Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is used in almost every work environment on campus. The following pages are intended to help users learn about the different types of PPE, how to determine which PPE is right for your work tasks and how to select and care for your PPE.

Eye and Face Protection

Selecting the most suitable eye and face protection should take into consideration the following elements:

  • Ability to protect against specific workplace hazards
  • Should fit properly and be reasonably comfortable to wear
  • Should provide unrestricted vision and movement
  • Should be durable and cleanable
  • Should allow unrestricted functioning of any other required PPE

Protective eye and face wear must comply with the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) standard  Z87.1-1989 or later.

What Types of Eye and Face Protection Are Available?

Some of the most common types of eye and face protection include:

Safety Glasses Safety glasses have safety frames constructed of metal or plastic and impact-resistant lenses.  Side protection is required.
Must comply with ANSI standard Z87.1
Chemical Splash Goggles Tight fitting eye protection that completely covers the eyes, eye sockets and facial area surrounding the eyes.  Provides protection from impact, dust and splashes.  Must comply with ANSI standard Z87.1
Dust Goggles Dust goggles, sometimes called direct ventilated goggles, are tight fitting eye protection designed to resist the passage of large particles into the goggles. 
Must comply with ANSI standard Z87.1
Fluid Resistant Shields These shields are fluid resistant or impervious and provide splash protection from biological material, such as human or non-human primate body fluids.
These shields do not provide protection against chemicals or impact hazards and do not comply with ANSI Z87.1
Face Shields These shields extend from the eyebrows to below the chin and across the width of the employee’s head.  Face shields protect against potential splashes or sprays of hazardous liquids.  When worn for protection against UV, must be specifically designed to protect the face and eyes from hazardous radiation.
When used for chemical protection or UV protection, must comply with ANSI standard Z87.1.
Laser Eyewear Protective eyewear is required for Class 3 and 4 laser use where irradiation of the eye is possible. Such eyewear should be used only at the wavelength and energy/power for which it is intended.  Contact the Laser Safety Officer at x6271 for information.
Welding Shields Constructed of vulcanized fiber or fiberglass and fitted with a filtered lens, welding shields protect eyes from burns caused by infrared or intense radiant light; they also protect both the eyes and the face from flying sparks, metal splatter and slag chips produced during welding, brazing, soldering and cutting operations.  For more information, see the OSHA Eye Protection During Welding Fact Sheet.

What Type of Eye Protection Should I Wear for Various Hazards?

Chemicals Hazardous* dry chemicals and small amounts of hazardous liquid chemicals Safety glasses Eye protection is required when working with chemicals on the bench or in a fume hood
  Hazardous* chemicals that pose a splash hazard Chemical splash goggles  
  Cryogenic liquids Chemical splash goggles and a face shield  
  Highly reactive or explosive materials Chemical splash goggles and a face shield Blast shield recommended
  Pyrophoric solids or liquids Chemicals splash goggles  
Biological Material Potentially infectious materials, including BSL2 microorganisms and viruses, human and non-human primate material, outside of a biosafety cabinet Safety glasses plus mask or face shield Eye protection is typically not required when working in a biosafety cabinet, except if other hazardous materials are being handled in the lab. Eye protection may be needed when removing items from the biosafety cabinet.
Radiation Unsealed radioactive materials, liquid or powder Safety glasses  
  Lasers Eyewear is dependent on wavelength and energy/power of laser Contact Laser Safety Officer at 8-6271
  Open ultraviolet light source Face shield with UV protection  
  Infrared emitting equipment Shaded goggles  
Machining and Physical Hazards Soldering, spatter of flux or hot metal Safety glasses or chemical splash goggles  
  Furnaces, molten metal or glass, heat, sparks, glare Dust goggles, reflectivce face shield  
  Chips, particles, dust, glass shards Safety glasses  
  Glassware under pressure Safety glasses or chemical splash goggles  
  Cutting/connecting glass tubing Safety glasses  
  Welding and brazing operations See OSHA Factsheet - Eye Protection During Welding  
  Changing out compressed gas cylinders, affixing regulator to cylinder Safety glasses  
  Use of compressed air for cleaning equipment Dust goggles Use of compressed air for personal cleaning is prohibited

*Hazardous chemicals pose a wide range of health hazards (such as irritation, sensitization, and carcinogenicity) and physical hazards (such as flammability, corrosion, and reactivity).

