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EHSO Guide to Assessing the Need
for Personal Protective Equipment:
A Guide for Small Business Employers

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Who should read this guide?
How will this guide help protect my employees?
What is personal protective equipment?

Establishing a PPE Program

What is a PPE program?
How do I develop a PPE program for my company?

The Need for PPE

Who must provide PPE?
How do I identify potential hazards in my workplace?
I have identified potential hazards. Now what?
What are work practice and engineering controls?
All feasible engineering and work practice controls are in place, but my employees are still exposed to potential hazards. Is now the time to provide PPE?
How do I get started assessing my workplace operations for PPE needs?

Eye and Face Protection

When must I provide eye protection for employees?
How do I select the proper protective eyewear for employees?
If employees wear eyeglasses with prescription lenses, may I consider these eye protection?
What kind of eye and face protectors are there? What are they for?
Can face shields protect employees instead of goggles or protective spectacles?
How do I choose the correct eye protection from among all the different types?
How dark do lenses on welding helmets and goggles need to be?
How do I protect employees from exposure to laser beams?
How can I be sure that laser safety goggles provide enough protection?
Once I have selected the appropriate protective eye equipment, how do I make sure employees use it properly?
My workplace gets pretty dirty. How will my employees keep their protective eyewear clean and effective?
My employees work in shifts. Could I provide one pair of protective eyewear for each position instead of each employee?


Head Protection

When do my employees need head protection?
What should I look for in head protection?
What types of head protection are available?
How do I choose the correct protective helmets from among the different types?
I have purchased new hard hats for my employees that meet the ANSI requirements. Have I fulfilled my responsibility to protect my employees' heads?
Could employees wearing hard hats and working at elevations create a potential hazard for the employees working below?
Can I require employees to cut their hair if it is long enough to get tangled in machinery?
Once I have selected helmets to protect my employees' heads, how do I make sure they use them properly?
How do I make sure that the hard hats I provide will be kept in good condition?

Foot and Leg Protection

When must I provide foot and leg protection?
What are the types of protection and where do I use them?
What should I look for when choosing safety shoes for my employees?
Conductive Shoes
Electrical Hazard, Safety-Toe Shoes
Foundry Shoes
Once I have selected equipment to protect my employees' feet and legs, how do I make sure they use it properly?

Hand and Arm Protection

When must I provide hand and arm protection?
What kind of equipment is necessary to protect hands and arms?
Is there one kind of glove that will protect against all workplace hazards?
What kinds of protective gloves are available?
Metal Mesh, Leather, or Canvas Gloves
Fabric and Coated Fabric Gloves
Chemical- and Liquid-Resistant Gloves
How do I make sure my employees properly use the equipment I have selected?

Body Protection

When must I provide my employees with full body protection?
If only part of the body faces potential injury, must I provide my employees with full body protection?
From what material should protective clothing be made?
How do I make sure employees properly use the body protection I provide?

Hearing Protection

When must I provide hearing protection for my employees?
Will earplugs reduce employee exposure to high noise levels?
What if my employees are exposed to different levels of noise throughout the day?
What kinds of devices protect against high noise levels? Is cotton sufficient as earplugs?
If I provide my employees with hearing protection, can they work in areas with any level of noise for any period of time?
Once I have selected equipment to protect my employees' hearing, how do I make sure they use it properly?
Once I have provided my employees with hearing protection and training in how to use it, how do I know that it is really protecting their hearing?


Other Sources of OSHA Assistance

Safety and Health Program Management Guidelines
State Programs
Free On-Site Consultation
Voluntary Protection Programs (VPP)
Training and Education
Electronic Information

States with Approved Plans

OSHA Consultation Project Directory

Other Relevant Addresses

 OSHA Regional Offices


Checklist A: Establishing a PPE Program
Checklist B: Need for PPE
Checklist C: Use and Care of Eye and Face Protection
Checklist D: Use and Care of Head Protection
Checklist E: Use and Care of Foot and Leg Protection
Checklist F: Use and Care of Hand and Arm Protection
Checklist G: Use and Care of Body Protection
Checklist H: Use and Care of Hearing Protection


Table 1. Eye and Face Protector Selection Guide
Table 2. Filter Lense for Protection Against Radiant Energy
Table 3. Selecting Laser Safety Glasses
Table 4. Glove Chemical Resistance Selection Chart
Table 5. Permissible Noise Exposures


Figure 1. Recommended Eye and Face Protectors
Figure 2. Hard Hat
Figure 3. Safety Shoes

Small Business Safety Management Series

U.S. Department of Labor
Occupational Safety and Health Administration

The materials in this handbook are based upon the federal OSHA standards and other requirements in effect at the time of publication, and upon generally accepted principles and activities within the job safety and health field, but should not be considered as a substitute for the standards.

This booklet is not intended to be a legal interpretation of the provisions of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 or to place any additional requirements on employers or employees.

The material presented here should be useful to small business owners or managers and can be adapted to individual establishments.

All employers should be aware that there are certain states (and similar jurisdictions) which operate their own programs under agreement with the U.S. Department of Labor, pursuant to section 18 of the Act. The programs in these jurisdiction may differ in some details from the federal program.


Who should read this guide?

If you employ one or more persons, you should read this guide.

How will this guide help protect my employees?

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires employers to protect their employees from workplace hazards such as machines, work procedures, and hazardous substances that can cause injury. The preferred way to do this is through engineering controls or work practice and administrative controls, but when these controls are not feasible or do not provide sufficient protection, an alternative or supplementary method of protection is to provide workers with personal protective equipment (PPE) and the know-how to use it properly.

This guide will help you to

  bulletExamine your workplace, bulletReview the work procedures you require your employees to follow, bulletSelect appropriate PPE (except for respirators and insulating rubber equipment) to protect your employees, and bulletTeach your employees how to wear and care for the PPE you provide.

This guide will help you comply with OSHA's general PPE requirements, but it is not a substitute for OSHA standards requiring PPE (Title 29, Code of Federal Regulations [CFR] 1910.132).(1) This standard requires employers to establish general procedures, called a PPE program, to give employees necessary protective equipment and to train them to use it properly. Respirators and insulating devices are not included in this guide because OSHA requires employers to develop separate programs specifically addressing the issues associated with those types of protective devices (29 CFR 1910.134 and 29 CFR 1910.137, respectively). Although not specifically directed to construction and maritime industry, the information, methods, and procedures in this guide are also applicable to, and will help you comply with, OSHA's general PPE requirements for the construction industry at 29 CFR 1926.95 and for the maritime industry at 29 CFR 1915.152.

Although the checklists and other information presented in this guide are intended to help you to the greatest extent possible, please keep in mind that this publication is general in nature and does not address all workplace hazards or PPE requirements.

What is personal protective equipment?

Personal protective equipment, or PPE, includes a variety of devices and garments to protect workers from injuries. You can find PPE designed to protect

  bulletEyes, bulletFace, bulletHead, bulletEars, bulletFeet, bulletHands and arms, and bulletWhole body.

PPE includes such items as

  bulletGoggles, bulletFace shields, bulletSafety glasses, bulletHard hats,

bulletSafety shoes,bulletGloves, bulletVests, bulletEarplugs, and bulletEarmuffs.

Respirators and rubber insulating equipment (gloves, sleeves, blankets) are also considered PPE, but because OSHA has specific requirements for those kinds of PPE, this general guide does not address such equipment. For assistance in determining the need for and the appropriate choice of respiratory protection for your employees, see OSHA Instruction CPL 2-2.54, Respiratory Protection Program Manual.(2)


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This page was updated on 30-Mar-2016