What is a PPE?


Personal protective equipment (PPE) is a device or means intended to be worn or held by a person in order to protect him against one or more risks likely to threaten his safety as well as his health. PPE is classified by European regulations into 3 categories, depending on the severity of the risk concerned:

Class 1: Work equipment covering minor risks

Class 2: Specific protective equipment for significant risks

Class 3: Safety equipment for serious risks with irreversible or fatal effects


The risks can be of different natures: chemical (dust, vapor, solvent…), mechanical (shock, cut, projection….), Electric, thermal, biological, ionizing radiation or not (infrared, laser, ultraviolet), noise….

Why is PPE that important?


In the hierarchy of risk control, PPE is considered to rank lowest and represent the option of last resort. It is only appropriate where the hazard in question cannot be totally removed or controlled in such a way that harm is unlikely.

There are a number of reasons for this approach:

PPE protects only the person using it, whereas measures controlling the risk at source can protect everyone at the workplace;

Theoretical maximum levels of protection are seldom achieved using PPE, and the real level of protection is difficult to assess (due to factors such as poor fit, or failure to wear it when required). Effective protection can only be achieved by equipment which is correctly fitted, maintained and properly used at all times;

PPE may restrict the wearer by limiting mobility, visibility or by requiring additional weight to be carried.

Use of PPE may alter employees’ perception of the hazards they are dealing with.

In this context of a last resort control measure, PPE is critically important as it is generally only used where other measures are insufficient and as such it plays a crucial role in preventing and reducing many occupational fatalities, injuries and diseases.

It exist 8 main PPE equipment:


- Protective clothing

- Hand and arm protection

- Foot and leg protection

- Eye and face protection

- Hearing protection

- Head protection

- Respiratory protection

- Personal fall protection

PPE equipment falls into the directive (PPE) 89/686/EEC and PPE Regulation (EU) 2016/425

1/ Protective clothing


The Regulations’ definition of PPE excludes ordinary working clothes and uniforms which have no specific protection for the wearer. However, body protection may be required for extended periods of work outdoors to protect against the weather, and to ensure high visibility during work where there is mixed vehicle and pedestrian traffic.


PPE for the body may also be required where workers are exposed to extremes of temperature (whether outdoors or indoors), as well as chemical or metal splash, spray from pressure leaks or spray guns, impact or penetration, contaminated dust, excessive wear, entanglement of own clothing or the risk of drowning.


When choosing body protection, the following factors should be considered:


- Thermal comfort, for example, due to sweating;

- Cost and practicality of cleaning;

- Emergency procedures, such as buoyancy or the need to be identified or spotted in hazardous situations;

- Level of hygiene control required;

- Level of personal contamination;

- Personal preference;

- Restriction of movement;

- Storage;

- Temperature and humidity fluctuation;

- Whether the worker is involved in a process that is wet or dry.


List of Standards:

BS EN 464:1994 Protection against liquid and gaseous chemicals, including aerosols and solid particles

BS EN 14605:2005 +A1:2009 Protection against liquid chemicals with liquid tight connections (Type 3 Equipment)

BS EN ISO 17491- 4:2008 + A1:2016 Protection against liquid chemicals

BS EN 469:2014 Protective clothing for firefighters

BS EN 510:1993 Protective clothing for use with risk of entanglement with moving parts

BS EN 530:2010 Abrasion resistance of protective clothing materials

BS EN ISO 11612: 2015 Protective clothing to protect against heat and flame

BS EN ISO 15025: 2016 Protective clothing against heat and flame

BS EN ISO 14116: 2015 Protective clothing against heat and flame

BS EN ISO 12127-1: 2015 Protective clothing against heat and flame

BS EN 943-1:2002 Protective clothing against liquid and gaseous chemicals, aerosols and solid particles

BS EN 943-2:2015 Protective clothing against liquid and gaseous chemicals

BS EN 1073-1:2016 Protective clothing against radioactive contamination

BS EN 1073-2:2002 Protective clothing against radioactive contaminations

BS EN 1149-1:2006 Protective clothing – electrostatic properties

BS EN 1149-2:1997 Protective clothing – electrostatic properties

BS EN ISO 6529:2001 Protection against permeation by liquids and gasses (ISO 6529:2001)

BS EN ISO 10819:2013 Mechanical vibration and shock. Hand-arm vibration. Measurement and evaluation of the vibration transmittability of glove at the palm of the hand

BS EN ISO 13995:2001 Protection against mechanical properties (ISO 13995:200)

BS EN ISO 13997:1999 Resistance to cutting by sharp objects (ISO 13997:1999)

BS EN 342:2004 Protection against cold

BS EN 343:2003+A1:2007 Protection against foul weather

BS EN ISO 20471:2013 High visibility clothing

2/ Hand and arm protection


Most work requires a degree of manual dexterity and consequently the hands are exposed to a wide range of hazards Risks include cuts, abrasions, heat, cold, chemical contamination, vibration, burns, infection, skin irritation and dermatitis.