Are Contact Lenses Permissible to Wear in Hazardous Environments?

Studies have shown that contact lenses are safe to wear in most hazardous environments. However, they do not offer any eye protection. If an exposure to a hazardous substance occurs while wearing contact lenses, remove the lens immediately while rinsing the eye(s). Contact lenses that have been contaminated with a chemical must be discarded.

What Options Are Available for Eye Protection if I Wear Prescription Glasses?

Most prescription glasses do not meet the ANSI Z87.1 requirements for eye and face protection. If you wear corrective glasses, you can purchase safety glasses that are designed to be worn over your eyeglasses or you can purchase ANSI-rated prescription safety glasses at a discounted price through the Princeton University Safety Eyewear Program. Print and complete the Prescription Eyewear Form.pdf and waiver and bring it with you to any LensCrafters, Sears Optical, or participating Pearl Vision locations.

Foot Protection

Potential hazards which may lead to foot and leg injuries include falling or rolling objects, crushing or penetrating materials, hot, corrosive or poisonous substances, electrical hazards, static electricity, or slippery surfaces.

Different footwear protects in different ways.  Check the product's labeling or consult the manufacturer to make sure the footwear will protect the user from the hazards they face.

Foot and leg protection choices include the following:

  • Safety-toed shoes or boots protect against falling, crushing or rolling hazards. Safety-toed footwear must meet the minimum compression and impact performance standards in ANSI Z41-1999 or provide equivalent protection.
  • Some safety shoes may be designed to be electrically conductive to prevent the buildup of static electricity in areas with the potential for explosive atmospheres or nonconductive to protect workers from workplace electrical hazards.
  • Metatarsal guards protect the instep area from impact and compression.  Made of aluminum, steel, fiber or plastic, these guards may be strapped to the outside of regular work shoes.
  • Toe guards fit over the toes of regular shoes to protect the toes from impact and compression hazards.  They may be made of steel, aluminum, or plastic.
  • Rubber overshoes are used for concrete work and areas where flooding is a concern
  • Shoes with slip-resistant soles are required for certain departments and should be used in areas where slips and falls on wet floors are most likely.
  • Studded treads and overshoes should be used when employees must work on ice or snow-covered walking surfaces.
  • Leggings protect the lower legs and feet from heat hazards such as molten metal or welding sparks.  Safety snaps allow leggings to be removed quickly.

Hand and Arm Protection

Potential hazards to hands and arms include skin absorption of harmful substances, chemical or thermal burns, electrical dangers, bruises, abrasions, cuts, punctures, fractures or amputations.  Protective equipment includes gloves, finger guards and arm coverings.

Types of Protective Gloves

There are many types of gloves available today to protect against a wide variety of hazards.  The nature of the hazard and the operation involved will affect the selection of gloves.  The variety of potential occupational hand injuries makes selecting the right pair of gloves challenging.  In general, gloves fall into the following four categories:

  1. Leather, Canvas or Metal Mesh Gloves: These types of gloves protect against cuts, burns and punctures. 
  2. Fabric and Coated Fabric Gloves: These types of gloves are made of cotton or other fabric.  They generally protect against dirt, chafing and abrasions.
  3. Insulating rubber gloves: These gloves are used for protection against electrical hazards.  For more information on insulating rubber gloves for electrical work, see Electrical Safety Protective Methods
  4. Chemical and liquid resistant gloves: When working with chemicals with a high acute toxicity, working with corrosive materials in high concentrations, handling chemicals for extended periods of time or immersing all or part of a hand into a chemical, the appropriate glove material should be selected, based on chemical compatibility.  The following table includes major glove types and their general uses.  This list is not exhaustive.  For more information on chemical resistant glove selection, see PPE for Chemical Hazards or the Safety Data Sheet for a particular substance.

Other Considerations

There are several factors besides glove material to consider when selecting the appropriate glove.  The amount of dexterity needed to perform a particular manipulation must be weighed against the glove material recommended for maximum chemical resistance.  In some cases, particularly when working with delicate objects where fine dexterity is crucial, a bulky glove may actually be more of a hazard.

