Personal Protective Equipment

Personal protective equipment, commonly referred to as “PPE”, is equipment worn to minimize exposure to hazards that cause serious workplace injuries and illnesses. These injuries and illnesses may result from contact with chemical, radiological, physical, electrical, mechanical, or other workplace hazards. Personal protective equipment may include items such as gloves, safety glasses and shoes, earplugs or muffs, hard hats, respirators, or coveralls, vests and full body suits.

All personal protective equipment must be safely designed and constructed, appropriately selected for the hazard, and should be maintained in a clean and reliable fashion. It should fit comfortably, encouraging employee use. If the personal protective equipment does not fit properly, it can make the difference between being safely covered or dangerously exposed.

When engineering, work practice, and administrative controls are not feasible or do not provide sufficient protection, The University provides personal protective equipment to their employees and ensures its proper use. Team leads and front line supervisors must train each employee that is required to use personal protective equipment to know and understand:

  • When it is necessary
  • What kind is necessary
  • How to properly put it on, adjust, wear and take it off
  • The limitations of the equipment
  • Proper care, maintenance, useful life, and disposal of the equipment

The University’s program uses a Job Safety/Hazard Analysis and/or PPE Hazard Assessment to:

  • Identify hazards that are present;
  • Determine the selection, maintenance, and use of PPE;
  • Provide training of employees; and
  • Monitor ongoing effectiveness.

Eye & Face Protection


  • Protect against specific hazard(s) encountered by employees
  • Comfortable to wear
  • Must not restrict vision or movement
  • Durable and easy to clean and disinfect
  • Must not interfere with the function of other required PPE
  • Meet requirements of ANSI Z87.1-1989 for devices purchased after July 5, 1994, and ANSI Z87.1-1968 for devices purchased before that date

Eye Protection for Employees Who Wear Prescription Eyeglasses

  • Prescription eyeglasses, with side shields and protective lenses meeting requirements of ANSI Z87.1
  • Goggles that can fit comfortably over corrective eyeglasses without disturbing their alignment
  • Goggles that incorporate corrective lenses mounted behind protective lenses

Face Shields

  • Do not protect employees from impact hazards
  • Use face shields in combination with goggles or safety spectacles when you must protect your employees from impact hazards (e.g., grinding metal surfaces), even in the absence of dust or potential splashes

Head Protection

The employer must provide head protection for your employees if:

  • Objects might fall from above and strike them on the head
  • They might bump their heads against fixed objects, such as exposed pipes or beams
  • They work near exposed electrical conductors


In general, protective helmets, or hard hats, should:

  • Resist penetration by objects,
  • Absorb the shock of a blow,
  • Be water resistant and slow burning,
  • Come with instructions explaining proper adjustment and replacement of the suspension and head band, and
  • Comply with ANSI Z89.1-1986 (if purchased after July 5, 1994) or ANSI Z89.1-1969 (if purchased before this date).

Classes of Hard Hats

Class A

  • Used for general service (e.g., mining, building construction, shipbuilding, lumbering, manufacturing)
  • Provide good impact protection but limited voltage protection

Class B

  • Used for electrical work
  • Protect against falling objects and high-voltage shock and burns

Class C

  • Designed for comfort, offer limited protection
  • Protect heads that might bump against fixed objects, but do not protect against falling objects or electrical shock

Note: The terminology and designations used in ANSI Z89.1-1986 are different from those used in later editions of ANSI Z89.1.

Other Equipment

  • Bump caps

Foot and Leg Protection

Some of the potential hazards that would require foot and leg protection include:

  • Heavy objects such as barrels or tools that might roll onto or fall on employees’ feet
  • Sharp objects such as nails or spikes that might pierce the soles or uppers of ordinary shoes
  • Molten metal that might splash on feet or legs
  • Hot or wet surfaces
  • Slippery surfaces

Foot Protection Requirements

  • Protective footwear purchased after July 5, 1994 must meet the requirements of ANSI Z41-1991
  • Protective footwear purchased before that date must comply with ANSI Z41-1967

Types of Foot and Leg Protection

  • Leggings. Protect lower legs and feet from heat hazards, like molten metal or welding sparks. Safety snaps allow leggings to be removed quickly.
  • Metatarsal Guards. Strapped to outside of shoes to protect instep area from impact and compression. Made of aluminum, steel, fiber or plastic.
  • Toe Guards. Fit over the toes of regular shoes to protect only the toes from impact and compression. Made of steel, aluminum, or plastic.
  • Combination Foot and Shin Guards. May be used in combination with toe guards when greater protection is needed.
  • Safety Shoes. These have impact-resistant toes and heat-resistant soles that protect against hot work surfaces common in roofing, paving, and hot metal industries.
    • May have metal insoles to protect against puncture wounds
    • May be designed to be electrically conductive for use in explosive atmospheres
    • May be designed to be electrically nonconductive to protect from workplace electrical hazards

Respiratory Protection

Respiratory Hazards

Employers must provide respirator masks and fit testing to employees when any of the following hazards are present in the work environment.

