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All Types of PPE Explained – MySafetyTools

Written by Willie F Brodson

Depending on your work, you may be required to wear PPE personal protective equipment in some cases. This works to protect you against safety and health risks at work. PPE equipment includes ear protection, safety helmets, safety footwear, high visibility clothing, and waterproof wear.

Let’s get familiar with different PPE types available today

Why is PPE important?

Personal protective equipment ranks last among the risk control hierarchy and is considered the last resort. Such a measure is only appropriate when the hazard cannot be completely eliminated or controlled to prevent harm.

The reasons for doing so are:

  • Personal protective equipment protects only the users, but limiting the risks at the source protects everyone on the job;
  • It is rare for PPE to provide the maximum level of protection, and it is difficult to determine the actual degree of protection (for reasons such as failure to wear it when needed or poor fit. Properly fitted, properly maintained, and properly used equipment is necessary for effective protection;
  • Wearing personal protective equipment may limit mobility and visibility, or require the wearer to carry extra weight.
  • Employees’ perceptions of hazards may be altered through the use of personal protective equipment.

PPE protects from chemical splashes, protects hands when a knife slips and prevents breathing in dangerous gases and debris.

Different Models of PPE

Respiratory protective equipment

Surgical mask

Surgical mask

Material:

These masks are commonly made from polypropylene, which is a thermoplastic polymer.

How it works: 

Non-woven fabric is used in blue surgical face masks, which is better at filtering bacteria and allowing air to flow than woven fabric. These are designed to be thrown out after one use.

Half-mask respirator

Half-mask respirator

Material:

Natural rubber or synthetic materials are used for the facepieces, which can be cleaned, disinfected, stored, and reused repeatedly.

How it works 

By protecting against particles, gases, and vapors when it is equipped with suitable filters. An airtight seal is essential between the facepiece and the user.

N-95 respirator

N-95 respirator

Material:

N95 is made of plastic and synthetic fibers. Many people wear synthetic and polyester shirts that contain these plastic fibers. Masks have steel staples (for holding the straps on) and aluminium for the bendable parts

How it works

Since it filters out particles of both large and small sizes when the wearer inhales, it offers greater protection than medical masks.

Respirator cartridge

Respirator cartridge

Material

Respirator cartridges used activated carbon. Activated carbon can be derived from coal, wood, coconut shells, or a mixture of these.  In this case, it is usually heated with steam or nitrogen at temperatures between 800°C and 900°C to activate it.

How it works 

Respirators are filters that remove gases, volatile organic compounds, and vapors from the air we breathe. This is done via chemisorption, adsorption, and adsorption.  For example, an air-purifying respirator uses this filter as one of the two basic types.

Hand and arm protection

Light chemical resistant gloves

Light chemical resistant gloves

Material

Choose from neoprene, vinyl, laminated film, PVC, PVA, nitrile, natural rubber latex, and laminated film. 

How it works

Defense against gasoline, hydraulic fluid, organic acids, alcohol, and alkalis. They are more resistant to chemicals and wear than natural rubber gloves.

Insulated gloves

Material  

The rubber material used for the construction of insulating gloves is insulating rubber.

How it works

To protect the hands through an insulating layer. It is impossible to insulate with an ordinary glove with poor insulation and easily leaks.

Light to heavy chemical resistant gloves

Light to heavy chemical resistant gloves

Material

Made from Natural rubber latex, neoprene, butyl, and nitrile.

How it works

Offers protection against alcohol, organic acids, gasoline alkalis, and hydraulic fluid. They are usually more chemically and wear-resistant than gloves made from natural rubber.

Wire mesh gloves

Wire mesh gloves

Material

High-quality polyester, stainless steel wire, and chemical fibers.

How it works

When cutting with sharp blades, cut-resistant gloves are designed to prevent cuts and nicks.

Light latex, vinyl, or nitrile gloves

Light latex, vinyl, or nitrile gloves

Material

Plastic or synthetic rubber

How it works 

This material increases your tactile sensitivity so that you can pick up smaller objects with more accuracy. It is also highly puncture-proof.

