What is PPE: Personal Protective Equipment

Do you know exactly what PPE is? People talk a lot about safety and PPE and workplaces often display several PPE symbols such as the image on the right. But what does PPE stand for? When do you use PPE and what does it mean in the context of health and safety?

In this article we dive into these questions and see why it’s critical to maintain a proper administration of your PPE in order to improve worker safety. Proper PPE administration also contributes to reducing overhead and helps you save dramatically on handling time.

PPE symbol - hard hat

What PPE stands for

PPE stands for Personal Protective Equipment. PPE is equipment that will protect the user against health and safety risks at work. They are meant to protect (parts of) your body during dangerous work activities.

Examples of PPE are:

  • hard hats
  • ear protection
  • high visibility clothing
  • safety footwear and safety harnesses
  • thermal, weather and waterproof clothing
  • respiratory protective equipment (RPE)

A lot of industries work with PPE. Any profession that includes potentially hazardous work often incorporates (compulsory) PPE. For example, a construction worker must wear a helmet, shoes and gloves. Other industries where the use of PPE is prevalent are, for example; stage building, rope access, oil & gas and emergency services.

Example of PPE being used

PPE symbols

There are many PPE symbols in use on signage around work areas to indicate required PPE. We’ve all probably seen the sign requiring you to wear safety boots or a hard hat.

It’s important for both employer and employees that the indicated use of PPE is clear and accurate. An employer is responsible for adhering to PPE regulations and for the direct safety of his or her employees as we will discuss later.

To clearly signal to use of PPE the symbols below are used, for example:

  • If the work area is very loud, the employees need to wear ear protection.
  • When clean hands and good hygiene are of the utmost importance, then use cleaning & washroom signs.
PPE symbols 1PPE symbols 2PPE symbols 3

Often used examples of PPE symbols.

What is PPE in health and safety

Both employer and employees have a responsibility to adhere to all laws and regulations concerning the registration, use and maintenance of equipment. PPE in health and safety refers to these responsibilities as well as the actual pieces of equipment.

So, PPE in health and safety covers a lot of ground, and it’s not just a matter of putting the helmet on your head. That’s is simply the end result of a proper PPE policy. Once an employer acquires or introduces new PPE requirements a number of key issues are to be addressed:

  • maintain a a complete history of each item
  • perform and register periodic inspections of PPE
  • make sure employees have the right PPE for the job
  • make sure employees have accurate information on how to use each item
  • ensure that PPE on site is certified and ready for use

Often, one or more of the above issues are neglected or underappreciated. This is largely accidental and is the result of the lack of workflows or administrative tools that help properly address these issues. Failing to address these issues can at best result in higher operating costs and at worst an increased risk to employees’ health and safety.

Wrapping up

The correct management of PPE is more than simply buying the required items. Each organization also has a responsibility to register and maintain each item of PPE with the greatest care.

To help organizations meet regulatory demands and to help protect employee’s safety, we’ve developed Syndustry Equipment. Our platform allows you to quickly register, inspect and mobilise equipment as well as offer employees a knowledge base on how to correctly use their PPE.

Do you need help with your PPE to be compliant or reduce handling costs? Check out the benefits of our free platform for operational companies, or if you manage equipment for clients for distributors of PPE.

Please note: PPE regulations differ per country, make sure you comply with your local laws and regulations when handling PPE. For more information on the applicable laws in the EU, check out regulation 2016/425:
EU legislation and PPE

Syndustry Equipment PPE platform


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