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Personal Protective Equipment

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Personal Protective Equipment Trainings & Quick Links


This program provides information regarding hazard exposures where engineering and administrative controls do no provide sufficient risk reduction. The proper selection and use of personal protective equipment, such as safety glasses, hand hats, gloves, hearing protection, etc. is covered.

Environmental, Health & Safety developed this program to help departments protect employees from exposure to workplace hazards and to facilitate university compliance with state and federal safety-related regulatory requirements. This program complies with the requirements of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations, 29 CFR 1910 (General Industry), Subpart I and 29 CFR 1926 (Construction), Subpart E.

Personal protective equipment (PPE) reduces the severity of injury from hazards by creating a barrier against workplace hazards. PPE must be used when the eyes, face, hands, extremities, or other parts of the body are exposed to workplace hazards that cannot be controlled by other means. PPE is not a substitute for good engineering controls, administrative controls, or good work practices, but should be used in conjunction with those controls to ensure the safety and health of employees. The use of PPE does not eliminate the hazard, and if the PPE fails, or is used improperly, exposure to the hazard may occur.

Departments should designate a personal protective equipment coordinator(s) to implement requirements of this program. This is typically assigned to supervisors, priniciple investigators, or designated safety representatives depending on organizational structure and oversight.

This program applies to all Virginia Tech properties and to all work performed by Virginia Tech employees regardless of jobsite location.


PPE coordinators should take the required training specified by the program (i.e. PPE Awareness and Hazard Assessments) prior to fulfilling the responsibilities indicated below.

PPE coordinators designated by the department will perform the following tasks once they have received training from Environmental Health & Safety:

  • Conduct hazard assessments in accordance with the requirements outlined in this program.
  • Evaluate the hazards identified to determine if engineering or administrative controls can be implemented to eliminate or reduce the hazard to a safe level. Guidance on hazard control is provided in this program. Environmental Health & Safety should be consulted for certain controls, such as respiratory or hearing protection, ventilation systems, etc.
  • Select and have each affected employee use appropriate protective equipment if hazards cannot be properly controlled. The department must assure that all PPE meets regulatory requirements as defined in this program, and is of a safe design and construction for the work to be performed.
  • Assure that employee-owned equipment, where provided by the employee, is approved and adequate for the hazardous condition, and that this equipment is properly maintained and inspected as required by this program or the manufacturer.
  • Assure that damaged or defective PPE is removed from service and not used.
  • Assure that employees assigned and required to use PPE are properly trained and informed regarding the hazards and proper use, storage, care, inspection, and maintenance of such equipment. New employees should receive training from the supervisor/PPE coordinator prior to being assigned tasks requiring the use of PPE.
  • Maintain documentation for hazard assessments and PPE training. Documents must be made available to Environmental Health & Safety or other regulatory authorities upon request. 
  • Review existing Hazard Assessments on a periodic basis to ensure PPE assignments remain valid and personnel are trained and informed.
  • Reassess the workplace when new hazards are introduced, or when processes are changed or added.

Employees are responsible for following the requirements of this program. Employees are expected to:

  • Attend required training sessions on assigned PPE provided by the Supervisor or PPE Coordinator.
  • Wear assigned PPE as required.
  • Properly clean, inspect, maintain, and care for PPE as required.
  • Inform the PPE Coordinator of the need for repair or replacement of PPE.

Environmental Health & Safety responsibilities for this program include:

  • Developing, implementing, and administering the program.
  • Training PPE coordinators on all aspects of the program requirements.
  • Serving as a technical resource to departments and PPE coordinators, including for hazard evaluations and control reviews.
  • Providing guidance on the selection, care, inspection, and use of PPE.
  • Maintaining centralized records of PPE coordinator training and related inspections.
  • Evaluating the overall effectiveness of the program on a periodic basis and making appropriate changes as needed to assure the safety of personnel.
  • Maintaining the university Respiratory Protection and Hearing Conservation programs, and evaluating workplace exposures to hazards that would require the use of respirators, hearing protection, or laser eyewear.
  • Maintaining the University Chemical Hygiene Plan for laboratory operations.

Contractors must comply with all local, state, and federal safety requirements, and must assure that all of their employees performing work on Virginia Tech property have been suitably trained and are provided appropriate personal protective equipment. Contractors must also comply with the requirements outlined in Virginia Tech's Safety Requirements for Contractors and Subcontractors.

Visitors to Virginia Tech property, who may be exposed to certain hazards, must wear appropriate PPE. It is the responsibility of the person(s) hosting the visitors to enforce this aspect. PPE used by visitors, whether provided by the visitor or the host department, must meet at a minimum the requirements established for Virginia Tech employees.


Each employee required to wear PPE must be aware that it does not eliminate the hazard. If the equipment fails or is not worn or used properly, the employee will be exposed to the hazard and may suffer injury or illness. Employees must complete PPE Awareness training, receive site-specific training from the PPE coordinator or other appropriate designated personnel, and demonstrate an understanding of its use and limitations, prior to being assigned tasks requiring the use of PPE.

Note: Training on personal fall arrest systems, electrical protective equipment, respiratory protection, and hearing protection is provided separately. 

Site-specific training provided by the PPE coordinator/principal investigator/supervisor must address the following:

  • Hazards identified during the hazard assessment;
  • Engineering and administrative controls in place for minimizing/eliminating these hazards;
  • Specific PPE to be worn to reduce severity of injury;
  • How PPE is properly fitted, donned, doffed, adjusted, and worn (refer to manufacturers recommendations);
  • Limitations of PPE provided (refer to manufacturers recommendations); and
  • How to properly care for, maintain, inspect, replace, and dispose of the PPE (refer to manufacturer's recommendations and information provided in the appropriate appendices of this program).

Designated PPE coordinators must complete two classes to fulfill this level of training: PPE Awareness and Hazard Assessments. Both classes are available online

Where the PPE coordinator elects to conduct awareness level training for personnel (instead of requiring PPE Awareness level training provided by Environmental Health & Safety), or where specialized PPE is used that Environmental Health & Safety training does not address, a written certification of training must be maintained for each employee. This Record of Training must include the name of the trainer, the name of the employee receiving training, the date of training, and the specific types of PPE covered during the training. This record is to be maintained at the departmental level and must be made available to Environmental Health & Safety, or regulatory authorities upon request. 

When there is a reason to believe that an employee using PPE does not have the understanding and skill required to use the equipment safely or properly, the employee must be retrained immediately. Retraining is also required when changes in the workplace render previous training obsolete, or when changes in the type of PPE to be used are made.

Hazard Assessments

Employers are required by OSHA to certify in writing that they have assessed the work area to determine if hazards that required the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) are present or likely. A Hazard Assessment Form, has been developed to help departments meet this requirement. Hazard Assessment training is available online to provide guidance and understanding of what hazards to look for, and how to complete the form.

Conducting the Hazard Assessment

  • Look at how your personnel are similar, or different, with respect to their work, their location, and their hazard exposures. If all personnel have similar exposures due to the type of work performed or the location of their work area, they may be evaluated as a group. If there are some personnel who have significantly different exposures, they may require a separate assessment. Mark the appropriate box on the Hazard Assessment Form and fill in the required information for locations, position numbers and titles.
  • Perform a walk-through of the area or observe personnel performing tasks. Look for existing or potential hazards and enter them on the Hazard Assessment Form by checking "Yes" for exposure to a body part and describing what the hazard exposure is in general terms in the space provided. Interview employees or review accident data, if necessary, to help identify hazards. Also look for general hazards, such as:
    • Moving equipment/parts/processes/personnel that could result in collision, compression, or impact.
    • Potential for objects to fall or drop from above onto an employee.
    • Exposure to chemicals or potentially harmful dusts, mists, or fumes.
    • Rolling or pinching objects or machinery processes that could crush body parts, catch hair, or snag loose clothing.
    • Electrical hazards from equipment, wiring, or utilities.
    • Presence or use of sharp objects that could cut or pierce the body.
    • Hot or cold surfaces that could cause burns or freezing.
    • Light (optical) radiation from welding, cutting, brazing, lasers, or other sources.
    • Use of tools or equipment that may generate flying debris, harmful dusts, vibration, repetitive motion, or noise.
    • Processes involving mixing or pouring of hazardous liquids.
    • Work area layout or spacing that may create hazardous conditions, for example, chemical storage near electrical panels or welding/cutting in high-traffic areas.
    • Material handling involving pushing, pulling, or lifting on a regular basis.
  • For each hazard identified and entered on the Hazard Assessment Form, indicate whether it will be controlled through engineering or administrative controls, or specify what type of PPE is required. The next section will help you evaluate these options.