Heavy chemical resistant gloves

Heavy chemical resistant gloves

Material

Various types of rubber-like fluorocarbon, neoprene, natural, butyl, plastic. plastics can also be found, such as polyvinyl alcohol, polyvinyl chloride, and polyethylene

How it works

By resisting corrosion and abrasion, these gloves also remain flexible during cold temperatures

Ear protection

Reusable earplugs

Reusable earplugs

Material 

Memory foam

How it works

These filtered earplugs go into your ear like basic in-ear headphones. The material works as a seal for your ear canal, reducing the volume level.

Disposable earplugs

Disposable earplugs

Material

is either polyurethane or polyvinyl chloride

How it works

Same as above

Head protection

Industrial bump cap

Industrial bump cap

Material

Polyethylene, polycarbonate, phenolic, and glass-reinforced nylon

How it works

To prevent minor bumps to the head when working

Industrial safety helmet

Industrial safety helmet

Material 

Polycarbonate, Glass-reinforced Nylon, Polyethylene, and Phenolic

How it works 

Made with strong materials, it will take the shock so the head remains protected if something heavy falls.

Hair net

Hair net

Material

Hair nets are made with polyester mesh material or stretchy nylon.

How it works

Pulls all the hair together and contains it, so hair doesn’t end up in people’s food. They are also used when in operating theatres and hospitals.

Skin protection

Barrier’ creams

Barrier’ creams

Material

Barrier creams contain lanolin, dimethicone, and zinc oxide.

How it works

They can be either breathable or sealant (occlusive). In addition to moisturizing, they repel fluid and keep air from entering.

Emollient and skin-conditioning creams

Emollient and skin-conditioning creams

Material

Modern emollients use paraffin, zinc oxide, petrolatum, coconut oil, olive oil, beeswax, and cocoa butter. Synthetics used are butyl stearate and diglycol.

How it works

Emollients are able to lock water within the skin for a longer duration by coating it in an oily film. This keeps the skin moisturized for longer.

Body protection

Traditional

Traditional Body protection

Material

These can be made from denim, plastics, nylon, waterproof wear, and polyester.

How it works

These protect clothing from being splashed with chemicals and dyes

Flame resistant

Flame resistant

Material

Nomex, Kevlar, and Modacrylic

How it works 

To prevent sparks from being ignited, to prevent flames from spreading away from the hot area, and, almost immediately, to self-extinguish after removal of the source.

Eye protection

Eye Protection

General safety glasses

Material

Most safety eyewear lenses are made from polycarbonate,

How it works

Protecting our eyes from workplace hazards is the purpose of safety glasses. Preventing dust, flying objects, and other hazards from hurting your eyes.

Laser safety glasses

Laser safety glasses

Material

Glass, polycarbonate, and dielectric coating.

How it works

Certain wavelengths of light can be disrupted by laser safety glasses. In addition to blocking these wavelengths, specially designed lenses also filter the rest of the light, allowing you to work without being hindered by darkness or lasers.

Impact goggle

Impact goggle

Material

Most often, lightweight polycarbonate

How it works

By forming a protective seal around the eye to block harmful dust and air particles.

Chemical splash glasses

Chemical splash glasses

Material 

The lenses are made from polycarbonate, and they’re made from PVC

How it works 

By wearing splash goggles, the wearer will be protected against liquids propelled on a person. Either from above, beside, below or behind.

Foot protection

Wellington boot

Wellington boot

Material

Made from polyvinyl chloride, a halogenated polymer or rubber.

How it works

By preventing mud and water from getting into the boot and protecting the wearer from rain and puddles.

Safety boots or shoes

Safety boots or shoes

How it works 

Both as injury prevention and as a slip and fall guard.

Anti-static and conductive footwear

Anti-static and conductive footwear

Material

The soles of anti-static shoes are largely made of PU or PVC. The upper has reinforced molding on the inside

How it works

Both discharge static electricity and suppress the dust in a dust-free room.

Which equipment is not PPE?

  • Sun hats as they offer no protection for the head
  • Thin clothing as chemicals can penetrate to the skin
  • Shoes that don’t have any steel caps or ankle protection

About the author

Willie F Brodson

Certified by the Board of Certified Safety Professionals and a master of Science in Occupational Safety Management from Indiana State University, Willie F Brodson is an occupational safety expert who believes in the age-old saying – “It is better to be safe than sorry.”

Willie’s areas of expertise include legal guidelines for health and safety, coding and construction safety, fire prevention and theft, and environmental technology. Over a span of four decades, he has provided safety training and consultation and developed safety manuals for a number of state-owned and private organizations.

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