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PPE SIGNS --Symbols for Personal Protective Equipment

Updated on October 7, 2014
Types of PPE Equipment
Types of PPE Equipment

What are PPEs?

PPE is an abbreviation for Personal Protective Equipment . PPEs are safety equipment designed to protect one from injury while working in hazardous environments.

PPEs include protective clothing, gloves, earmuffs, face-masks, goggles and other protective workwear that can be used in areas such as welding, construction and electrical works.

Wearing of protective equipment is a requirement under OSHA and employees and employers alike should familiarize themselves with these regulations/standards. The OSHA standard that deals with PPEs is OSHA Standard 1910:132.

PPE Equipment
PPE Equipment

PPE Standard--OSHA 1910.132

Other areas covered by OSHA Standard 1910:132 include:

  • Employee owned PPEs are permitted so long as they are of the right standard and the employer will maintain them as if they were his own
  • PPEs must be designed in such a way that they serve their purpose of protection
  • Employers must determine the hazards inherent in the workplace by conducting a hazard assessment. They should identify the correct PPEs based on this assessment and issue them to the employees
  • A hazard assessment certificate must be produced as a confirmation that assessment has been conducted
  • Issuance of PPEs to employees must be accompanied with proper training. From this training, an employee should be able to know when, how and where to use PPEs. Training is a continuous process that changes when the standards or protective gear change.

Safety signs & symbols
Safety signs & symbols | Source

Application of OSHA PPE Standard 1910.132

The application of this standard covers the protection of the human external and internal organs from the risk of injury posed by handling of hazardous material. The standard identifies a number of hazards that necessitates the use of PPEs:

  • Chemical hazards
  • Radiological hazards
  • Mechanical irritants

According to OSHA 1910:132, all employers have the duty to provide safety gear which is appropriate, serviceable and hygienic to their employees. Employees are also obligated to use the safety equipment provided to them at all times and those found in breach will be held responsible for their actions.

OSHA Signs for PPEs

There are many safety signs that are related to PPEs which must be clearly displayed in the area where they should be worn. Safety signs in a work environment are important for a number of reasons:

  • Signs help to identify potentially hazardous conditions and situations
  • Warn of the kind of hazards prevalent in an area
  • Inform the staff of the safety requirements such as wearing of PPEs
  • Restrict the movement of people and material away from dangerous areas
  • Inform the people working in a particular area of the location of emergency equipment such as fire-hoses and first aid boxes
  • Inform on the kind of actions that are likely to lead to harm

PPE sign for Safety Clothing
PPE sign for Safety Clothing

Attributes of Safety Signs

When using safety signs, it is important that they communicate clearly as to the danger involved. Safety signs should:

  • Be located in such a manner as to make them visible to all the people working in a particular area
  • Not be a hazard themselves because of poor installation
  • Be in a language that is understood by many people
  • Be conspicuous and not lumped together with other signs.
  • Be written in large text that can viewed from a distance

PPE sign for Safety Boots
PPE sign for Safety Boots

Safety Boots/Shoes

Safety footwear must be worn in areas where there is a likelihood of injury. Such areas include floors that are slippery, wet or greasy. Feet must also be protected from the risk of injury from falling objects and corrosive substances.

PPE Sign for Dust/Gas Mask
PPE Sign for Dust/Gas Mask

Face masks and dust masks

Masks are an important PPE because they prevent inhalation of harmful substances. Signs for these PPE must be placed at prominent locations near the entry into the area where they are required to be worn. Examples of respiratory irritants include dust, gases and loose particles. Protection from respiratory irritants is very important as the number of reported deaths from exposure is in the thousands.

PPE sign--Wear Gloves
PPE sign--Wear Gloves

Protective Gloves

Gloves are meant to protect the worker from injury due to contact with corrosive materials, heat, cold and sharp objects. According to recent reports, over 20% of workplace injuries involve the hands. The cost to the individual and organization of treating hand injuries can be very high and all workers must wear hand protection when working under hazardous conditions.

PPE sign--Wear Goggles
PPE sign--Wear Goggles

Goggles and eye protection

Many serious accidents happen each year that involve the eyes. These accidents have led to loss of eyesight for many workers and are estimated to cost over US$200 million each year. Working situations that require use of goggles include cutting, brazing and welding activities. Eye protection must be worn for the right purpose to prevent injury from flying particles and chemicals.

PPE Sign---Wear Earmuffs
PPE Sign---Wear Earmuffs

Ear protection-- earmuffs and earplugs

Ear protection must be worn at all times in environments where the noise levels are higher than the statutory limit. It necessary to wear ear protection such as earmuffs and earplugs when the noise level in the working environment cannot be reduced any further. Exposure to high noise levels over long periods of time may result in permanent ear damage.

Welding Goggles

Welding goggles protect the welder from radiation, particles, intense light and irritation. The goggles also provide protection from the irritation to the eyes that may be caused by chemicals released by the welding action. These goggles must be well fitting and workers should be trained on the proper way of wearing welding goggles.

Safety Chain Mail Gloves

Butcher Gloves

Also known as chain mail gloves, this personal protective equipment is designed to protect the hand from sharp cutting objects such as knives and biro saws that are common in the food industry. They are made from stainless steel that has been assembled in a meshed pattern and are easy to wear and wash.

It is important that they are made of stainless steel because of the hygiene and safety requirements of the food industry. Though a little uncomfortable at first, users will eventually get used to them after some time.

Another disadvantage of chain mail gloves is that the user loses dexterity of the hands especially for complicated cutting requirements. To counter this, most users will use the butcher gloves on the hand that is holding while leaving the cutting hand free to manoeuvre.

Safety Mats

These anti-slip materials are placed on the floors of factories and other potentially hazardous areas to keep operators from falling. They are especially useful in environments that are constantly wet or slippery and are a requirement under health and safety regulations. The safety mats also provide ergonomic benefits to the operator as they provide a soft base for operators whose jobs require standing for long hours.

Polar Jackets

These are used by people who spend long hours in cold environments such as freezers and cold-rooms. They are designed to prevent the body from losing its heat which can lead to hypothermia and frostbite. Some cold rooms can reach temperatures of up to minus 20 degrees F and it is very important that such jackets are worn all the time when personnel are inside these rooms.


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    • gitachud profile imageAUTHOR

      David Gitachu 

      5 years ago from Nairobi, Kenya

      Thanks. PPEs are an important part of the safety program in any organization and safety equipment should also be made available to workers.

    • cecileportilla profile image

      Cecile Portilla 

      5 years ago from West Orange, New Jersey

      Hi Gitachud

      Informative and well written hub.


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