What is Personal Protective Equipment and why is it necessary?

What is Personal Protective Equipment and why is it necessary?

COVID-19 has introduced many words, terms and acronyms to our vocabularies, with one of the most important being Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). But what exactly is Personal Protective Equipment and why is it important? Read on and we’ll explain all there is to know about it.

So, exactly what does PPE mean and what is Personal Protective Equipment used for? The term simply refers to any kind of item which is worn on the body for the purpose of minimising the risk to the health and safety of a worker. When people see the word ‘PPE’, they will most likely think of the medical profession and items such as masks, gowns and face shields. 

Different types of PPE are better suited to certain jobs than others, which is why you will often see medical personnel wearing ‘N95’ face masks, which are designed to achieve a close facial fit and are better at filtering out airborne particles than lower quality masks. Given what is now known about COVID-19, equipment that is highly effective at filtering out aerosols (small particles emitted by the lungs when exhaling) is the preferred choice for the medical profession.

PPE is actually a very broad category, as it can relate to many different types of equipment. 10 Personal Protective Equipment examples include...

  • boots
  • ear plugs
  • face masks
  • gloves
  • goggles
  • hard hats
  • high visibility clothing
  • respirators
  • safety harnesses
  • sunscreen

Apart from the medical industry, Personal Protective Equipment is used in construction, maintenance, manufacturing, automotive – in fact, any industry where there is a risk to health and safety. Common Personal Protective Equipment might include: welders’ helmets; steel-capped boots; chainmail mesh gloves; earmuffs; and harnesses used as part of fall-restraint systems.

One of the first steps of using PPE is understanding the risks involved in the work. For example, a welder would need to be protected not only from the intense light emanating from the equipment by using a helmet, but also from extreme heat, sparks and chemical burns. This is why it’s recommended for welders to wear Personal Protective Equipment such as fire-retardant jacket, head and neck protection, gloves, boots and a leather apron.

Whatever form of PPE you need for your work, it’s important to ensure that it is fit for purpose, in order to protect you sufficiently, and that it is maintained properly if requiring frequent use. In the case of medical PPE, many items will be discarded after they have been used once, such as face masks, long-sleeved gowns, and gloves, whereas other items, such as face shields or safety glasses, may be disinfected and used again (though preferably by the same person).

It’s also important to remember that any form of Personal Protective Equipment should be fitted properly to the person wearing it, and that it should be treated with respect, as any safety equipment becomes less effective if not used the right way or the wearer engages in dangerous behaviour where the PPE may not fully them.

Given how COVID-19 has changed the world, it’s vital that anyone working in a hazardous environment is aware of the appropriate PPE to keep them safe. Auslift is dedicated to helping workers stay safe and we can assist you with all your machinery needs. Contact us for more information.