gas, or other highly dangerous substances.

You would also require an eye protection gadget if you are engaging in welding or mixing of chemicals.

Hand protection

The hand is responsible for handling most of the activities hence it should be protected against physical, chemical, and radiological hazards.

Hand gear should be selected based on the kind of activities the user engages in.

Examples of hand personal protective equipment include;

  • Gloves(latex, insulated, wire mesh and chemical resistant gloves),
  • Wrist cuff arm nets and
  • Gauntlets

When to use a hand protection?

Hand protection equipment should be used when handling chemicals and other erroneous materials.

In a construction site, hand gear is required, you should also use a hand PPE if you are exposed to sharp objects.

If you are working in an extremely cold or hot environment, then a hand PPE is also very essential.

Respiratory protection

Some gases are very dangerous and shouldn’t be inhaled, hence the respiratory system needs to be protected.

The proper usage of the respiratory kit is the key, hence workers should be extensively trained on how to make use of the respiratory equipment.

Examples of respiratory equipment include;

  • Half or full face masks
  • N-95 respiratory
  • Monitors
  • Detectors
  • Disposable face masked.
  • Respiratory cartridges.

When to use Respiratory protection

Suitable for those working in close contact with chemical gases and vapor.

In a working environment where the level of dust is extreme, respiratory protection is also required.

Body protection

Body protection is required when working in an environment that requires full body coverage in order to prevent the spread of an infection or as a preventive measure against certain environmental hazards.

Examples of body protection include;

  • Life jack
  • Suitable clothes based on the temperature of the work environment ( cold or hot)
  • Coats (lab, Nomex, barrier coat)
  • Harness
  • High visibility cloth

When to use a body protection

If you work in the chemical industry, a body protection equipment is required.

Use a body PPE when you work in an extremely hot or cold working environment.

Working in an isolated or quarantined area, you need proper body protection to prevent the spread of the illness.

Foot protection

Foot personal protective equipment serves to protect the feet from certain work hazards such as slippery floor, electricity, harsh temperatures.

Foot PPE includes;

  • Boots
  • Conductive footwear

When to use a foot protection?

  • When handling heavy objects
  • Harsh temperatures
  • Working with chemicals.

Hearing protection

Most industrial companies use highly functional but loud machines to perform a certain production.

This loud sound could be highly disturbing and unhealthy for the ears. Hearing protection should be well suited and comfortable to the user.

Examples include;

  • Earplugs (disposable and reusable)
  • Communication set
  • Noise meters.

     What is PPE standard?

According to OSHA(Occupational safety and health act of 1970) a body responsible for ensuring the safety of employees in the workplace.

OSHA clearly stated that PPE must meet ANSI standard.

ANSI standard is as follows;

Foot Protection: ANSI Z41.1-1991

Head Protection: ANSI Z89.1-1986.

Eye and Face Protection: ANSI Z87.1-1989 (USA Standard for Occupational and Educational Eye and Face Protection).

There is no ANSI standard for hand protection but OSHA advised that the type of hand PPE used should be based of kind of tasks to be performed by the user.


According to the occupational safety and health act of 1970, there are four levels of PPE, Level A, level B, level C, and level D.

Level A

This should be worn when the greatest protection is required for the skin, respiratory, and eyes. It is highly efficient when dealing with toxic chemicals and gases.


  1. A positive pressure air respirator with emergency SCBA (self-contained breathing apparatus).
  2. Chemical resistant gloves, steel toe, and boots.
  3. Fully protective chemical suit
  4. Cover all
  5. A disposable set of suit and glove wore that is worn over the chemical protective suit.

Level B

The greatest level of respiratory protection, less skin, and eye protection.


  1. Positive pressure air respirator with SCBA(approved by NIOHS)
  2. Chemical resistant gloves, steel toes, boots, and clothes.

Level C

The greatest level of respiratory protection but Level C is selected over level B when the substance in the air is known and the air purifying respiratory meets OSHA standard.


  1. Air purifying mask either full or half face.
  2. Chemical resistant clothes, steel toe, and boots, face shield, cover all, hard hat, and escape mask.

Level D

Offers a minimized level of protection from contaminants.


  1. Gloves
  2. Chemical resistant steel toe and boots
  3. Disposable Boot covers

Optional : face shield, hard net, safety glasses, and escape mask.

Why is PPE important?

  • It helps to protect workers from safety and health risks while performing their tasks.
  • There is a reduced level of sickness and injuries.
  • It is legally mandated, it should be done to avoid court cases, fines.
  • It prevents continuous recruitment stress, employees will keep quitting their jobs when PPE is not provided.

Limitations of PPE

  1. There are restrictions on movement and communication.
  2. Psychological stress such as claustrophobia can be triggered.
  3. PPE needs to be properly fitted per individual.
  4. It increases the risk of heat stress.
  5. For the PPE to be effective, it needs to be in a good condition.
  6. It places restrictions on breathing, comfort, and vision.

What is the service life of PPE?

Hard hat: On the shelf, they can last for over 5 years but due to the hard tasks they are exposed to they don’t last for that long.

It is recommended that a hard hat should be changed within 2-3 years.

Work boots = 6 – 12 months

Hard hat and ear defender= up to 5 years.

Eye protection = up to 3 years

High visibility cloth= washed once a week = 6 months

Washed once a month = 3 years

Note: The service life of PPE depends on how they are used, what they are used for, and how they are maintained.

        Maintenance of PPE

Disposable PPE = dispose, don’t reuse.

Goggle and face shield = Clean, disinfect, and reuse.

Respirator N-95 = If stored properly, it can be reuse. Dispose if it gets wet by sweat.

High visibility cloth = Cleansed regularly, check package instructions on how to clean it.

Head protection = Washed regularly, don’t sit on it.