July 28, 2020 Personal protective equipment is classified, like collective protectors (barriers and guards), as interventions between the source of the risk and the exposed persons. However, unlike interventions at the source which eliminate the risk and consequently the exposure of workers, personal protective equipment does not prevent an accident, it avoids or limits contact with people or mitigates its consequences. These are means of protection, not means of prevention. Personal protective equipment differs from collective protective measures in that it is worn by each worker.

Nowadays, there are a variety of types and models of equipment which differ depending on the manufacturer, the part of the body to be protected and the nature of the hazard. Thus, it turns out to be possible to find personal protective equipment which is suitable for almost all types of hazards and individuals.

Examples of personal protection:

  • safety helmets to protect against the risk of head injury
  • safety glasses and visors to protect eyes and face against projections and splashes
  • earplugs and earmuffs to protect hearing
  • different masks to protect the respiratory tract from vapors, gases, dust
  • cuffs and gloves to prevent injuries to arms and hands
  • clothes and aprons for body protection
  • safety shoes to reduce foot injuries
  • safety harness to protect against risks related to falls from a height
  • personal padlock

Note: The PPE associated with certain specific risks can be found on the respective pages of these risks. For more information, see our themes.

To play their role properly, personal protective equipment must first and foremost be worn, so it is subject to the whims of individuals. Of course, they require effective management of safe behavior on the part of the employer, but also, it is strongly recommended to consult the workers when it comes time to make the choice of them. If workers are involved in the selection and process of purchasing new PPE, for example, the better the chances that it will be worn and used correctly. Thus, their effectiveness depends on a set of factors such as:

  • risk perception
  • educating workers about the importance of wearing PPE
  • the organization’s tolerance for non-compliance with the wearing of PPE
  • their availability, accessibility and replacement
  • training on the proper use of the equipment as well as on maintenance and storage conditions
  • worker involvement in the choice of PPE
  • their ease of adjustment and level of comfort
  • etc.

Although they seem relatively simple to use and inexpensive in the short term, it should be remembered that they offer limited protection and have a limited lifespan. Personal protective equipment can be very useful, but it should be used when more effective interventions are not possible. They should not be seen as permanent measures or limit the search for solutions that allow intervention at the source.

Personal Protective Equipment