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Personal Protective Equipment

Personal protective equipment (PPE) is intended to protect you from workplace hazards you may be exposed to if the exposure cannot be eliminated or controlled by other means.

PPE is selected based on an assessment of your job tasks and the potential hazards associated with your work. It may include protection for eye, face, head, hands, body, feet, ears/hearing and your respiratory system. 

Training is required to ensure the proper use and care of PPE.  The training may be provided by your supervisor, a vendor or by Environmental Health & Safety.

Head Protection

General requirements: the employer shall ensure that each affected employee wears a protective helmet when working in areas where there is a potential for injury to the head from falling objects. 1910.135(a)(1)

The employer shall ensure that a protective helmet designed to reduce electrical shock hazard is worn by each such affected employee when near exposed electrical conductors which could contact the head. 1910.135(a)(2)

  • Head and Foot Protection Chart

Eye Protection 

Man wearing safety googles for eye protectionThe UWO policy on eye protection is the same as the State of Wisconsin policy on eye protection as defined by Wisconsin Department of Safety and Professional Services regulations.

Specifically, SPS 332.15 adopts the OSHA standard for eye protection. The standard is entitled: Eye and Face Protection, 29 CFR 1910.133, and is a subpart of the regulations entitled Personal Protective Equipment. The standard itself is very brief. It is the interpretation of the standard that is most difficult.

Synopsis of OSHA Eye and Face Protection (29 CFR 1910.133):

General Requirements

  1. The employer shall ensure that each affected employee uses appropriate eye or face protection when exposed to eye or face hazards from flying particles, molten metal, liquid chemicals, acids or caustic liquids, chemical gases or vapors, or potentially injurious light radiation.
  1. The employer shall ensure that each affected employee uses eye protection that provides side protection when there is a hazard from flying objects. Detachable side protectors (e.g. clip-on or slide-on side shields) meeting the pertinent requirements of this section are acceptable.
  2. The employer shall ensure that each affected employee who wears prescription lenses while engaged in operations that involve eye hazards wears eye protection that incorporates the prescription in its design, or wears eye protection that can be worn over the prescription lenses without disturbing the proper position of the prescription lenses or the protective lenses.
  3. Eye and face PPE shall be distinctly marked to facilitate identification of the manufacturer.
  4. The employer shall ensure that each affected employee uses equipment with filter lenses that have a shade number appropriate for the work being performed for protection from injurious light radiation.


Protective Footwear

Determining if Foot Protection is Necessary or Required

Photo of protective footwear: toes are covered.The initial step for assessing the need of personal protective equipment (PPE) is a hazard assessment. The assessment is an important element of a PPE program because it produces the information needed to select the appropriate PPE for any hazards present or likely to be present at particular workplaces.

For example, protective footwear must be worn when there is the hazard of:

  • Falling or rolling objects
  • Punctures
  • Stubbing or banging
  • Chemical or corrosive contact
  • Electrical shock
  • Burns
  • Slips and falls

Determining Type of Footwear

Select protective footwear based on the hazard assessment.

For example:

  • Steel-toed shoes to resist impact
  • Metatarsal guards to resist impact above the toes
  • Reinforced flexible metal soles or inner shoes to protect against punctures (assuming there's no risk of electrical contact)
  • Sandals and open-toed shoes are prohibited in laboratories (including art studios), and food service areas (for safety and hygienic reasons)
  • For falling objects, use footwear with steel toes
  • Wear chemical resistant footwear (e.g., rubber, neoprene) in areas with potential chemical or corrosive splashes. Check the MSDS to match footwear with individual chemicals.
  • Replace worn footwear

Even if protective footwear is not deemed necessary, employees should still wear sturdy shoes with nonskid soles. Sandals, sneakers or dress shoes may not be appropriate for many physical activities.


General Information

Photo of glove with fingertips burned through, which occurs when improper gloves are worn.Some of the hazards that threaten hand safety are skin absorption of harmful substances; chemical hazards, such as caustic material, solvents or cutting oils; cuts or lacerations; punctures; chemical burns; thermal burns; harmful temperature extremes; bacteriological, blood or other infectious materials; and musculoskeletal disorders.

Preventing Hand Injuries

When substitution of less hazardous materials and work practice controls fails to eliminate the risk of injury to hands, protective gloves are the primary means of protection.

Protective equipment includes gloves, hand pads, tapes and mitts. There are many types of gloves available and the challenge is to find the right glove for the job. 

