What Does PPE Stand For?

In the construction industry, PPE is often the last line of defense against jobsite injury.

PPE stands for personal protective equipment. In potentially dangerous jobs, it’s often the last line of defense against injury. (Minimizing or eliminating hazards at their source should be the first.)

PPE includes clothing, devices and equipment that help protect a worker from being harmed by physical, chemical, electrical, mechanical and other hazards.

Some common types of PPE used on construction sites include:

  • Safety gloves to protect hands from chemicals, light blows and abrasions. Different types of gloves are appropriate for different tasks.
  • Goggles, safety glasses or face shields to protect eyes from dust, debris, sparks or laser light.
  • Respirators that keep workers from inhaling dust, fumes and other airborne contaminants.
  • Earplugs and earmuffs for work around loud machinery and equipment.
  • Steel-toed boots that protect feet from impact and compression injuries.
  • Hardhats that protect the head from blows, bumps or electrical hazards.
  • Personal fall arrest systems that arrest a worker in a fall.

Legally, construction employers must provide necessary PPE to employees. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) will issue citations and level hefty fines against them if they don’t. Employers must also instruct their employees on when and how to use it and document that training. A hazards assessment is used to determine what types of PPE may be needed for a particular project.

To be effective, PPE must fit properly. Improperly fitting PPE can leave workers at risk. (And if PPE is uncomfortable, workers are less likely to use it.)

PPE isn’t perfect, but it provides zero benefit when workers don’t wear it. Noncompliance is a common problem, especially when it comes to protective eyewear. According to OSHA, thousands of workers each year are blinded from injuries that could have been prevented by using the right eye and face protection.

For more information on PPE, check out 5 PPE Items All Construction Workers Should Have and visit OSHA's PPE page.