top of page

What steps are involved in the selection of PPE?

Updated: Jan 18, 2022

Once the need for PPE has been established, the next task is to select the proper type. Two criteria need to be determined:

  • the degree of protection required, and

  • the appropriateness of the equipment to the situation (including the practicality of the equipment being used and kept in good repair).

The degree of protection and the design of PPE must be integrated because both affect its overall efficiency, wearability, and acceptance.

The following are guidelines for selection:

a) Match PPE to the hazard

There are no shortcuts to PPE selection. Choose the right PPE to match the hazard. On some jobs, the same task is performed throughout the entire job cycle, so it is easy to select proper PPE. In other instances, workers may be exposed to two or more different hazards. A welder may require protection against welding gases, harmful light rays, molten metal and flying chips. In such instances, multiple protection is needed: a welding helmet, welders goggles and the appropriate respirator, or an air-supplied welding hood.

b) Obtain advice

Make decisions based on thorough risk assessment, worker acceptance, and types of PPE available. Once you have determined your PPE needs, do research and shop around. Discuss your needs with trained sales representatives and ask for their recommendations. Always ask for alternatives and check into product claims and test data. Try out PPE and test it to see that the equipment meets all of your criteria before it is approved.

c) Involve workers in evaluations

It is extremely important to have the individual worker involved in the selection of specific models. This assistance in selection can be achieved by introducing approved models into the workplace for trials in which workers have the opportunity to evaluate various models. In this way, much information regarding fit, comfort, and worker acceptability will be gained. When choosing PPE, workers should select among two or three models, allowing for personal preferences. PPE should be individually assigned.

d) Consider physical comfort of PPE (ergonomics)

If a PPE device is unnecessarily heavy or poorly fitted it is unlikely that it will be worn. Note also that if a PPE device is unattractive or uncomfortable, or there is no ability for workers to choose among models, compliance is likely to be poor. When several forms of PPE are worn together, interactions must be kept in mind (e.g., will wearing eye wear interfere with the seal provided by ear muffs?). Use every opportunity to provide flexibility in the choice of PPE as long as it meets required legislation and standards.

e) Evaluate cost considerations

The cost of PPE is often a concern. Some programs use disposable respirators because they appear to be inexpensive. However when the use is evaluated over time, it is possible that a dual cartridge respirator would be more economical. Engineering controls might prove an even more cost effective solution in the long term and should be considered before PPE.

f) Review standards

Performance requirements of all standards must be reviewed to ensure that exposure to injury will be minimized or eliminated by using PPE. If PPE is exposed to hazards greater than those for which it is designed, it will not deliver adequate protection.

g) Check the fit

When the selection has been made, the “fitting” component should be put in place. The key is to fit each worker with PPE on an individual basis. At the time of fitting, show each worker how to wear and maintain PPE properly.

In some cases, individual fitting programs should be carried out by qualified personnel. For example, for eye protection this qualified person could be an optometrist, an optician, a manufacturers' representative or a specially trained staff member, such as a nurse. Eye wear should cover from the eyebrow to the cheekbone, and across from the nose to the boney area on the outside of the face and eyes. When eye wear/glasses sit halfway down the nose, protection from the hazard of flying particles is reduced, sometimes to the point where no protection is given. The calculated degree of protection will not be achieved in practice unless the PPE is worn properly at all times when the worker is at risk.

h) Perform regular maintenance and inspections

Without proper maintenance, the effectiveness of PPE cannot be assured. Maintenance should include inspection, care, cleaning, repair, and proper storage. Probably the most important part of maintenance is the need for continuing inspection of the PPE. If carefully performed, inspections will identify damaged or malfunctioning PPE before it is used. PPE that is not performing up to manufacturers specifications, such as eye wear with scratched lenses that have lost their ability to withstand impact should be discarded. Procedures should be set up to allow workers to get new PPE or replacement parts for damaged PPE, and help them to keep the PPE clean. For example, respiratory protection devices require a program of repair, cleaning, storage and periodic testing. Wearing poorly maintained or malfunctioning PPE could be more dangerous than not wearing any form of protection at all. The workers have a false sense of security and think they are protected when, in reality, they are not.

i) Conduct education and training

No program can be complete without education and training to make sure PPE is used effectively. Education and training should cover why it is important, how to fit and wear PPE, how to adjust it for maximum protection, and how to care for it.

Emphasize the major goals of the program and reinforce the fact that engineering controls have been considered as the primary prevention strategy. It is not good enough to tell someone to wear a respirator just because management and/or legislation requires it. If the respirator is intended to prevent lung disorders, the workers must be informed of the hazards.

Workers and their supervisors will require education and training in when, where, why, and how to use the equipment to achieve the necessary level of protection. Include workers who are exposed on a regular basis as well as others who might be exposed on an occasional basis, for example, in emergencies or when temporary work is performed in dangerous areas.

j) Get support from all departments

Once the program is under way there will be a continuing need for involvement from management, safety and medical personnel, supervisors, the health and safety committee, individual workers, and even the suppliers of the chosen PPE. Education and training programs should continue on a regular basis.

k) Audit the program

As with any program or procedure implemented in an organization, the effectiveness of the PPE program should be monitored by inspection of the equipment and auditing of procedures.

Annual audits are common but it may be advisable to review critical areas more frequently. It would be useful to compare the safety performance to data before the program began. This comparison would help determine the success or failure of a program.


If you need Personal protective equipment (PPE) for the health workforce during COVID-19 please visit: MW Medical virtual shop

Source: Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety.

4 views0 comments
bottom of page