Safety & Health

PPE in the Workplace

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) Standards & Guidelines

Quick Tips #240

The existing Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) personal protective equipment (PPE) standards are found in 29 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 1910 Subpart I for General Industry, Part 1915 Subpart I for Maritime, Part 1917 Subpart E for Marine Terminals, Part 1918 Subpart J for Longshoring and Part 1926 Subpart E for Construction. This document will focus on standards for PPE intended for use in general industry.

A Look at the Standards

29 CFR 1910.133 Eye and Face Protection: “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.” Eye and face protection must comply with: ANSI/ISEA Z87.1American National Standard for Eye and Face Protection which was last updated in 2015. (See Quick Tips #125 Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) Requirements: Eye and Face Protection, #315 Safety Goggles: Types, Uses and Cleaning, and #373 Face Shield Protection.)

29 CFR 1910.134 Respiratory protection: “The employer shall provide arespirator to each employee when such equipment is necessary to protect the health of such employee. The employer shall provide the respirators which are applicable and suitable for the purpose intended. The employer shall be responsible for the establishment and maintenance of a respiratory protection program." See Quick Tips:

29 CFR 1910.135 Head protection: “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. 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.” Performance criteria for head protection are provided in the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) Z89.1 American National Standard for Industrial Head Protection. This standard is incorporated by reference in 29 CFR 1910.135 and 29 CFR 1910.6. The most recent revision was issued on May 15, 2014. (See Quick Tips #241 Hard Hat Requirements.)

29 CFR 1910.136 Occupational foot protection: “The employer shall ensure that each affected employee uses protective footwear when working in areas where there is a danger of foot injuries due to falling or rolling objects, or objects piercing the sole, and where such employee's feet are exposed to electrical hazards.” Protective footwear must comply with ASTM F-2412-18a: Standard Test Methods for Foot Protection and ASTM F-2413-18 Standard Specification for Performance Requirements for Protective Footwear. (See Quick Tips #252 Protective Footwear Standards.)

29 CFR 1910.137 Electrical protective equipment: details the design requirements for specific types of electrical protective equipment—rubber insulating blankets, rubber insulating matting, rubber insulating covers, rubber insulating line hose, rubber insulating gloves, and rubber insulating sleeves used for the primary insulation of employees from energized circuit parts. It also details the in-service care and use of all electrical protective equipment covered by this standard. (See Quick Tip #262 Electrical Safety Gloves: Inspection and Classification.)

29 CFR 1910.138 Hand protection: “Employers shall select and require employees to use appropriate hand protection when employees' hands are exposed to hazards such as those from skin absorption of harmful substances; severe cuts or lacerations; severe abrasions; punctures; chemical burns; thermal burns; and harmful temperature extremes.” Employers should select appropriate hand protection relative to the application, present conditions, duration of use and any identified or potential hazards. (See Quick Tips #166 Chemical Resistance Guide for Gloves, #191 Chemical Resistant Gloves Guide#262 Electrical Safety Gloves: Inspection and Classification#301 Cut-Resistant Glove Selection and Use#306 Safety Glove Size Chart, #386 Leather Work Glove Selection, #394 Choosing the Right Disposable Glove, and #396 Glove Selection – Using ANSI/ISEA 105-2016 American National Standard for Hand Protection Classification.)

29 CFR 1910.140 Personal Fall Protection Systems: “Employers shall ensure that each personal fall protection system used to comply with this part must meet all applicable requirements of this section. This section establishes performance, care, and use criteria for all personal fall protection systems such as personal fall arrest systems and positioning systems.”

See Quick Tips: 

#131 Construction Fall Protection, Subpart M

#133 Scaffolding: OSHA’s Revised Standard 29 CFR 1926.451

#347 ANSI Z359: A New Lift to Fall Protection Standards

#377 Fall Protection for Aerial Work Platforms

#385 After the Fall Event – Preventing Suspension Trauma

29 CFR 1910.132: General requirements says that all PPE has to meet these minimum requirements:

  • Provide adequate protection against the particular hazards for which they are designed
  • Be of safe design and construction for the work to be performed
  • Be reasonably comfortable when worn under the designated conditions
  • Fit snugly and not unduly interfere with the movements of the wearer
  • Be durable
  • Be capable of being disinfected
  • Be easily cleanable
  • Be distinctly marked to facilitate identification only of the manufacturer

Hazard Assessment

Employers must assess their workplaces to determine if hazards are present, or are likely to be present, which require the use of PPE. A documented and certified walk-though survey (hazard assessment) of each work area must be done. The certification must show the date of assessment, area evaluated and the name of the person certifying the evaluation. The survey should consider the following potential exposures:

  • Impact
  • Penetration
  • Compression (roll-over)
  • Chemicals
  • Heat
  • Harmful dust
  • Light (optical) radiation

After the survey has been completed, the employer must select proper PPE. Employees who purchase their own equipment must follow the same criteria the employer uses.

Employee-Owned Equipment

Employers must ensure all PPE used by employees regardless if supplied by the employer or employee is adequate for the hazards, properly maintained, and cleaned.


OSHA states in 29 CFR 1910.132(f)(1), each employee who is required to wear any type of PPE must be trained to know at least the following:

  • When PPE is necessary
  • What PPE is necessary
  • How to properly don, doff, adjust, and wear PPE
  • Limitations of the PPE
  • Proper care, maintenance, useful life, and disposal of the PPE

To ensure each employee is properly trained, clear measurable objectives should be thought out. Since the regulation requires the employee to demonstrate an understanding of the above list, objectives should center on this criteria. For example, in reviewing limitations of gloves, the employee should know about permeation and breakthrough times of the chemicals they are working with. They should also know how to clean and inspect the gloves, and how to properly dispose of a glove that cannot be decontaminated.

The employer must verify that all the necessary training has been provided. A written certification showing the name of the employee and date of training is required. The document must be identified as a certificate of training. Retraining must be completed if there is a change in workplace conditions, a change in the PPE used or the employee demonstrates inadequacies in the skills required to use the PPE.

Defective and Damaged PPE

Defective or damaged PPE must not be used.

Payment of PPE

This rule outlines what is required of employers in regards to the payment of the PPE and also provides clarification on:

  • Replacement PPE
  • Employee-owned PPE
  • Upgrading PPE

Commonly Asked Questions

Q: When is a reassessment of workplace hazards needed?

A: Work areas must undergo a hazard assessment anytime there is a process change, new equipment is introduced, an upward trend in accident statistics that indicate a problem area is noted, or when reviewing the appropriateness of the previously selected PPE.

Q: If an employee is allowed to use their own PPE, who is responsible for maintaining and sanitizing the PPE?

A: The employer is still required to ensure that the PPE is appropriate for the task, including proper maintenance and sanitation of the employee purchased PPE.


29 CFR 1910.132 General Requirements
29 CFR 1910.133 Eye and Face Protection
29 CFR 1910.134 Respiratory Protection
29 CFR 1910.135 Head Protection
29 CFR 1910.136 Foot Protection
29 CFR 1910.137 Electrical Protective Equipment
29 CFR 1910.138 Hand Protection
29 CFR 1910.140 Personal Fall Protection Systems
OSHA Safety and Health Topics: Personal Protective Equipment

The information contained in this article is intended for general information purposes only and is based on information available as of the initial date of publication. No representation is made that the information or references are complete or remain current. This article is not a substitute for review of current applicable government regulations, industry standards, or other standards specific to your business and/or activities and should not be construed as legal advice or opinion. Readers with specific questions should refer to the applicable standards or consult with an attorney.


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