PPE coordinators should consider the feasibility of implementing engineering and administrative controls whenever possible.

Engineering controls remove the hazard from the workplace or use a barrier to virtually eliminate worker exposure to a hazard. The hazard is controlled on a relatively permanent basis. Engineering controls are the most desirable and effective type of hazard control, but may not always be feasible due to time and money constraints. 

Administrative controls alter the way a procedure or task is performed and rely on employee actions/behaviors to control the hazard. The hazard and/or employee exposure is reduced to a safer level but still may require the use of PPE.

The following table, Hazard Controls, will give you some ideas of what engineering or administrative controls may be implemented. Review the options to see if any are feasible for your situation. If any of the controls listed are not an option or do not reduce the hazard to a safe level, then PPE must be selected.

Download the table below


Hazard Controls


Engineering Controls (Eliminate)

Administrative Controls (Reduce)

  • Control rooms or restricted access areas
  • Guarding (ex. machinery guards, fall protection/guardrail systems/parapet walls on roofs)
  • Barriers/shielding (ex. welding shields, plastic for P-32 radiation sources)
  • Locking out hazardous energy sources
  • Regular cleaning of work area
  • Dry, clean floors
  • Proper storage of tools, materials, chemicals, radioactive substances
  • Proper spill response
  • Surplus old machinery/equipment
  • Vacuum instead of sweeping
  • Proper access (ex. stairways, ramps)
  • Height (ex. hazard located above employee access, typically 8 feet)
  • Impervious work surfaces
  • Seamless flooring
  • Safety interlocks on equipment
  • Automatic shutoff
  • Hazard recognition
  • Hazard controls
  • Safe work practices
  • Safe operating procedures
  • Emergency procedures
  • Machinery and equipment 
  • Dipping/brushing instead of spraying
  • Bolting together instead of welding
  • Hacksaw use instead of grinding
  • Wet processes instead of dry processes
  • Using non-hazardous chemicals
  • Using less hazardous radioactive substances (ex. P-33 instead of P-32)
  • Soap and water instead of solvents
  • Automation instead of manual eqpt.
  • Perform hazardous tasks less frequently
  • Rotate employees in hazardous areas (not permitted for respiratory hazards)
  • Minimize on-hand stock of hazardous materials
  • Minimize waste products by recycling or redistribution (donate chemicals to university surplus)
  • Decrease time/increase distance (rad)
  • On-demand supply instead of on-site storage
  • Maintenance-free batteries
  • Purchase premixed products
Preventative Maintenance
  • Regular inspections
  • Regular service and maintenance
Work Area Layout
  • Separating non-compatible work tasks
  • Routing high-traffic paths away from hazardous areas
  • Minimize size of radioactive work areas
  • Segregating radioactive work
Exposure Monitoring
  • Quarterly review of personal radiation doses
  • Investigation at 10% and 25% of occupational exposure limits (radiation)
  • Identify radiation contaminated areas
  • Increase air flow
  • Use fume hoods for mixing
  • Local exhaust ventilation
  • Filtration (ex. HEPA-filtered Biosafety cabinets, charcoal filtering for radioactive substances such as I-125)
Safe Work Practices and Procedures
  • Identify and develop for hazardous processes
  • Perform radiological hazard analysis
  • Label equipment as radioactive 
  • Container labeling (chemical, radioactive, biohazardous)

PPE Selection

Once you have determined the hazard categories for each area of the body by entering the hazards onto the Hazard Assessment Form, use the information provided in the appendices to help select the appropriate type of PPE. For some types of PPE, such as hearing protection and respiratory protection, you must go through Environmental Health & Safety for proper selection and fit. For others, such as fall protection or the use of voltage-rated equipment, additional training is required by Environmental Health & Safety to adequately address related hazards and/or to meet regulatory requirements.

All personal protective equipment must be of safe design, constructed for the work to be performed, and  maintained in a sanitary and reliable condition.

Suppliers of PPE are great resources for help in selecting the right PPE for a hazard. The hazard category (i.e. impact, chemical, heat, cold, electrical, light/radiation, cut-resistance, etc.) must be matched with the style and model of PPE.

The PPE must be fitted to the user. PPE that fits poorly will not provide the necessary protection, and the employee is less likely to wear the device if it does not fit comfortably. Protective devices are generally available in a variety of sizes. Care should be taken to ensure the right size is selected for each individual wearer.

Adjustments must be made on an individual basis for a comfortable fit that will maintain the protective device in the proper position. If the PPE is not adjustable by design, you should not make any alterations to it! This voids the manufacturer's warranty and compromises the protective qualities of the equipment.

Employees must be given instructions on the care and use of PPE assigned to them. It is very important that the end users be made aware of all warnings and limitations of their PPE. PPE coordinators are assigned the task of training employees on the PPE assigned. Guidelines are provided in the appendices but are not a substitution for the manufacturer's instructions, which are included with the PPE when purchased.


ANSI: American National Standards Institute - coordinates the development and use of voluntary consensus standards in the United States, and represents the needs and views of U. S. stakeholders in standardization forums around the globe.

ASTM: American Society of Testing Materials - one of the largest voluntary standards developing organizations in the world - a trusted source for technical standards for materials, products, systems, and services.

Competent person: a person capable of identifying safety hazards and authorized to take prompt corrective action.

MSDS: Material Safety Data Sheet - A summary sheet provided by the manufacturer of a chemical or other potentially hazardous product. The MSDS explains the hazards of the material and the precautions that must be taken to prevent fires, explosions, or harmful health effects.

NFPA: National Fire Protection Association - a nonprofit organization formed to reduce the worldwide burden of fire and other hazards on the quality of life by providing and advocating consensus codes and standards, research, training, and education.

NIOSH: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health - the federal agency responsible for conducting research and making recommendations for the prevention of work-related injuries and illnesses. NIOSH is part of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the Department of Health and Human Services.

OSHA: Occupational Safety and Health Administration - formed by the federal government to assure the safety and health of America's workers by setting and enforcing standards; providing training, outreach, and education; establishing partnerships; and encouraging continual improvement in workplace safety and health.

Qualified Person: One who has received training appropriate for the tasks to be performed, and has demonstrated the necessary skills and techniques to perform his or her work safely.

TWA: Time-weighted average - (in reference to noise exposure) the sound level which, if constant over an eight-hour exposure, would result in the same noise dose as is measured.


Eye and face protection

Eye and face protection purchased and used after July 5, 1994 must meet ANSI Z87.1-1989, "American National Standard Practice of Occupational and Education Eye and Face Protection."

Employees must use appropriate eye or face protection when exposed to eye or face hazards from flying particles, molten metal, acidic or caustic liquids, liquid chemicals, chemical gases or vapors, or potentially hazardous light radiation. Eye and face PPE must be marked to identify the manufacturer, and must also be marked to indicate that it complies with the ANSI Z87 standard.

Care should be taken to recognize the possibility of multiple and simultaneous exposures to a variety of hazards. Adequate protection against the highest level of each of the hazards should be provided. Protective devices do not provide unlimited protection.

Operations involving heat may also involve light radiation. When necessary, protection from other hazards must be provided.

Atmospheric conditions and the restricted ventilation of the protector can cause lenses to fog. Frequent cleaning may be necessary.

