Safety Thoughts – Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

Safety Thoughts – Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

Personal Protective Equipment, or “PPE” is often considered as our first protection from workplace hazards. THIS IS WRONG – PPE is our LAST line of defence against hazards and to stay safe it is important to remember this.

When designing safe systems of work a “Hierarchy of Controls” is followed:


This means physically removing the hazard. For example, if employees must work high above the ground, the hazard can be eliminated
by moving the piece they are working on to ground level to eliminate the need to work at heights. This is the most effective way of keeping safe.


This means replacing the hazard with something that is does not produce a hazard, or is significantly less hazardous. As an example, if there is a hazard from flammable paints in the paint store and we switch to using non-flammable paint then
the hazard is reduced.


This often involves placing a physical barrier between the worker and the hazard, such as placing a guard on a machine, or it may take the form of improving ventilation to make safe a potentially hazardous atmosphere. A safety valve is another example of an Engineering Control.


These controls aim to keep workers safe by altering their behavior and ensuring risks are understood, work is planned and precautions are taken. Safety signs, planning work to minimize exposure time to hazards, and the use of a Permit to Work system are some good examples of Administrative Controls.


The purpose of PPE is to reduce an individual’s exposure to hazards when Elimination, Substitution, Engineering Controls and Administrative Controls cannot reduce risks to an acceptable level. This means that PE is the last line of defence between you and the hazard.


To find out which PPE you need for a task, Uniteam Marine employees should consult the “PPE Quick Guide” in the Company’s Safety management System. Once the appropriate PPE for the task has been selected, it is very important that the user understands how to use the PPE correctly, and the capabilities and limitations of individual equipment. It should be noted that the use of PPE may in in itself cause a hazard, e.g. through reduced field of vision, loss of dexterity or agility etc.

Defective or ineffective protective equipment provides no protection. It is therefore essential that the correct items of equipment are selected and that they are properly maintained at all times. The manufacturer’s instructions should be kept safe with the equipment and referred to before use and when maintenance is carried out. Personal protective equipment should be kept clean and stored correctly to avoid damage or contamination.

PPE may be classified as follows:

Head protection Safety helmets, bump caps, hair protection
Hearing protection Ear muffs, ear plugs
Face and eye protection Goggles and spectacles, face shields
Respiratory protection Dust masks, respirators, breathing apparatus
Hand and foot protection Gloves, safety boots and shoes
Body protection Safety suits, safety belts, harnesses, aprons, “high vis” clothing
Protection against drowning Lifejackets, buoyancy aids and lifebuoys
Protection against hypothermia Immersion suits and anti-exposure suits



The following guidelines will help you to use PPE safely:

  • Think before you act – can the hazard be Eliminated, Substituted or adequately reduced by Engineering or Administrative Controls?
  • Select the appropriate PPE for the task – consult the PPE Quick Guide
  • Check your PPE – is it in good condition?
  • Do you know how to use the PPE correctly? If not, seek advice.
  • Do you know what protection your PPE will, and will not, give you?
  • Never stamp down the backs of your safety shoes and always untie the laces every time you take the shoes off, and re-tie them when you put the shoes on – this will ensure the shoes do not become loose and allow your foot to slip
  • Keep the soles of your safety shoes free from grease and oil, this will ensure they always have a good grip
  • Always wear socks with safety shoes, this helps to support your feet and keeps your shoes fresh
  • Safety shoes only keep you safe if you wear them safely
  • Always wear safety goggles if there is any chance of dust, particles, paint, oil, chemicals, wood or metal shavings, or liquids or gases under pressure hitting your eyes
  • Make sure goggles fit firmly and ensure they are kept clean inside
  • Make sure that safety helmets are correctly adjusted, the shell of the helmet should not touch the wearer’s head
  • Always wear a chin strap with a safety helmet
  • Remember, a dust mask or respirator provides no protection against an oxygen deficient atmosphere