The Different Types of PPE and Their Uses

The Different Types of PPE and Their Uses

If you work in construction or the entertainment industry, the term PPE is likely something you hear all the time. This swathe of gear is essential if you want to stay safe and secure on the job site.

Under the OSHA Act, employers are responsible for providing PPE. But independent contractors may need to purchase their own. With so many types of PPE to choose from, knowing what to get can be difficult. If you need PPE for your contracting work but aren't sure where to start, you can learn about the different types of PPE and their uses here.

What Is PPE? Why Does It Matter?

Personal protective equipment (PPE) is a broad term that refers to all attire and devices used by a worker for health and safety purposes. PPE is crucial for those who work in hazardous zones, such as healthcare workers or construction workers. Without it, you put yourself at a much higher risk of injury and health problems.

While most people like to think they’re invincible, no human is. And even if you’re being prudent, not all hazards are avoidable. PPE protects your most valuable asset—your body—from all the things that can hurt it. It helps to ensure you stay safe and healthy so that you can keep doing your job.

Simple vs. Complex PPE

There are two primary classes of PPE: simple and complex. Simple PPE is basic gear that protects you from minor hazards, like knee pads for short falls or masks for dust. Complex PPE is more advanced and protects users from hazards that are more severe and harder to see or predict, such as harnesses for falls from working at height or breathing apparatuses for heavily contaminated air.

Common PPE Items and Their Uses

You can further classify PPE into nine main types. We go over the nine different types of PPE and their uses below.

Skin Protection

This type of PPE protects your skin from chemical and physical hazards. Common forms of skin protection PPE include long-sleeved shirts and long pants, knee pads, and gaiters. For full protection, your entire body should be covered from head to toe, with minimal or no skin left exposed.

Mouth and Nose Protection

Respiratory PPE prevents airborne hazards from entering the body through the mouth or nose. This is essential if you’re working on a site with dusty, moldy, or otherwise contaminated air. Types of respiratory protection PPE include cloth face masks, respirators, and breathing apparatuses.

Head Protection

Head protection shields your head and face from physical hazards. Hard hats are the main form of head protection used. These penetration-, shock-, and moisture-resistant hats come in three classes: A, B, and C.

Class A hard hats protect your head from impacts and penetration and provide moderate resistance to electrical hazards. Class B hard hats provide the highest level of impact penetration and shock resistance. Class C hard hats provide impact protection but no protection from shocks or other electrical hazards.

Bump caps, which are hard shells that fit under most hats or caps, are another common form of head protection. They provide less protection than hard hats but are ideal for those working in lower-risk areas.

Ear Protection

There's no doubt that construction work is noisy. When working around raucous machinery, wear sound-absorbing earmuffs or ear plugs to dull the noise and protect your eardrums.

Eye Protection

Goggles and glasses protect your eyes' mucus membrane from contaminants like dust. They also prevent foreign objects from piercing the eyes.

Hand and Arm Protection

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, almost 1 in 7 non-fatal job injuries involve the hands. If you want to avoid becoming part of this statistic, using hand and arm protection is essential. Gloves are the main form of hand and arm protection. They protect your upper extremities from chemicals, burns, and blisters.

Safety gloves come in a wide variety of materials, but leather gloves coated in PU latex or PVC are the most common. For stagehand and construction work, the main quality to look for in gloves is impact resistance. Impact-resistant gloves are made from thick material and feature extra padding on the knuckles and palms.

Foot Protection

With an impressive 7,200 nerve endings per foot, your feet are among the most sensitive parts of your body. Stubbing a toe or having something fall on your feet can be extremely painful, which is why you should always wear some form of foot protection on the job site.

Generally, any kind of closed-toe shoe will work, but safety or Wellington boots are ideal. Safety boots feature slip- and penetration-resistant soles and a steel or composite cap over the toes that protect them from impact and compression. Wellington boots are rubber boots commonly worn in wet areas.

Hi-Vis Protection

High-visibility, often shortened to hi-vis or hi-vis gear, is any piece of attire made to be highly luminescent. The job of hi-vis clothing is to make the wearer more visible in dim or foggy conditions. This ensures other workers don't accidentally drive machinery in your direction or drop debris directly on top of you. If you're working near a road, this type of PPE also makes it easier for drivers to spot you and get out of your way.

Fall Protection

Fall harnesses protect you in the event of a fall. If you spend a lot of time working at height, this is a must for ensuring your safety. Fall harnesses are worn around your shoulders, torso, and thighs. They catch you mid-fall and distribute force across your entire body to lessen the impact.

If you need PPE to keep yourself healthy and safe on the job, come see what Concert Shop has to offer. We sell a wide variety of workplace safety gear, including hard hats, gloves, masks, hi-vis gear, and fall protection harnesses, at great prices. We source our products from trusted brands like Blaklader and Fusion; when you buy from us, you know the gear you're getting is quality. Pick up your essential PPE today.

The Different Types of PPE and Their Uses