Prescription safety eyewear

Prescription safety glasses are one piece of safety equipment that may have to be paid for by the wearer due to its personal nature. The departmental policy may indicate whether the department will pay for all, partial, or none of the costs. Each affected employee who wears prescription lenses, while engaged in operations that involve eye hazards, must either:

  • Wear safety eyewear that can be worn over the prescription lenses without disturbing the proper position of the prescription lenses or the safety eyewear, or
  • Wear safety eyewear that incorporates the prescription in its design. 
    • The prescription lens will have the laboratory/manufacturer marking embossed on it if it is approved for safety purposes.
    • The frame will bear the Z87 marking if it is approved for safety purposes.

Contact lenses

Wearers of contact lenses must also wear appropriate eye and face protection in a hazardous environment. It should be recognized that dusty environments might represent an additional hazard to contact wearers.

Standard safety glasses are designed to protect against light to moderate impact and flying particles. Flying particles may include wood or metal debris, light dust, blood, or other body fluids, etc. Safety glasses must have shatterproof lenses, impact-resistant frames and provide side protection. Detachable side protectors (e.g. clip-on or slide-on shields) are acceptable if they meet the ANSI requirements. Prescription safety glasses are available through your optometrist and must also meet these criteria.

Safety glasses are available in a wide variety of styles and (lens) colors. Styles should be chosen that employees like, and will therefore wear. Lens color should also be considered when selecting safety eyewear to help reduce glare, eye strain, color distortion, and improve visibility in certain conditions.

Caution should be exercised in the use of metal frame safety glasses in electrical hazard areas.

Non-side shield safety glasses are available for frontal protection only, but are not acceptable eye protection for the sources and operations involving "impact."

The energy emitted from lasers is highly concentrated and can cause permanent eye injury. Although engineering controls are preferred to reduce hazards from the laser beam, it may be necessary to use laser safety eyewear when engineering controls are inadequate. Laser safety eyewear must be worn in areas where unenclosed Class 3b or 4 lasers are operated. Laser eyewear filters or absorbs light of a specific wavelength, while maintaining adequate light transmission for other wavelengths. The absorption capability of the filtering media is called the optical density (OD). The OD is always expressed as a factor of 10. An OD of 5 means the filter has reduced the power of the beam to 1/100,000 of its original power. The required OD is the minimum OD necessary to reduce the beam to a non-hazardous level. The OD of the eyewear has to be at least equal to, or greater, than the required OD for each wavelength. The eyewear must be labeled with the optical density of the lens and the wavelength that it protects against.

When choosing appropriate laser eyewear, time is also a consideration. The length of time the eyewear will protect your eye before the beam goes through, and how much time you will have to react if you are hit with a direct beam are factors. According to ANSI, protective eyewear shall exhibit a damage threshold for a specified exposure time (typically 10 seconds). The eyewear shall be used in a manner so that the damage threshold is not exceeded in the worst-case exposure situation. The main points to consider when selecting eyewear for a specific laser includes:

  • Wavelength
  • Optical density
  • Laser beam intensity
  • Luminous transmittance
  • Damage threshold
  • Comfort
  • Lenses

For more information on selecting laser protective eyewear, refer to the laser manufacturer's recommendations and instructions and/or review Environmental Health & Safety's Laser Safety Program.

Vinyl-framed goggles of soft pliable body design provide adequate eye protection from many hazards, such as impact, chemical splash, dust, sand, and debris. Goggles are available with perforated, port-vented, or non-vented frames. Single-lens goggles provide similar protection to spectacles and may be worn in combination with spectacles or corrective (prescription) lenses to ensure protection along with proper vision. Like safety glasses, goggles are impact-resistant and are available with tinted lenses.

Environmental Health & Safety strongly recommends the use of safety goggles, rather than safety glasses, for all personnel working in laboratories with chemicals or human bodily fluids.

Welders/chippers goggles provide protection from sparking, scaling, or splashing metals and harmful light rays. Lenses are impact-resistant and are available in graduated shades of filtration. Filter lenses must meet the requirements for shade designations as outlined in the OSHA regulations and ANSI standards. Tinted and shaded lenses do not filter lenses.

Face shields are considered secondary eye/face protection and provide general protection to the entire face for a variety of hazards, such as flying debris, chemical splash, arc flash, UV radiation, and extreme heat. Face shields must be used in combination with goggles (primary eye protection) when there is a potentially significant chemical splash hazard, especially where highly toxic chemicals or corrosives are used. Face shields must be worn over safety glasses or goggles (primary eye protection) whenthere is a potentially severe exposure to flying fragments or objects, hot sparks from furnace operations, potential splash from molten metal, or extreme temperatures.

Welding helmets/shields must be provided to protect the worker's eyes and face from infrared or radiant light burns, flying sparks, metal splatter, and slag chips encountered during welding, torch brazing, torch soldering, resistance welding, bare or shielded electrical arc welding, and oxy-acetylene work.

The shield assemblies consist of a vulcanized fiber or glass-fiber body, a ratchet or button type adjustable headgear or cap attachment, and a filter and cover plate holder. Newer technology offers auto-darkening lens capabilities. For manual filtered lens selection, start with a shade that is too dark to see the weld zone, then switch to a lighter shade that gives a sufficient view of the weld zone without going below the minimum shade allowed. In oxy-fuel gas welding or cutting where the torch produces a high yellow light, use a filter lens that absorbs the yellow (sodium line) in the visual light of the (spectrum) operation. Guidance on appropriate filtered shades for various operations is available here.

Welding helmets or filtered face shields should only be used over primary eye protection (i.e. safety glasses or goggles). Follow the manufacturer's instructions.

  • Clear - for general indoor applications.
  • Gray - for outdoor applications where light and glare can cause eye strain and fatigue. Provides good color recognition.
  • Mirror - same purpose as gray lens, yet allows more visible light through the lens for indoor/outdoor use. Reduces glare from artificial light.
  • Gold/Blue/Silver Mirror - for outdoor use where sunlight and glare cause eye strain and fatigue. "Mirror" coating reflects light, reducing the amount of light that passes through the lens.
  • Dark Green - general-purpose protection from glare and UV radiation.
  • Brown - for outdoor applications where sunlight and glare cause eye strain and fatigue. Meets color traffic signal recognition requirements.
  • Vermilion (pink) - enhances contrast while reducing all color equally for optimum color recognition. Ideal for indoor inspection.
  • Amber - blocks the blue portion of the visible light spectrum, creating maximum contrast enhancement, particularly in low light.
  • Filtered shades (green to brown) - protect against ultraviolet and infrared radiation generated when working with molten metal, and in welding, cutting, soldering, and brazing operations. 
  1. Shades 1.5-3 for torch soldering
  2. Shades 3-4 for torch brazing
  3. Shades 3-6 for cutting applications
  4. Shades 4-8 for gas welding
  5. Shades 10-14 for electric arc welding

Safety glasses and other eye and face protection should be stored carefully to prevent scratching and damage. In general, do not store this equipment where it would be exposed to high heat or direct sunlight.

Eye and face protection should be inspected prior to use. If the equipment is damaged or broken, do not use it because it may not be able to fully resist impact. Pitted lenses, as well as dirty lenses, make it more difficult for an employee to see and should be replaced. Lenses that are pitted or deeply scratched are more prone to break under impact and should be replaced.

Clean eye and face protection according to the manufacturer's instructions. If the manufacturer's instructions are not available, clean with a mild soap and water solution (maintained at 120°) by soaking for 10 minutes. Rinse thoroughly and allow to air dry.

PPE that has been previously used by other personnel should be disinfected before issuing to another person. Completely immerse all parts in a solution of germicidal fungicide for 10 minutes. Remove parts and air dry at room temperature.

The following chart provides general guidance for the proper selection of eye and face protection for hazards associated with the listed hazard "source" operations. 