Before selecting hand and arm protection, the hierarchy of control measures must be followed. Gloves and gauntlets provide the main form of hand protection against a range of industrial hazards, but other forms of PPE such as mitts, wrist cuffs or armlets may also be used.


In the case of manual handling where there may be a risk of piercing by abrasive, sharp or pointed objects, gloves should be provided where these hazards cannot otherwise be removed, isolated or reduced to an acceptable level. Such gloves are usually made from leather, chain mail, rubber, knitted Kevlar or stout canvas. However, gloves should not normally be worn where there is a risk of them being caught in machinery.


Where chemical exposure is a hazard, and the risk extends to contact with the arms, gauntlets should be specified rather than gloves.


List of Standards:

BS EN 60903:2003 Live working: Gloves of insulating materials

BS EN 659:2003 +A1:2008 Protective gloves – Firefighters

BS EN 374-1:2016 Protective Gloves – chemicals and micro organisms

BS EN 374-2:2014 Protective gloves – micro organisms

BS EN 16523-1:2015 Determination of material resistance to permeation by chemicals

BS EN 374-4:2013 Protective gloves against chemicals and micro-organisms. Determination of resistance to degradation by chemicals

BS EN ISO 379-5: 2016 Protective plans against dangerous chemicals and micro-organisms

BS EN 388:2016 Protective gloves – mechanical risks

BS EN 407:2004 Protective gloves – heat and fire

BS EN 420:2003 +A1:2009 Gloves – general requirements

BS EN 511:2006 Protective gloves - cold

3/ Foot and leg protection


A wide range of safety footwear is available providing protection against many hazards to the feet or legs including crushing, slipping, piercing, temperatures, electricity, chemicals, cutting, and chopping. Depending on the hazard various PPE options may be appropriate including safety boots and shoes with protective toe caps and penetration-resistant mid-sole; gaiters; leggings; and spats.


List of Standards:

BS EN 15090:2012 Footwear for firefighters

BS EN ISO 20345:2011 Safety footwear

BS EN ISO 20346:2014 Personal protective equipment Protective footwear

BS EN ISO 20347:2012 Occupational footwear

4/ Eye and face protection


PPE for the eyes is intended to provide protection against impact, cuts, splashes, mists and sprays.


All PPE must be regularly cleaned, but this is especially important in the case of eye protection as dirty lenses lead to poor vision and may contribute to accidents.


Where lenses become scratched, pitted or cracked they should be replaced.


Users who need to wear corrective lenses (glasses) should have this requirement accommodated in the provision of the PPE to them eg as protective over glasses where appropriate, or in the form of prescription lenses if necessary. Where they may be required to wear eye protection on a regular and prolonged basis then any goggles, safety-glasses etc should meet the user’s prescription requirements.


List of Standards:

BS EN 166:2002 Personal Eye Protection

BS EN 175:1997 Welders eye and face protection

BS 4110:1979 Visors for Vehicle Users

BS EN 169:2002 Welding filters

BS EN 170:2002 Ultraviolet filters

BS EN 171:2002 Infrared Filters

BS EN 172:1995 Sun glare filters for industrial use

BS EN 1731:2006 Mesh face screens

BS EN ISO 12312-1: 2014 Eye and face protection. Sunglasses and related eyewear. Sunglasses for general use

BS 5883:1996 Swimming goggles

AS/NZS 1337.1:2010 Eye and face protectors for occupational applications

5/ Hearing protection


Assessments carried out under the ‘Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005’ will determine whether personal ear protectors are required in the workplace or not, and the noise attenuation required.


In providing hearing protection, employers should select protectors which are suitable for the working environment and should consider how comfortable and hygienic they are. Like other PPE, hearing protection will need to be compatible with other PPE (eg hard hats, dust masks and eye protection) worn by workers.


Employers may also wish to provide a range of protectors to allow employees to choose ones which suit them.