  • Dust and Fibers – Solid particles formed from the mechanical process (Ex: lead, asbestos)
  • Fumes – Solid particles that vaporize and condenses in cool air (Ex: welding fumes, smoke)
  • Mists – Liquid droplets suspended in the air from spraying operations (Ex: paint spray mist, aerosols of cutting/lubrication oils)
  • Gases – Individual molecules in the air at room temperature (Ex: carbon monoxide)
  • Vapors – Gaseous substances normally liquid or solid at room temperature (Ex: solvents)
  • Biological Hazards – Living organisms that can cause infections (Ex: viruses, animal waste, tissue cultures)

The Respiratory Protection Program provides written instruction to ensure employee protection from respiratory hazards found in the workplace. Where respirators are required, the Program describes the requirements for their use.

Respiratory Protection Program

Obtaining a Respirator

Your Supervisor determines if your work requires the use of a respirator, proper medical evaluation and fit testing must be completed prior to use of any respiratory protection equipment. These steps must occur in a specific order, as mandated by OSHA regulations.

1) Obtain a medical clearance.

Complete the Medical Questionnaire form and seal the document in an envelope with your name on the outside (e.g., the health care professional will review this document at the time of evaluation). You must contact Environmental Health & Safety to obtain an Employer Authorization for Respirator Use. Both forms must be completed before the medical provider can conduct your evaluation. Contact the medical provider from the approved list to make your appointment for the evaluation. The respirator questionnaire will be reviewed by a health professional and a clearance will be given typically in 48 hours. The clearance will be returned to the employee.

2) Schedule a fit-test appointment.

There are two main types of respirator fit test. Respirator fit tests are either qualitative or quantitative. Here are the differences between the two types of respirator fit test.


  • Pass/Fail Test
  • Uses sense of taste/smell or reaction to irritant to detect leaks.
  • Does not measure amount of air leaking into face piece.
  • Test subject detects leakage of test substance.
  • Mostly for half-mask respirators like N95 face masks.
  • 4 methods accepted by OSHA: Isoamyl Acetate- smells like bananas; Saccharin- tastes sweet; Bitrex- tastes bitter; or Irritant Smoke- causes coughing.

This type of fit-test is used for most staff, faculty, and students who are required to use a respirator (e.g., N95, half-face, full face) for work or research.

Contact Environmental Health & Safety at (828) 258-7692 to schedule an appointment (e.g., fit-test takes about 30 minutes). Be prepared to show proof of your medical clearance at the time of fit testing.


  • Uses a machine to measure actual amount of leakage into face piece.
  • No taste or smell test used to detect leakage.
  • Can be used for any tight fitting respirator.
  • Mostly used for full face respirators.
  • 3 methods accepted by OSHA: Generated Aerosol; Ambient Aerosol; or Controlled Negative Pressure.

This type of fit-test is for emergency response personnel and some trade groups who are required to use a full face respirator for work-related emergencies where chemical concentrations may be unknown.

Environmental Health & Safety does not perform quantitative fit-tests. This type of test is performed by Mission WorkWell who our authorized medical provider. Employees must contact Mission WorkWell to schedule an appointment, bring their respirator with cartridges, and be prepared to show proof of your medical clearance at the time of fit testing. Employees can also request both a medical clearance and fit-test from Mission WorkWell but this may require (2) different appointments to complete.

Respirator Equipment and Supplies

Upon completion of a successful fit test, the employee’s department must provide the correct respirator and associated accessories (e.g., cartridges, filters, etc.) to protect against the agents encountered on the job. Supervisors should contact Environmental Health & Safety at (828) 258-7692 with any equipment or accessory related questions.

Respirator Training

Each employee will receive training on the proper use, limitations, cleaning, storage, user seal checks, cartridge change out schedules, and disposal in accordance with OSHA regulations and the University’s Respirator Program.

Respirator Fit Test Renewal

It is the employee and supervisor’s responsibility to ensure that respirator users are obtaining:

  • Medical Clearance
  • Respiratory Fit Test
  • Training EVERY YEAR from the date of their last successful fit test

The employee’s Supervisor will have access to the certified respirator equipment employee list which has the last date of their employee’s medical clearance and respiratory fit test. The Supervisor must ensure employees under their supervision renew their medical clearance and fit test within the 12 month period of their last evaluation if the employee must continue to wear a respirator as part of their job duties. Environmental Health & Safety will not send notifications concerning employee renewal dates.

The employee must complete the Employer Authorization form and Medical Questionnaire to start the process or renew their certification every 12 months.

Please direct any program related questions to Environmental Health & Safety at (828) 251-6038.

PPE Hazard Assessments

Available soon.