Source Type of Hazard Safety Glasses Safety Goggles Welding Laser Face Shield
IMPACT - Flying fragments, flying objects, chips, particles, sand, dirt, etc. Chipping, grinding, machining, masonry work, drilling, chiseling, riveting, powered fastening, and sanding


HEAT - Hot sparks, splash from molten metal, high temperatures Furnace operations (pouring, casting, hot dipping), gas cutting and welding


CHEMICALS- Splash, fumes, vapors, and irritating mists Acid and chemical handling, degreasing, plating  


DUST - Nuisance Woodworking, buffing, general dusty conditions  

OPTICAL RADIATION - Radiant energy, glare and intense light Welding, torch cutting, torch brazing, torch soldering, and laser work    

Head protection

Protective helmets (i.e. hard hats) reduce the amount of force from impact, but cannot provide complete head protection from severe impact and penetration. They are intended to provide limited protection against small objects.

Hard hats must be marked to indicate the manufacturer, the date of manufacture, the ANSI designation, the applicable type, and class designations, and the head size range.

When purchasing hard hats, ensure that they comply with the most recent ANSI standard (ANSI Z89.1-YEAR) "American National Standard for Industrial Head Protection". Hard hats already in use must be inspected carefully prior to use for signs of deterioration and defects. Although OSHA does not indicate an expiration date for hard hats, some manufacturers do. Follow the manufacturer's instructions regarding inspection and replacement recommendations. If an expiration date is not indicated by the manufacturer, and the hard hat is in good condition and has not been previously dropped, it may be used provided it passes the manufacturer's inspection criteria.  It is highly recommended that hard hats be replaced every 5 years regardless of outward appearance.  Hard hats used in environments that have temperature extremes, sunlight, or chemicals (e.g. outdoors, construction activities, etc.) should have a more stringent replacement period, such as every 2 years.

A visual inspection should be performed prior to use each day. Hard hats should be free from signs of impact (i.e. dents, cracks, or penetration) and rough treatment (i.e. abrasions, gouges, or excessive wear). Any hard hat that fails the visual inspection should be removed from service and replaced. In addition to everyday wear and tear, ultra-violet (UV) radiation can pose a problem for hard hats constructed of plastic. Hard hats should be free from UV damage (i.e. loss of glossy finish, chalky appearance, flaking, brittleness, fading, or dullness of color).

Another important part of the inspection process for hard hats is checking the suspension system on a periodic basis. The main purpose of the suspension system is to absorb the shock of a blow. Excessive wear, defects, or damage can invalidate the protection that it should be providing. Look for cracks, tears, frayed or cut straps, and loss of pliability. The attachment points to the shell should fit tightly and securely into their respective key slots. Remove the hard hat from service or replace the suspension system in kind if there are signs of damage.

Head protection must be worn when working in areas where there is a potential for injury to the head from falling objects or impact, or where close contact to live electrical is possible. Some examples of occupations for which head protection should be routinely considered are: carpenters, electricians, linemen, mechanics and repairers, plumbers and pipefitters, assemblers, packers, wrappers, sawyers, welders, laborers, freight handlers, timer cutting and logging, stock handling, and warehouse laborers.

Hard hats shall meet either Type I or Type II requirements, and further be classified as Class G, E, or C for electrical protection. The current ANSI classification system for hard hats is described below.

  Class G - General Protection Class E - Electrical Protection Class C - Conductive
Type I (crown impact protection) Crown impact protection. Intended to reduce the danger of contact with low voltage conductors. (Proof-tested at 2,200 volts.) Crown impact protection. Intended to reduce the danger of contact with higher voltage conductors. (Proof-tested at 20,000 volts phase to ground.) Crown impact protection. Not intended to provide protection against contact with electrical hazards.
Type II (crown and side impact protection) Crown and side impact protection. Intended to reduce the danger of contact with low voltage conductors. (Proof-tested at 2,200 volts.) Crown and side impact protection. Intended to reduce the danger of contact with higher voltage conductors. (Proof-tested at 20,000 volts phase to ground.) Crown and side impact protection. Not intended to provide protection against contact with electrical hazards.

Helmets are replacing traditional hard hats in many applications, such as construction sites and working from heights, due to advancements in design, materials, and protective features. Based on results of the hazard assessment, they may a more protective and integrative option. Additional information is available here.

Cloth caps are worn during welding operations to protect hair from sparks and slag, or in situations where rotating equipment could entangle hair. 

Ranger hats have a wide brim all the way around the cap and provide sun protection for ears and neck.

Follow manufacturer's recommendations for cleaning head protection. Generally, a mild detergent and warm water is sufficient, followed by rinsing in clear water. Wipe shell of hard hat dry and allow suspension system, sweatband, and accessories to air dry thoroughly.

Hard hats should not be altered for any reason. Accessories must be compatible with the hard hat to avoid compromising protection. Alterations may result in a lower level of protection than originally intended and will void the manufacturer's warranty.

General care for hard hats includes:

  • Do not expose to extreme temperatures for long periods of time. 
  • Do not drill holes in the shell for added ventilation.
  • Do not paint or inscribe on the shell without consulting the manufacturer.
  • Do not store in direct sunlight.
  • Do not wear backward (unless welding apparatus is attached and welding is being performed).
  • Do not wear with the shell tilted to one side.
  • Do not place stickers on the shell which can hide signs of deterioration.

Foot and leg protection

Protective footwear purchased after July 5, 1994 must comply with ANSI Z41.1-1991 "American National Standard for Personal Protection - Protective Footwear."

Slip-resistant footwear assigned by the employer for specific workplace hazards must meet ASTM F1677.

Each affected employee must wear protective footwear when working in areas where there is a danger of foot injury due to falling or rolling objects, chemical hazards, objects piercing the sole, or electrical hazards. Employees who cannot wear safety shoes for medical reasons must furnish a letter to their supervisor from their physician stating the reason and the anticipated duration of the condition.

Footwear may be worn routinely or donned in certain locations for identified hazards on a temporary basis. Disposable shoe covers are available and recommended for some hazards, such as biohazards.

General protective footwear, such as steel-toed or slip-resistant shoes may have to be paid for by the wearer due to its personal nature. Departmental policy may indicate that the department will pay for this type of footwear in full, partially, or not at all (the wearer is responsible for paying for it). It is the employer's responsibility to ensure that footwear purchased by the employee or the department is in good condition and is suitable for use in certain situations. Damaged or defective footwear will not provide the level of protection required, and should be replaced immediately.

There are many types of footwear available for work situations. Some are designed with a specific craft or industry in mind, such as fire-fighting, electricians, or welders; others provide a specific type of protection as listed below. Many footwear options offer dual protection, such as steel-toed, chemical-resistant boots.

  • Steel/composite safety toe: Provides protection to the toes where personnel is exposed to injury as a result of heavy (greater than 40 pounds) falling or rolling objects on a regular basis, such as tools, equipment, and materials handling. Slip-on toe caps are available when steel-toe protection is needed for a short, temporary instance.
  • Metatarsal guard: Provides protection to the top of the foot (metatarsal bone) as well as the toes. Guards are available built into the boot or as a temporary accessory where protection is only needed for a short period of time.
  • Static dissipative: Regulates the build up of electrical charge in a person's body. Commonly used in the manufacturing of computer components, solvent-based paints, explosives, and plastics.
  • Conductive: Protects against the hazards of static electricity build up in a person's body where the accumulation of static electricity on a body is a hazard. They should be worn by persons working in potentially flammable or explosive atmospheres.
  • Electrical: The soles of these shoes provide a barrier to protect personnel from open electrical currents up to 600 volts.
  • Insulated: Provides insulation against the cold and are intended for tough outdoor environments. Check the specific weight of insulation to help guide you in selection.
  • High heat: Constructed to resist high heat situations.
  • Waterproof: Constructed to keep the feet dry and comfortable in wet conditions.
  • Chemical-resistant: Constructed of various materials to provide protection against certain categories of chemical hazards, such as animal fats, acids, most chemicals, oils, etc. Compare potential exposures to the manufacturer's recommendations to select the right type.
  • Puncture-resistant: Designed to protect the mid-sole of the foot where sharp objects can pierce or penetrate the sole.
  • Slip-resistant: Slip-resistant footwear refers to some slip-resistant shoes that meet ASTM F1677 standards. Their anti-skid soles have a designed pattern tread for added friction on slippery floors contaminated (i.e. wet, oily, and/or greasy). The soles are typically made of synthetic rubber. Foodwear meeting the requirements of ASTM F1677 will be marked as such. Workers in healthcare, food service, or other professions commonly wear shoes meeting this standard. Note: many types of safety footwear provide general slip-resistant soles, such as tennis shoes, clogs, or hiking boots. Footwear rated specifically for slippery surfaces (ASTM F1677) may be assigned by the employer based on worksite conditions.  