  • Dexterity: Where fine dexterity is needed, consider double gloving with a less compatible material, immediately removing and replacing the outer glove if there are any signs of contamination.  In some cases, such as when wearing Silver Shield gloves, it may be possible to wear a tight-fitting glove over the loose glove to increase the overall dexterity.
  • Glove thickness, usually measured in mils or gauge, is another consideration.  A 10-gauge glove is equivalent to 10 mils or 0.01 inches.  Thinner, lighter gloves offer better touch sensitivity and flexibility, but may provide shorter breakthrough times.  Generally, doubling the thickness of the glove quadruples the breakthrough time.
  • Glove length should be chosen based on the depth to which the arm will be immersed or where chemical splash is likely.  Gloves longer than 14 inches provide extra protection against splash or immersion. 
  • Glove size may also be important.  One size does not fit all.  Gloves which are too tight tend to cause fatigue, while gloves which are too loose will have loose finger ends which make work more difficult. The circumference of the hand, measured in inches, is roughly equivalent to the reported glove size.  Glove color, cuff design, and lining should also be considered for some tasks.

Glove Inspection, Use and Care

All gloves should be inspected for signs of degradation or puncture before use.  Test for pinholes by blowing or trapping air inside and rolling them out.  Do not fill them with water, as this makes the gloves uncomfortable and may make it more difficult to detect a leak when wearing the glove.

Disposable gloves should be changed when there is any sign of contamination.  Reusable gloves should be washed frequently if used for an extended period of time.

While wearing gloves, be careful not to handle anything but the materials involved in the procedure.  Touching equipment, phones, wastebaskets or other surfaces may cause contamination.  Be aware of touching the face, hair, and clothing as well.

Before removing them, wash the outside of the glove.  To avoid accidental skin exposure, remove the first glove by grasping the cuff and peeling the glove off the hand so that the glove is inside out.  Repeat this process with the second hand, touching the inside of the glove cuff, rather than the outside.  Wash hands immediately with soap and water.

Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for washing and caring for reusable gloves.

Head Protection

Hard Hats

Hard hats can protect employees from impact and penetration hazards as well as from electrical shock and burn hazards.  Protective headgear must meet ANSI standard Z89.1-2009 or later. 

Hard hats are divided into two types and three industrial classes:

Type I hard hats are intended to reduce the force of impact resulting from a blow only to the top of the head. This form of impact, for example, may result from a hammer or nail gun falling from above.

Type II hard hats are intended to reduce the force of lateral impact resulting from a blow which may be received off-center, from the side, or to the top of the head. This form of impact, for example, may result from contact with the sharp corner of a side beam.

Class G (formerly known as Class A) – These hard hats are considered for general use and offer protection against low-voltage electrical conductors up to 2,200 volts (phase to ground).

Class E (formerly known as Class B) – These helmets are intended for electrical work and offer protection against exposed high-voltage electrical conductors up to 20,000 volts (phase to ground).

Class C – These helmets do not offer any electrical protection and are often electrically conductive.

Each hard hat should bear a label inside the shell that lists the manufacturer, the ANSI designation and the class of the hat.

Bump Caps

Unlike hard hats, bump caps do not offer protection against falling or flying objects. However, bump caps provide excellent protection against accidental impact with fixed objects, such as exposed pipes or beams. They should be worn when working in areas with low overhead hazards. Bump caps do not have an ANSI designation.

Care and Storage

Periodic cleaning and inspection will extend the useful life of protective headgear.  A daily inspection of the hard hat shell, suspension system and other accessories for holes, cracks, tears or other damage that might compromise the protective value of the hat is essential.  Paints, paint thinners and some cleaning agents can weaken the shells of hard hats and may eliminate electrical resistance.  Do not store protective headgear in direct sunlight, as UV light and extreme heat can cause damage.

Always replace a hard hat if it sustains an impact, even if damage is not noticeable.  Suspension systems can be replaced when damaged or when excessive wear is noted.