  • Chemical Resistant Gloves:
  • Butyl: High resistance to gas or water vapors. Also resists common acids and alcohols.
  • Hot-Mill or Aluminized Gloves: Offer reflective and insulating protection. Generally used for welding, furnace and foundry work.
  • Latex: Provide protection from most aqueous solutions of acids, alkalis, salts and ketones. They resist abrasions during grinding, sandblasting and polishing. These general-purpose gloves are pliable and comfortable. Used for common industrial applications, food processing, maintenance, construction and lab work.
  • Natural Rubber: Liquid proof protection against acids, caustics and dye stuffs.
  • Neoprene: Provides protection against hydraulic fluids, gasoline, alcohols, organic acids and alkalis. They offer good pliability and finger dexterity, high density, tensive strength plus high tear resistance.
  • Neoprene Latex: Protection against detergents, salts, acids and caustic solutions.
  • Nitrile/Natural Rubber: Provide protection from chlorinated solvents and are intended for jobs requiring dexterity and sensitivity. Nitrile/Rubber blend resists abrasions, cuts, tears and punctures.
  • N-DEX Gloves: This nitrile glove provides splash and spill protection against a wide variety of chemicals, although it is not intended for extended immersion activities. It is available in low-powder and powder-free options.
  • Polyvinyl Alcohol (PVA) Gloves: Resist strong solvents such as chlorinated and aromatic solvents. This material is water soluble (polyvinyl alcohol) and cannot be used in water or water-based solutions.
  • Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) Gloves: Good for handling materials coated or immersed in grease, oil, acids or caustics. Resists abrasion. Can be purchased lined or unlined depending on dexterity requirements.
  • Silver Shield Gloves: Protection against a wide range of solvents, acids and bases. This lightweight laminate is flexible, but not form-fitting, which affects user dexterity.
  • Vinyl: Provides resistance to a variety of irritants.
  • Viton: Provides resistance to PCBs, chlorinated and aromatic solvents, gas and water vapors. This glove material can be used in water-based solutions.
  • Cotton or Canvas Gloves: General work gloves for parts handling, general maintenance. Provide abrasion resistance.
  • Leather Gloves: Mild heat resistance and good abrasion resistance.
  • Metal-Mesh, Kevlar, or Other Cut-Resistant Gloves: Protect against cuts and abrasions. Used for glass handling, metal fabrication, food processing applications, and handling other sharp tools or objects.
  • Shock-Absorbing Gloves: Protect against repetitive pushing and pounding or extended contact and help lessen the effects of constant vibration.

When ordering gloves, be sure to order the proper size.

Tight-fitting gloves can cause fatigue and be more vulnerable to tears. They can also cause increase perspiration. Loose-fitting gloves impair dexterity and are cumbersome and even hazardous around laboratory equipment. Rings with prongs and long fingernails can tear gloves made of thinner materials.

Hazard Assessments for Personal Protective Equipment

A critical first step in developing a comprehensive safety and health program is to identify physical and health hazards in the workplace. This process is known as a "hazard assessment." Potential hazards may be physical or health-related and a comprehensive hazard assessment should identify hazards in both categories.

The hazard assessment involves obtaining information on the types of hazards present, the toxicity of the materials involved, and what other options are available to control exposure. General information about chemicals may be found in Safety Data Sheets. The chronic and acute effect of chemicals, biological and radiological materials should also be assessed.

Examples of physical hazards include moving objects, fluctuating temperatures, high intensity lighting, rolling or pinching objects, electrical connections and sharp edges.

Examples of health hazards include overexposure to harmful dusts, chemicals or radiation.

Serious consideration should be given to reducing these hazards by the use of engineering controls and/or administrative controls. Personal protective equipment should be used in conjunction with engineering and administrative controls.

The hazard assessment should begin with a walk-through survey of work areas to develop a list of potential hazards in the following basic hazard categories:

  • Impact: Examples: Working with or around powered tools or machinery. Use of powered liquid sprayers, air hammers, compressed air, or working in areas with high air turbulence where particles, fragments or chips are present. Working in areas where overhead hazards, falling hazards or moving hazards are present.
  • Penetration: Examples: Working with or around powered tools or equipment. Working with glass, wire, metal, sharp objects or other materials that can cut or pierce when broken or fragmented.
  • Compression — Pinching/Crushing/Roll-Over: Examples: Working with or around moving equipment, or parts. Exposure to falling objects. Use of heavy equipment or tools that could cause compression injuries, etc.
  • Chemical: This is a broad category which may include chemicals ranging from slightly irritating (such as cleaning products) to highly corrosive or toxic substances used in laboratories or industrial settings. Working with carcinogens, mutagens or teratogens.
  • Thermal — Heat/Cold: Examples: Operating furnaces, pouring and casting hot metal, welding. Working on steam, refrigerant, high temperature systems, etc. Working with cryogenic materials. Working in temperature extremes (e.g., steam tunnels, freezers, extended work outdoors in winter, etc.).
  • Harmful Dust Examples: asbestos, fiberglass, silica, animal dander. Woodworking, buffing, and general dusty conditions. High levels of airborne contaminants that cannot be eliminated by engineering controls.
  • Light (Optical) Radiation: Examples: Electric arc or gas welding, cutting, or torch brazing or soldering. Working with or around lasers. Working around sources of UV radiation.
  • Biologic: Examples: Working with human pathogens or materials that may be contaminated with infectious human pathogens.

Each of the basic hazards should be reviewed and a determination made as to the type, level of risk, and seriousness of potential injury. Consideration should be given to the possibility of exposure to several hazards at once.

The workplace should be periodically reassessed for any changes in conditions, equipment or operating procedures that could affect occupational hazards. This periodic reassessment should also include a review of injury and illness records to spot any trends or areas of concern and taking appropriate corrective action.

The suitability of existing PPE, including an evaluation of its condition and age, should be included in the reassessment.

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