The following chart provides general guidance for the proper selection of foot protection for hazards associated with the listed hazard "source" operations.

Protection Source(s) Typical Occupations
Steel-toed safety shoes/boots/caps Impact, compression, cuts, abrasions Construction, demolition, renovation, plumbing, building maintenance, trenching, utility work, grass cutting, materials handling
Metatarsal footwear Severe impact or compression to the top of the foot Jack-hammering, pavement breaking, heavy pipes, steel or iron work, skid trucks
Heat-resistant boots and/or leggings/chaps Molten metal, super-heated fluids Foundry work, welding operations
Chemical-resistant footwear/leg wear Splash hazard or direct contact/work with certain chemicals Acid and chemical handling, degreasing, plating, spill response
Slip-resistant footwear Wet, oily, greasy, or otherwise slippery walking surfaces Food service and healthcare industries
Conductive footwear Work near or in explosive or hazardous atmospheres. DO NOT use when exposed to electrical hazards. Explosives manufacturing, grain milling, spray painting, or similar work with highly flammable materials
Electrical footwear Work on or near exposed energized electrical wiring or components. DO NOT use in areas that have potential flammable or explosive atmospheres. Building maintenance, utility work, construction, wiring, work on or near communications, computer or similar equipment, and arc or resistance welding

Leg guards: Usually made of lightweight metal, and designed to cover the knee, shin, and top of the foot from impact or abrasions.  Typically worn during jackhammering operations, for example.

Waders: Provide water-proof protection for the feet, legs, and/or lower torso.

Chaps: Provides protection to upper and lower legs. Usually hazard/task-specific.

  • Chain saw chaps are made of multiple layers of cut-resistant fabric, which is designed to jam the chain saw chain and stop the cutting action before it reaches your skin.
  • Welding chaps are typically made of leather and provide heat/burn protection from sparks and slag.


All safety footwear requires routine inspection for cuts, holes, tears, cracks, worn soles, and other damage that could compromise its protective qualities. Footwear required for certain hazards, such as electrical, hazardous materials, or chemical-resistance should be inspected prior to each use. Follow manufacturer's instructions on inspection and care. Damaged or defective footwear must not be used.


Follow manufacturer's instructions for recommended care of hazard-specific chaps.

Hand and arm protection

There currently are no ANSI standards for glove selection; therefore, selection must be based on the performance characteristics of the glove in relation to the tasks to be performed. Suppliers and manufacturers may provide compliance guidelines or references for food and pharmaceutical applications.

Hand and arm protection must be selected and used when personnel may be exposed to certain hazards, such as:

  • Work with harmful substances, dry or liquid, that can be absorbed through the skin, or that can cause skin irritation, chemical burns, or similar conditions. Examples would include strong acids/bases, toxic or corrosive materials, organic solvents, and radioactive materials.
  • Work with tools, equipment, or materials that can cause cuts, lacerations, punctures, fractures, amputations, or abrasions.
  • Work where the employee is exposed to materials or agents that can cause thermal burns or that expose the employee to harmful temperatures (hot or cold).
  • Work that may expose employees to blood or other potentially infectious agents.
  • Work on live electrical systems or components. Additional training is required for the use of electrical protective equipment.

The best place to start when selecting gloves for a task is to compare the exposure hazards to the protective qualities of the gloves available from your supplier. Many tasks will involve multiple hazards, and the glove selected should either protect against all of the hazards, or more than one type of glove may have to be worn. A common example of this is when leather gloves (cut/puncture/abrasion resistant) are worn over voltage-rated rubber gloves. Certain chemical and/or radiation hazards may require double gloving (of the same type).

There are several categories of gloves.

  • Disposable gloves - Perfect for one-time use situations. Thin for improved sensitivity and dexterity. Provides wearer protection against materials, or protects the material from the handler. Available in a variety of materials and for a variety of tasks.
  • Critical-environment gloves - Used in applications that require extreme cleanliness, such as in the electronic, nuclear, and pharmaceutical industries.
  • Chemical-resistant gloves - Protects against specified chemicals and liquids, also protect against abrasion, cuts, punctures, and snags. Generally, any "chemical-resistant" glove can be used for dry powders. (See additional information provided later in this section.)
  • General-purpose gloves - Intended to help reduce hand injuries from snags, punctures, abrasions, and cuts.
  • Coated gloves - Nitrile and natural rubber coated gloves are often used as substitutes for leather gloves. They offer superior hand protection in wet environments where dexterity is important.
  • Cut-resistant gloves - Available in a wide variety of materials, including metal-mesh, Kevlar®, aluminized, etc. Protects against cuts and scrapes in the food industry, as well as general warehousing.
  • Puncture-resistant gloves - Available in a wide variety of materials. Puncture-resistant gloves protect against most sharp objects, including glass, metal, and needle sticks. No glove is completely puncture-proof, nor can gloves be expected to take the place of proper engineering or work practice controls.
  • Anti-vibration/impact gloves - Protection from vibration or impact from tools and equipment. Helps prevent hand, finger, and arm fatigue.
  • Leather gloves - Qualities of leather include comfort, durability, dexterity, mild heat resistance, and abrasion resistance. Good all-purpose glove.
  • Temperature-resistance gloves - Provides protection from high temperatures as well as cold. Leather, Kevlar®, cotton terrycloth, cryogenic gloves, rubber, Nomex®, Zetex®, and Flextra® are some common materials used in this type of glove. Includes welding gloves.
  • Voltage-rated gloves - Protection against shock hazards. To assure adequate electrical protection, choose the properly rated insulated gloves and protectors for your application. Additional training from Environmental Health & Safety is required.
    Class Max. Use Voltage AC Max. Use Voltage DC
    00 500 750
    0 1,000 1,500
    1 7,500 11,250
    2 17,000 25,500
    3 26,500 39,750

Before purchasing gloves, the PPE Coordinator should review the work activities to determine the degree of dexterity required, the duration, frequency, and degree of exposure to the hazard, and the physical stresses that will be applied. Hand protection must be selected based upon a review of the performance characteristics of the hand protection relative to the task(s) to be performed, conditions present, duration of use, and the existing and potential hazards identified.

There are several factors to consider when selecting a glove, such as size, the type of cuff, lining, and length.


Gloves come in sizes ranging from small to XX-large. It is important to provide a selection of sizes to employees so that a proper fit is obtained. Gloves that are too small will cause fatigue and gloves that are too large may create dexterity issues, entanglement hazards, or may affect protective qualities.

Cuff Type

  • Pinked cuff - A zigzag finished appearance commonly found on knit-lined rubber gloves.
  • Rolled cuff - Gives additional cuff strength and a finished appearance. Acts as a barrier to keep chemicals from running off glove onto skin.
  • Straight cuff - Provides a snug fit to protect from chemical runoff and skin contact.
  • Gauntlet cuff - Extended length protects wrist area. Slides on and off easily. Allows for maximum movement of forearm.

Lining type

  • Unlined - Gives better sensitivity and dexterity than lined gloves. Required where particle contamination is a concern. Powdered unlined gloves make on/off easier and increase comfort, but may be an irritant to some individual users.
  • Flock-lined - Shredded fiber, usually cotton, applied to the inside surface of the glove material. Absorbs perspiration. Easy on/off.
  • Knit-lined - Cotton or synthetic material bonded to the inside surface of a glove. Absorbs perspiration, adds some temperature protection.
  • Jersey-lined - Softest, most comfortable lining. Gives additional temperature protection and greater cushioning effect.


