Guide to personal protective equipment

Personal protective equipment (PPE) can include items such as eye protection, gloves, safety helmets, earplugs, high-visibility clothing, ear defenders, hazmat suits, safety footwear and respiratory protective equipment. In hospitals and medicals settings, disposable PPE like single-use masks are be provided, but other job settings call for heavy-duty protective equipment. 

At the workplace, other precautions should be taken before PPE, to ensure that the environment is safe and to minimise risk. It is also important to keep in mind that effective protection can only be achieved when the protective equipment is correctly fitted, maintained and properly used at all times. 

Protective equipment is designed to shield: 

  • The eyes, e.g. from flying debris or irritating liquids 
  • The lungs, e.g. from breathing in airborne contaminates 
  • The skin, e.g. from coming into contact with corrosive substances 
  • The head, e.g. from falling debris 
  • The hands and feet, e.g. from cuts and abrasions 
  • The ears, e.g. from loud noises 
  • The body, e.g. from extreme temperatures 

While PPE greatly reduces the risk of injury, other precautions should be taken to ensure that the environment is safe and to lessen the chance of an accident.  

Related: Best-selling Personal Protective Equipment 

It is the employer’s responsibility to ensure that all workers are provided with the appropriate safety equipment for their job role, and instructed on how to use it. For example, welders must be supplied with suitable welding helmets to protect their eyes and face, as well as heat-resistant gloves, and construction workers will need safety helmets are ear protectors. 

Related: What is the difference between medical grade and non-medical grade PPE? 

The five most common types of PPE include face protection, body protection, hearing protection, hand protection and protective footwear. 

Here is a brief explanation of each type, when they should be used and the variations available. 

Face protection 

Single-use, surgical face masks, like disposable type IIR surgical face masks and disposable FFP2 respirator masks are loose-fitting masks intended to prevent contamination of the working environment, rather than to protect the wearer. They protect the mouth and nose against large droplets, but air leakage can occur around the edge of the mask when the user inhales. 

Respirator masks, like the Moldex 2405 FFP2 respirator mask, 3M 8825 FFP2 respirator mask, and 3M 8825 FFP2 respirator mask have close facial fits and strong seals, to minimise leakage. Their filtration systems remove airborne contaminates and very fine particles from the air; FFP3 masks have a filter efficiency of over 99%. They are used by medical professionals, spray painters and anyone in contaminated air. 

Safety goggles and face shields should also be used, to protect against foreign matter entering the wearer’s mouth, nose and eyes. 

Related: What is the difference between surgical and respirator masks. 

Body protection 

Disposable apronsdisposable arm cover sleeves, chemical suits, disposable plastic gownsprotective coveralls and boiler suits are examples of body protection that can be worn at the workplace. They can be used to prevent damage to own clothing, like stains and dust, or can be used to protect the wearer from chemicals, sharp objects, contaminated dust, extreme temperatures and more. 

Workers operating around machinery or in low-visibility conditions should wear reflective high-vis gloves or high-vis jackets to ensure they are seen. 

Hearing protection 

Workers should be supplied with hearing protection, such as earplugs, earmuffs or headsets when working near loud noises.  

Factory engineers are surrounded by loud machinery, and should therefore utilise hearing protection, to prevent tinnitus and other damage. The Minerva headset shields your ears while allowing for complete freedom of movement. 

Hand protection 

To protect arms and hands from hazards such as abrasions, chemicals, temperature extremes and electric shocks, we offer a wide range of safety gloves, for different purposes and work settings. We have chemical protection glovesheat resistant gloveswinter work glovesabrasion resistant gloves and more. 

Over the past couple of years, the use of disposable gloves in everyday life has increased as a result of the pandemic. They shield the wearer’s hands from contacting infected surfaces and reduces transmission. Some of our most popular disposable gloves include Tegera 843 nitrile glovesTegera 85801 nitrile gloves and Tegera 555 waterproof gloves

Related: What Standards should I be looking for when buying disposable gloves? 

Protective footwear 

To protect feet from falling objects, weather conditions, chemical splashes, slipping, cuts and more, safety shoes and boots should be worn. Depending on your workplace environment, you may need shock absorbent shoesleather work shoessliderswaterproof shoes, winter bootswork clogs or wellington boots, which are all available on our site. 

If you have any questions regarding our personal protective equipment, feel free to contact our team today via phone at 01794 830352 or via email at

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