Bearin mind that the theoretical attenuation is rarely achieved and it is therefore necessary to over-specify the protection. When selecting hearing protection, use the detailed noise assessment to determine the attenuation required at High, Medium and Low frequencies and match this against suitable prod cts. Bear in mind that where ear plugs are used, training will be needed to ensure that they are used correctly. Where ear defenders are used it should be ensured that users do not use music headphones or buds simultaneously. For high noise environments, it may be appropriate to specify both plugs and defenders.


List of Standards:

BS EN 352-1:2002 Earmuffs

BS EN 352-2:2002 Earplugs

BS EN 352-3:2002 Earmuffs on safety helmets

BS EN 352-4:2001 Level Dependent Earmuffs

BS EN 352-5:2002 Active Noise Reduction Earmuffs

BS EN 352-6:2002 Earmuffs with electrical audio input

BS EN 352-7:2002 Level dependent earplugs

AS/NZS 1270:2002 (R2014) Acoustics - Hearing protectors

6/ Head protection


There are five primary purposes of head protection, to protect:

- The head in falls;

- Against falling objects, impact with fixed objects, or wielded weapons;

- The head by offering thermal insulation;

- Against entanglement and laceration to the head;

- Against scalping/entanglement particularly on machinery where injuries are still numerous. Hair-nets and caps are   also used for hygiene reasons.


All forms of head and scalp protection must be suitable, correctly fitted and have an easily adjustable headband, nape and chin strap where appropriate.

List of Standards:

BS 6658:1985 Protective Helmets for Vehicle Users

BS EN 4110:1979 Visors for Vehicle Users

BS EN 397:2012 +A:2012 Industrial Safety Helmets

BS EN 812:2012 Industrial Bump Caps

PAS 017:1995 Riot Helmets for Police use

BS EN 1078:2012 Helmets for Pedal Cyclists and for users of Skateboards

PAS 028:2002 Marine Safety Helmets

UN ECE Regulation 22.05 Protective Helmets for drivers and passengers of mopeds and motor cycles with or without side-car and for visors fitted to such helmets or intended to be added to them

AS/NZS 1801:1997 Occupational protective helmets

7/ Respiratory protection


This covers equipment ranging from breathing apparatus and positive pressure powered respirators through to protective hoods, close fitting full face respirators, half mask respirators and disposable face masks. It is always essential to select the correct equipment both for the risk and the individual and to ensure there is adequate training in its use. It should be noted that the only form of respiratory protection which is suitable for work in a confined space is breathing apparatus, as other forms of respiratory protection do not provide a source of air or oxygen. Face fit testing requirements apply to all close fitting respirators.


List of Standards:

BS EN 140:1999 Half/Quarter masks

BS EN 14387:2004 +A1:2008 Gas Filters and Combined Filters

BS EN 143:2000 Particle Filters

BS EN 149:2001 +A1:2009 Filtering half masks to protect against particles

BS EN 1827:2009 +A1:2009 Half masks separable filters to protect against gases or gases and particles

BS EN 12941:1998 +A2:2008 Powered Hoods and Helmets

BS EN 12942:1998 +A2:2008 Powered air for full/half masks

BS EN 136:1998 Full face masks – Class 1, 2, or 3

BS EN 405:2001 +A1:2009 Valve Combined Filtering Half Mask

BS EN 137:2006 Self Contained Breathing Apparatus

BS EN 138:1994 Fresh Air Hose for use with face mask

BS EN 14594:2005 Continuous Flow Compressed Airline Breathing Apparatus

BS EN 402:2003 Self Contained Breathing Apparatus Escape Mask

BS EN 1146:2005 Self-contained open-circuit Compressed Air Breathing Apparatus with Escape Hood

BS EN 14683 Surgical masks

AS/NZS 1716:2012 Respiratory protective devices

8/ Personal fall protection


This range of protective equipment is very wide and includes body harnesses, fall-arrest systems, rescue lifting and lowering harnesses, energy absorbers and lanyards.


Such PPE is specialised and requires thorough training by competent persons, in user checks as well as correct use.


Equipment will require periodic inspection by a competent person and anchorage points will normally require periodic testing.


List of Standards:

EN 341:2011 Descender Devices

BS EN 360:2002 Retractable type fall arresters

BS EN 361:2002 Full Body Harnesses

BS EN 362:2004 Connectors

BS EN 795:2012 Anchor points

BS EN 813:2008 Sit harnesses

BS EN ISO 12401:2009 Deck safety harness and safety line for use on recreational craft

BS EN 1496:2017 Rescue lifting devices

BS EN 1497:2007 Rescue harnesses

BS EN 1498:2006 Rescue loops

BS EN 358:2000 Work positioning belts

BS EN 1891:1998 Low stretch kemmantel ropes