  • Finger cots - worn on the fingers alone when minimal or no protection is required.
  • 9 - 12 inches provides complete hand protection.
  • 12 - 18 inches provides hand, forearm to elbow protection for immersion or extra splash protection.
  • 24 - 31 inches provides full arm immersion protection.

Chemical protection

Chemical-resistant glove selection begins with an evaluation of the type of work to be performed and the chemical(s) that personnel will be contacting. No glove provides protection against all potential hand hazards, and available gloves may provide only limited protection against many chemicals. It is important, therefore, to select the most appropriate glove for a particular application and to determine how long it can be worn and whether it can be reused. It is often advantageous to select two different types of gloves and wear one pair over the other, thus increasing the range of protection. Chemical-resistant gloves should be inspected prior to use for discoloration, punctures, or tears. Consider the following issues:

  • The type of chemical(s) to be handled or used.
  • The frequency and duration of the task for chemical contact. Different chemicals will affect the protective qualities of a glove in different ways.
    • Breakthrough time: the time it takes for the chemical to pass to the inside of the glove. Some gloves are not recommended for certain chemicals. Some specified a time limit before the chemical breakthrough of the glove material was detected. Some did not detect a breakthrough (under laboratory test conditions). Follow manufacturer guidelines or supplier "Chemical Compatibility Guides" for additional information.
    • Permeation: if a chemical will pass through a glove material.
    • Degradation: how the chemical will affect the physical properties of the glove material upon contact. Degradation can lead to softening, drying, swelling, shrinkage, or other undesirable side effects that could expose the employee to the chemical.
  • The ability of the chemical to penetrate through the glove must be determined.
    • Latex/natural rubber does not hold up well to organic solvents, oils, greases, or fuels such as kerosene or gasoline.
    • Nitrile is ideal for stripping and degreasing, chemical washing, and is resistant to animal fats and vegetable oils. Nitrile does not contain latex that causes skin allergies.
    • Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) provides excellent resistance to most acids, fats, and petroleum hydrocarbons.
    • Neoprene is strong and durable and provides excellent chemical resistance. Note: Check "Chemical Compatibility Guides" for specific chemical and glove materials recommended.
    • Polyvinyl alcohol (PVA) has an extremely high resistance to aliphatics, aromatics, chlorinated solvents, esters, and ketones. PVA quickly breaks down when exposed to water and light alcohols.
    • Butyl provides excellent chemical resistance to gases and ketones. It is ideal for handling hazardous materials. Butyl is severely affected by fuels and aliphatic and aromatic hydrocarbon solvents.
    • Viton is the most resistant of all, and provides high-temperature, fuel-resistance. Recommended for working with extremely hazardous chemicals, such as carcinogenic or highly toxic chemicals.
    • Silver-shield provides excellent chemical resistance and is commonly used for hazardous materials work, or work involving multiple chemical hazards.
  • The toxic properties of the chemical(s) - in particular, chemicals that can cause local effects on the skin and/or pass through the skin and cause systemic effects warrant a higher level of protection.
  • Mixtures and formulated products (unless specific test data is available) require that gloves should be selected based on the chemical component with the shortest breakthrough time since it's possible for solvents to carry active ingredients through some glove materials.
  • Personnel must be able to remove the gloves in such a manner as to prevent skin contamination.
  • Determine if the task will involve splash hazards, and ensure that adequate protection is used.
  • Consider the concentration of the chemical(s).
  • Consider the temperature of the chemical(s).
  • Consider abrasion, cut, puncture, tear-resistance, and grip requirements.
  • For work involving chemicals where there is a skin absorption hazard, double gloving of the appropriate type may be necessary.

Protective clothing/body wear

Standards are not currently available for all types of protective clothing or body protection. Where such standards exist, only those items of protective clothing and equipment that meet NIOSH, ANSI, ASTM, or NFPA standards, as appropriate, may be used. Questions regarding the suitability of a specific item for a given hazard should be referred either to the manufacturer or Environmental Health & Safety.

The department must provide body protection for employees if they are threatened with bodily injury or illness while performing their jobs and if engineering or administrative controls have failed to eliminate these hazards. Workplace hazards that could cause bodily injury include the following:

  • Exposure to highly toxic chemicals or carcinogens
  • Exposure to intense heat or cold 
    • Note: Cold weather clothing is generally considered to be normal-wear clothing and is not covered by this program.
  • Splashes of very cold or very hot metals or liquids
  • Impacts from tools, machinery, or materials
  • Cuts and/or abrasions
  • Exposure to hazardous chemicals
  • Contact with potentially infectious materials, like blood or other bodily fluids
  • Radiation
  • Exposure to electrical hazards
  • Exposure to some fall hazard situations

Many types of protective clothing restrict airflow and impede perspiration. The risk of heat exhaustion or heat stroke, therefore, may be greatly increased with some types of protective clothing. Employee training on the symptoms of heat stress and the use of engineering controls (e.g. increasing ventilation), administrative controls (e.g. employee rotation), and personal protective equipment (e.g. cooling vests) may be essential to assuring employee safety in hot work environments.

The protective clothing provided must be constructed of a material that will protect against the specific hazards in the workplace. The degree of body protection should be carefully considered since this category covers aprons to gastight suits. Materials used in protective clothing include paper-like fiber, treated wool, and cotton, duck, leather, rubber/plastics, etc.

  • Coveralls are designed to protect personal clothing while on the job.
  • Lab coats protect clothing and skin from dirt, inks, and chemicals. The effects of skin contact can range from relatively minor diseases such as dermatitis, to systemic poisoning, to the risk of cancer and death.
  • Barrier gowns provide protection from bloodborne pathogen splashes.
  • Disposable suits, such as Tyvek® or PVC-coated, protect against harmful particulates, some liquids and chemicals, and bloodborne pathogens. 
  • Aprons come in a variety of materials to protect against a variety of hazards, such as chemicals, heat, sparks/slag, etc.
  • Chemical suits, used in hazardous material spills, for example, are categorized by levels.
    • Level A suits provide protection against vapors and include a gastight zipper. 
    • Level B splash suits, such as Tychem®, provide chemical and biological protection.
  • Arc-Rated Clothing (ARC) clothing is treated to self-extinguish when removed from flame or ignition sources. Clothing includes undergarments, coveralls, lab coats, overalls, shirts, and pants. NFPA 70E requires personnel working within a flash protection boundary to wear arc-rated clothing. Employers must perform a flash hazard analysis (before allowing personnel to approach exposed electrical parts) to determine the protection boundary distance and the appropriate level of ARC to be used. Detailed information is available from Environmental Health & Safety. The Arc Thermal Protective Value (ATPV) must be calculated to determine the incident energy in calories per centimeter squared (cal/cm2). The ATPV signifies the amount of incident energy that would just cause the onset of second-degree burns. It also signifies the amount of protection the clothing affords when an electrical arc comes in contact with the fabric. Each FR garment is assigned an ATPV rating by the manufacturer. This rating must be noted on the garment label, along with other pertinent information.
    • Electrical-arc hazard protection consists of jackets, overalls, coats, leggings, and hoods with arc-protective face shields for full body protection. ATPV rating is typically 8, 20, 32, or 40 cal/cm2.
  • Welding clothing is available in aprons or suits and is typically made of leather to resists cuts, sparks, and slag.
  • Heat-reflective clothing includes aluminized coats, pants, leggings, aprons, sleeves, gloves, and hoods. This type of clothing is designed to repel molten metal splash and reflect 90% of radiant heat.
  • Cooling vests have bladder inserts for ice packs or are water-soak activated. They are beneficial in heat stress situations.
  • High-visibility clothing comes in neon colors with reflective strips for work around traffic or other situations where the worker needs to be seen. Available in vests, jackets, bib overalls, insulated, waterproof, or lightweight.
  • Steel mesh aprons provide protection against cuts, slashes, and lacerations to the torso. They are typically worn in the meat-cutting industry.
  • Floatation vests are worn when working around water.

Always follow the manufacturers instructions regarding special care, cleaning, storage, and care.