Protective Clothing

There are many varieties of protective clothing available for specific hazards.  Examples of the body/skin protection include laboratory coats, coveralls, vests, jackets, aprons, surgical gowns and full body suits.  Uniforms, caps, or other clothing worn solely to identify a person as an employee would not be considered PPE.

Hats, long sleeves, long pants or sunscreen, while not defined as PPE, should be considered for protection against heat, cold, sun or insect exposure.  Also included in this category may be the use of a personal fall arrest system or body positioning system when working on elevated surfaces. For more information on fall protection, see Personal Fall Arresting Systems.

Hearing Protection

Hearing Protection

When an employee’s noise exposure cannot be reduced to safe levels, then hearing protection must be worn. There are several options for hearing protection available that include ear plugs, ear muffs, and hearing bands, which are also known as canal caps. Each should be carefully considered for the noise reduction they will provide, as well as for comfort and fit. EHS assists departments with hearing protection selection to ensure that these variables are properly addressed.  See the Noise and Hearing Conservation page for more information about our Hearing Conservation Program.

Typical Hearing Protection Devices

  • Pre-molded Ear Plugs - Come in different sizes and shapes to fit different sized ear canals. They have virtually no expansion or contraction, so obtaining a good seal with the ear canal may be challenging.
  • Formable or Foam Ear Plugs - When placed in the ear correctly, this type of ear plug, will expand to fill the ear canal and seal against the walls. This expansion allows foam ear plugs to fit ear canals of different sizes.
  • Ear Muffs - These devices fit against the head and enclose the entire perimeter of the external ear. The inside of the muff cup is lined with acoustic foam, which reduces noise. Their effectiveness depends on how tight the seal is between the foam cushion and the head.
  • Hearing Bands or Canal Caps - These devices cover the ear canal at its opening. They do not provide as much of a seal inside the ear canal and generally provide less protection than ear muffs or plugs, so they are typically not recommended.

Respiratory Protection

For information on the use of respiratory protection, please see Respirator Use.

PPE Selection & Hazard Assessments

PPE Hazard Assessment

When engineering controls, work practices and administrative controls are not feasible or do not provide sufficient protection, employers must provide personal protective equipment.  Departments are responsible for assessing the workplace to identify hazards requiring the use of PPE, ensuring the adequacy of the PPE and ensuring that PPE is properly worn and maintained. The Princeton University PPE Worksheet.pdf is designed to help departments complete the OSHA-required PPE hazard assessment.

PPE Training

Training should be provided to all employees required to use PPE.  The training should cover the following topics:

  • How to properly wear PPE
  • What types of PPE provide protection against the hazards identified during the assessment
  • When PPE must be used
  • The proper care and useful life of PPE
  • The limitations of PPE
  • Proper disposal of damaged PPE

Assistance in selecting the proper PPE and training of affected employees is available through EHS.

Selection of PPE

PPE should be selected based primarily on the hazards identified during the assessment.  However, employers should also take the fit and comfort of PPE into consideration when selecting appropriate items for each employee.  PPE that fits well and is comfortable to wear will encourage employee use of PPE.  Most protective devices are available in multiple sizes and care should be taken to select the proper size for each employee.

Payment for PPE

Departments must pay for almost all PPE required by OSHA standards.  However, there are a few exceptions to this rule:

  • Departments are not required to pay for uniforms, items worn to keep clean, or everyday clothes, even when such clothing could serve as PPE or used solely for the protection from weather.
  • Departments are not required to pay for safety-toe shoes or prescription safety eyewear, so long as the employee is allowed to wear them off the job-site, are not used in a manner that renders them unsafe for use off the job-site, and are not designed for special use on the job.  (Please not that provisions in union contracts and University policies address reimbursement for safety-toe shoes)
  • If an employee voluntarily chooses to provide their own PPE, the department is not required to reimburse the employee.  The department must ensure that employee-owned PPE is adequate for hazards at the workplace.
  • The department must pay for replacement PPE, unless the employee has lost or intentionally damaged it.  Consideration must be given to the useful lifetime of PPE when assessing charges for lost or damaged PPE.

For more information about payment for PPE, contact EHS at 8-5294 or

PPE for Specific Workplaces