Important factors when using PPE

Certificate IV in Occupational Health and SafetyWorkers should be adequately trained in safe work practices including the correct use, handling, care, storage and maintenance of PPE.  A certificate IV in OHS is an excellent way of learning safe work methods.

PPE is personal!

PPE means precisely what it says, ‘personal’ protective equipment or clothing which is intended for an individual’s use.

PPE should be issued on a personal basis. In most cases, the individual can then be primarily responsible for the day to day use, handling, storage, care and maintenance.

Multiple PPE use

In some workplaces, multiple-use of certain types of PPE is necessary. Apart from ensuring that multiple-use PPE is correctly used, handled, stored, cared for and maintained, appropriate procedures on suitable cleaning and sterilisation must be provided. These procedures must be observed at all times.


PPE must be properly fitted to ensure reliable protection. Individual characteristics of the wearer need to be considered due to the relatively limited styles and sizes being available for some PPE.

Facial hair can impact on the effectiveness of respirators. The PCBU should have a policy in place if PPE, such as respiratory protection, is required to be worn in the workplace for any reason. Facial hair can affect the fit of respiratory equipment and impact on its effectiveness. Advice should be sought from the PPE manufacturer or supplier if a respirator is to be worn by person with facial hair.

Wearing of glasses can impact on the effectiveness of items like respirators, hearing protection and helmets (e.g. welding or abrasive blasting). Again, advice should be sought from the PPE manufacturer or supplier as to the suitability of the equipment when used in conjunction with other equipment, to ensure that protection is not reduced.


Comfort of personal protective equipment is an important factor in ensuring its use. It is preferable that a choice of styles and designs of PPE is given to ensure maximum comfort for the wearer (e.g. for safety footwear, glasses, hearing protection and clothing). If the PPE is comfortable, this will improve the likelihood of correct use and the amount of time the PPE is worn.

The climate or environment will also impact on the selection of PPE. In some instances, it may be pertinent to provide a range of PPE which suits the environment. For example, when working in a hot, humid or confined space, ear plugs (if effective) may be found to be more suitable than ear muffs which can restrict the air flow around the ear.


PPE should be stored in its original packaging prior to use. This will assist in establishing that the items are fit for their intended task. For example, cellophane wrapping or similar on-filter cartridges should be left intact to ensure that the filters will be not be activated unnecessarily or contaminated prior to distribution at the workplace. This will also ensure an economical in service life span.

Atmospheric contaminants such as dust or organic vapours may considerably reduce the life span of some items.

All too frequently, PPE is observed inappropriately stored in workplaces. Typically, in the spray painting industry, it is common to find PPE stored where it is taken off and placed on the nearest horizontal surface. Instead, the PPE should be checked and cleaned at the end of a job, and where necessary consumables are replaced as required.

It is not satisfactory to leave the PPE in the work area where it is exposed to workplace contaminants such as dust, solvents, insects, rodents and other undesirable elements. If PPE is not stored correctly, it can also be contaminated by contact with cockroaches, flies or other vermin.

If practicable, PPE should be stored conveniently at the work area where it is to be used; however, it should not be contaminated or otherwise adversely affected by the workplace environment.

PPE, when not in use, should be stored in accordance with the manufacturer’s recommendations. Some manufacturers of respirators provide sealed storage cases for this purpose. If such storage methods are not provided, then appropriate alternative methods can be economically devised (e.g. empty 4-litre ice cream containers or other resealable plastic containers) to ensure that PPE is stored in hygienic conditions prior to its next use.

Learn more about the use of PPE during your Certificate IV in OHS.