Fall protection

Personal fall arrest systems consist of an anchorage connector, body wear, and a connecting device. When these components are used properly, and in conjunction with each other, they form a system that is vitally important in fall hazard situations. Body wear and connecting devices (e.g. lanyards, fall-limiters/self-retracting life lines) must meet all OSHA, ANSI Z359-1992 "Safety Requirements for Personal Fall Arrest Systems, Subsystems and Components", and ANSI A10.14-1991 "Fall Protection Systems - American National Standard for Construction and Demolition Operations" requirements.

Users must attend Environmental Health & Safety training on personal fall arrest systems prior to being assigned work requiring such equipment. Training includes the components of the system, OSHA requirements, proper donning and fit of the harness, and inspection criteria.

Personal fall arrest harnesses and connecting devices must be inspected prior to use by the wearer, and at least annually by a "competent person" other than the user. General inspection criteria is available during Environmental Health & Safety training, as well as proper donning and fit of the harness. This inspection should be documented on the harness/device tag or on a form/log (available from Environmental Health & Safety).

General guidelines from OSHA, ANSI, and most manufacturers do not specify a shelf-life or expiration. If the equipment passes the inspection process specified by the manufacturer or other recognized criteria, it is acceptable for use. Never use a harness that does not pass visual inspection. Some manufacturers do specify a service life, such as 5 years. If a service life is specified by the manufacturer, the date that the harness is put into service (i.e. first used) must be noted on the tag or inspection log. Follow the manufacturer's guidelines on inspection and removal from service once the service life has been reached.

Wearers should report any incident of falling in the harness to their supervisor. Harnesses that have received a fall force must not be reused unless it has been recertified by the manufacturer in writing. Harnesses that have received a fall force should be removed from service and tagged "Do Not Use." If it will not be sent to the manufacturer for recertification, render it unusable (i.e. cut a strap) and throw it in the trash. Harnesses should not be purchased second-hand because the history of the harness is unknown.

Connecting devices must be shock-absorbing in order to reduce fall forces below OSHA's maximum allowable fall force of 1,800 pounds.

There are two types of fall protection:

  • Type I fall protection can be used for fall protection as well as positioning. Most harnesses are designed to ANSI's maximum working weight of 310 pounds. If the working weight (man and tools) exceeds 310 pounds, a heavy-duty harness and connecting device must be used. Type I harnesses are available with various D-ring configurations. All harnesses must have a back D-ring for attaching the connecting device for fall arrest.
    • Shoulder D-rings are optional for confined space (vertical) retrieval.
    • Hip D-rings are optional for positioning where hands must be free to perform work.
    • Chest D-ring is optional for ladder climbing device connection.
  • Type II fall protection (ex. body belt) is for positioning only. Body belts are not permitted for fall arrest per OSHA as of January 1, 1998. Environmental Health & Safety recommends that body belts not be purchased or kept on-site to avoid misuse and confusion.

Harnesses may be sized for small to X-large body frames, or offer a universal fit, which can be adjusted for medium to X-large frames. Also, consider the work environment where the harness will be worn in order to select a harness that will provide the level of protection and service life desired. There are several models available to address work environment issues and/or industry hazards.

  • Concrete construction harness
  • Arc-flash utility harness
  • Heat- and abrasion-resistant harness
  • Grease/oil/dirt/grime-resistant harness
  • High-visibility harness
  • Lightweight harness (made of lightweight polyester for comfort)
  • Abrasion-resistant harness
  • Welding harness

Follow the manufacturers' recommendations for cleaning, inspection, and storage.

Hearing protection

Environmental Health & Safety has developed a Hearing Conservation Program to comply with OSHA regulations and to coordinate efforts to reduce occupational noise exposures and prevent occupational hearing loss. All employees with an 85 dBA Time Weighted Average (TWA) or higher must attend hearing conservation training annually at Environmental Health & Safety. Hearing protection devices must comply with ANSI standards.

Environmental Health & Safety must conduct noise measurements to determine if employees are being overexposed to noise and to identify the machine(s) or work process(s) that are contributing to the exposure. If a worker is exposed to an excessive amount of noise, measurements are needed to determine the proper hearing protection device (HPD) that should be used. Accurate exposure measurements are also needed so that affected employees can be included in the Hearing Conservation Program if they are exposed to excessive noise levels.

Note: Engineering and administrative controls are the most effective and preferred methods to prevent noise-induced hearing loss.

The employee's department shall pay for, and continue to provide, any required HPD to the employee at no cost to the employee.

To prevent noise-induced hearing loss, hearing protection devices must reduce noise exposure to time-weighted average (TWA) levels of 90 dBA or below, or to 85 dBA or below for those workers who have suffered a standard threshold shift (STS). HPDs reduce the amount of noise; however, they cannot eliminate all of the noise reaching the ear since noise can take many routes into the ear. The two most commonly used types of HPDs at Virginia Tech are:

  • Ear plugs, which are inserted into the ear canal to reduce the amount of noise that reaches the ear via that route. There are two types - disposable and reusable.
  • Ear muffs, which are worn over the ear to reduce the amount of noise.

Environmental Health & Safety will make recommendations for appropriate hearing protection devices (HPD) for individuals based on noise attenuation requirements and HPD fittings. If you are not already enrolled in the Hearing Conservation Program, contact Environmental Health & Safety at 540-231-3080 for more information. Those already enrolled in the program will be notified by Environmental Health & Safety to attend annual training and testing.

Follow manufacturer's recommendations for storage, use, and care.

Respiratory Protection

Environmental Health & Safety has developed a Respiratory Protection Program to comply with state and federal regulations and to coordinate efforts to reduce occupational respiratory exposures and prevent occupational illness. Respiratory protection is necessary whenever a hazardous concentration cannot be reduced below the Permissible Exposure Limits (PEL) established by OSHA. All respiratory protection devices used at Virginia Tech must be certified by NIOSH and shall only be used in accordance with the terms of that certification and their assigned protection factors. All mandatory respiratory protection users must be enrolled in the Occupational Health Assurance Program administered by Environmental Health & Safety.

Departments and organizational units are responsible for identifying respiratory hazards to employees and students. A Respiratory Hazard Evaluation (RHE) form is available from Environmental Health & Safety to assist with this process. Once completed, it should be submitted to Environmental Health & Safety for review. Departments must notify Environmental Health & Safety of new employees who are required to wear respiratory protection as part of specific job duties as outlined in the pertaining standard operating procedures and must consult with Environmental Health & Safety prior to instituting such a requirement. 

All employees with consistent occupational exposure to any of the following general hazards should have their supervisors submit the RHE form to Environmental Health & Safety.

  • Particulate contaminants (ex. stone dust, asbestos, lead dust, coal dust, fly ash, organic dust, etc.).
  • Gas and vapor contaminants (ex. solvents, lacquers, acids, epoxy resins, etc.).

Note: Any employee required to perform work in oxygen-deficient atmospheres (ex. oxygen less than 19.5% by volume) must contact Environmental Health & Safety for additional training.

Once a respiratory hazard has been identified, the department must determine appropriate engineering or administrative controls for this hazard. Engineering control is most often achieved by the use of fume hoods, local exhaust ventilation, or substitution of the chemical of concern. An example of administrative control is changing work practices to decrease potential exposure. Environmental Health & Safety will assist with identifying appropriate controls upon request and perform follow-up evaluations as needed. If personal monitoring is deemed necessary, Environmental Health & Safety will perform it free of charge to the departments. Supervisors and employees will be informed of the findings in a timely manner.

The need for use of respiratory protection is determined based on the RHE, personal sampling results (if available), anticipated contaminant levels during any given task/job duty, and medical provider recommendations, when available.

When respiratory protection use is mandatory, respirator users must be enrolled in the Occupational Health Assurance Program (OHAP) administered by Environmental Health & Safety. Enrolling in this program is necessary to determine if a person is physically fit to wear certain types of respiratory protection. Environmental Health & Safety will identify the respirator that has an appropriate fit for each user during the fit testing process. The respirators and associated supplies are provided free of charge to the employee and paid for by their respective departments.

When an employee chooses to wear respiratory protection for his/her personal comfort, even when not exposed to levels of respiratory hazards above any permissible limits, the use of such respirators is considered voluntary. Their departments may or may not choose to pay for voluntary-use respirators.

When an employee is enrolled in the Respiratory Protection Program or OHAP, s/he receives the following services:

  • Annual medical evaluation (pulmonary function test if deemed appropriate by Environmental Health & Safety, and Respirator Questionnaire),
  • Annual respiratory protection training,
  • Initial respirator selection and fit-testing (annual fit-testing thereafter).

There are two primary types of respiratory protective devices that may be used when engineering or administrative controls are not feasible, effective, or are in the process of being implemented.

Air-purifying Respirators

  • Remove particles and certain vapor and gas contaminants from the air prior to inhalation by a cartridge or canister, which is affixed to the respirator face piece.
  • Must not be used in oxygen-deficient atmospheres, or in atmospheres that are "immediately dangerous to life and health" (IDLH).
  • May be powered (PAPR) or non-powered (i.e. tight-fitting half and full face units).

Air-supplying Respirators

  • Supply breathing air to the face piece from a separate air source, such as a cylinder. 
  • May be used in oxygen-deficient and/or in highly toxic atmospheres,
  • Include self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) and supplied-air respirators (SAR). Specialized training is required prior to use.

Environmental Health & Safety makes recommendations for appropriate respiratory protection based on hazard evaluation, monitoring, anticipated levels of exposure and medical provider requests, if available. One or more types of respirators are usually acceptable for any given situation. Priority will be given to respirators that have a high user acceptance factor and accommodate proper use of any additional PPE that is required by a particular work environment.

  • Respirators for use in areas where biohazardous agents are used or stored must be selected based on a review of the biohazardous agent, workstation design, standard operating procedures, and protocols. The Environmental Health & Safety biosafety officer will determine appropriate biosafety levels for laboratories and will work with Environmental Health & Safety industrial hygienists to determine corresponding required personal protective equipment. 
  • Although exposure to airborne animal dusts is not currently regulated to protect workers from developing allergic problems, there is a large body of evidence indicating that animal handling can induce respiratory health problems, such as asthma, allergic reactions, or sensitizations. Enrollment in the Respiratory Protection Program is available for any employee who chooses to wear a tight-fitting respirator in order to perform animal care related job duties.
  • No Virginia Tech employee is permitted to enter a space that might present a situation that is "immediately dangerous to life and health" (IDLH) without a thorough evaluation and implementing appropriate precautions. Environmental Health & Safety must be notified immediately to determine appropriate controls, precautions, training, and equipment necessary for safe entry. If the space is a confined space, additional training is required from Environmental Health & Safety.
  • Emergency escape respirators may be kept in work areas identified as having the potential for dangerous leaks or spills. Environmental Health & Safety must be notified so that appropriate standard operating procedures, respirator inspection schedules, and emergency management planning can be developed in conjunction with the department.

Respirators must be used, maintained, and stored according to the manufacturer's recommendations and/or the Respiratory Protection Program requirements.

Frequently Asked Questions    

If the volunteer receives any type of compensation (money, food, lodging, transportation, etc.), they would be considered an employee, and should therefore be trained and protected as such; however, they are not covered by Worker's Compensation, should an injury occur.

If they do not receive any type of compensation, they are responsible (to some degree) for their own safety. Certainly, our goal is to see that no one be unnecessarily exposed to hazards on Virginia Tech properties or while performing tasks associated with Virginia Tech. It is always a good idea to evaluate the related hazards and take appropriate action to eliminate, reduce, or protect.

If you have additional concerns, you may contact Risk Management at 540-231-7439.

As long as you follow the requirements outlined in the program and practice reasonable care, you will not be held liable. The university, through the state self-insured program, maintains liability insurance to protect its employees provided the employee is acting within the course and scope of their employment. Defense, if needed would be provided through the University General Counsel. Students are required to have their own insurance (either on themselves or through their parents).

Yes. The form can be found on the Environmental Health & Safety website. The form can then be typed on, saved, and uploaded into the Safety Management System (SMS) under the Documents tab.

No. PPE supplied to employees must be funded internally by the department. Some PPE may be paid for by the employee, such as footwear and prescription eyewear. A guideline to help determine if the employee may have to pay for such PPE is (a) the PPE is a type that could be worn off the job site, (b) the PPE is not used at work in a manner that renders it unsafe for use off the job site (i.e. contaminated), and (c) the PPE is not designed for special use on the job. 

Yes. The target date for implementing the PPE program is 90 days from the date of PPE coordinator training. You are encouraged to complete the hazard assessment as soon after this class as possible while it is still fresh in your mind.

Is training mandatory? If so, when? Yes. General awareness training on the requirements of this program is available upon request.

Class length: 1 hour.

Available online: Yes.

When is refresher training required? Every 5 years

Please see the online class schedule for more information.

Is training mandatory? If so, when? Yes. Departments that use PPE (e.g., safety shoes, glasses, hardhats, gloves, respirators, hearing protection, electrical protective) outside of a chemical research laboratory must designate a PPE coordinator and implement a hazard evaluation program. In addition to PPE Awareness training, the coordinator must attend Hazard Assessment training as well.

Class length: 2 hours.

Available online: Yes, both classes are available online.

When is refresher training required? Every 5 years.

Please see the online class schedule for more information.

Anyone using dust masks must contact Environmental Health & Safety to receive additional information on the limitation of these masks and to complete a Respiratory Hazards Assessment Form. For additional information, please contact Kenny Osborne, 540-231-2509 or

Regardless of who owns the equipment or tools used by an employee while on the job, it must be in good condition and in proper working order. Good condition would also include any required safety features of the equipment/tool. Departments permitting employee-owned equipment/tools to be used while on the job are responsible for ensuring it is safe. If the person is injured while on the job because of defective, improper, or sub-standard equipment, it is still work-related. It is our goal, and everyone's obligation, to reduce hazardous conditions in the workplace.

Personal protective equipment (PPE) is used whenever engineering or administrative controls are not feasible or do not adequately protect workers from hazards. PPE includes safety glasses, chemical splash goggles, gloves, lab coats, hard hats, safety shoes, respirators, disposable or cloth overalls and other protective gear. Environmental Health & Safety assists departments in evaluating work tasks that require PPE, providing appropriate selection criteria, and offering training.

It is essential to choose PPE that is specific to the hazard and type of work to be performed. PPE must be compatible with chemical hazards, provide proper dexterity, limit eyesight interference, fit properly, and be comfortable (and stylish). If these factors are not considered, the likelihood of consistent PPE use is diminished.

Some types of PPE (i.e. respirators) require a medical exam and fit test prior to use. Please refer to the Respiratory Protection section for further information.

First, a university representative must evaluate the hazards in the workplace or of the work performed by an employee. Because worksite conditions are subject to change, the responsibility for performing the hazard assessment is being placed at the departmental level. Environmental Health & Safety will provide training for the designated departmental representative. Environmental Health & Safety will also provide technical assistance during the evaluation process as needed or required.

During the hazard assessment, the inspector must determine if the hazards can be eliminated or reduced by implementing engineering or administrative controls.

If the hazards can not be controlled, PPE must be selected appropriate for the hazard and the employee must be trained to use and care for this equipment properly.

The hazard assessment and employee training must be documented in writing.

There are many different degrees of laser hazards. High-powered lasers (class 3b and 4) pose a significant risk of injury. Laser pointers are of lower power, are classified for general use by the public and require no special PPE if used properly. In general, read and follow the manufacturer's instructions if you are unsure about the type(s) of PPE that may be needed for any type of equipment.

Electrical PPE is reviewed during Electrical Qualified Person training or you may contact Robin McCall-Miller at 540-231-2341 or for more information.

You may contact Robin McCall-Miller at 540-231-2341 or for more information.


Contact Information

Robin McCall-Miller, Occupational Safety Program Manager

Phone: 540-231-2341