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Personal Protective Equipment Standards

Quick Tips #240

The existing Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) personal protective equipment (PPE) standards are found in Subpart I of the general industry standards. These standards were adopted in 1971 from established Federal standards and national consensus standards. In 1994, OSHA revised the standards for:

A Look at the Updated Standards

Since 1994, several revisions have been made to the PPE standards. On September 9, 2009, OSHA issued an update to its PPE standards. The final rule went into effect in October and revised the PPE sections of OSHA’s general industry, shipyard employment, longshoring and marine terminals standards regarding requirements for eye and face protection (1910.133), head protection (1910.135) and foot protection (1910.136). The revision updated the references in these regulations to recognize the more recent editions of the applicable national consensus standards. It allows employers to use PPE constructed in accordance with any of three national consensus standards, the two most recent and the incorporated reference.

29 CFR 1910.133: Eye and Face Protection states: “The employer shall ensure that each affected employee uses appropriate eye or face protection when exposed to eye or face hazards from flying particles, molten metal, liquid chemicals, acids or caustic liquids, chemical gases or vapors, or potentially injurious light radiation.” Eye and face protection must comply with: ANSI/ISEA Z87.1-2010/2003/1998 American National Standard for Eye and Face Protection. (See Quick Tips #125: Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) Requirements: Eye and Face Protection. Also see Quick Tips #315: Safety Goggles: Types, Uses and Cleaning, and Quick Tips #373: Face Shield Protection.)

29 CFR 1910.135: Head Protection states: “The employer shall ensure that each affected employee wears a protective helmet when working in areas where there is a potential for injury to the head from falling objects. The employer shall ensure that a protective helmet designed to reduce electrical shock hazard is worn by each such affected employee when near exposed electrical conductors which could contact the head.” The performance criteria for head protection is provided in the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) Z89.1 American National Standard for Industrial Head Protection. This standard is incorporated in 29 CFR 1910.135 and by reference in 29 CFR 1910.6. The most recent revision was issued on May 15, 2014. (See Quick Tips #241: Hard Hat Requirements.)

29 CFR 1910.136: Occupational Foot Protection states: “The employer shall ensure that each affected employee uses protective footwear when working in areas where there is a danger of foot injuries due to falling or rolling objects, or objects piercing the sole, and where such employee's feet are exposed to electrical hazards.” Protective footwear must comply with ASTM F-2412: Standard Test Methods for Foot Protection and ASTM F-2413: Standard Specification for Performance Requirements for Protective Footwear. These standards were updated in 2011. (See Quick Tips #252: Protective Footwear Standards.)

29 CFR 1910.138: Hand Protection states: “Employers shall select and require employees to use appropriate hand protection when employees' hands are exposed to hazards such as those from skin absorption of harmful substances; severe cuts or lacerations; severe abrasions; punctures; chemical burns; thermal burns; and harmful temperature extremes.” Employers should select appropriate hand protection relative to the application, present conditions, duration of use and any identified or potential hazards. (See Quick Tips #191: Chemical Resistant Gloves Guide, Quick Tips #262: Electrical Safety Gloves: Inspection and Classification, Quick Tips #301: Cut-Resistant Glove Selection and Use and Quick Tips #306: Safety Glove Size Chart.)

29 CFR 1910.132: General Requirements includes information on hazard assessment, training, defective PPE and payment for PPE.

Hazard Assessment

Employers must assess their workplaces to determine if hazards are present, or are likely to be present, which require the use of PPE. A documented and certified walk-though survey (hazard assessment) of each work area must be done. The certification must show the date of assessment, area evaluated and the name of the person certifying the evaluation. The survey should consider the following potential exposures:

  • Impact
  • Penetration
  • Compression (roll-over)
  • Chemicals
  • Heat
  • Harmful dust
  • Light (optical) radiation

After the survey has been completed, the employer must select proper PPE to suit the hazards. Employees who purchase their own equipment must follow the same criteria the employer uses.


Employees must be trained in several aspects of PPE. These include, but are not limited to:

  • When they must wear PPE
  • What type of PPE is necessary
  • How to properly don, doff, adjust and wear PPE
  • Care, maintenance, useful life and disposal of PPE

To ensure each employee is properly trained, clear measurable objectives should be thought out. Since the regulation requires the employee to demonstrate an understanding of the above list, objectives should center on this criteria. For example, in reviewing limitations of gloves, the employee should know about permeation and breakthrough times of the chemicals they are working with. They should also know how to clean and inspect the gloves, and how to properly dispose of a glove that cannot be decontaminated.

The employer must verify that all the necessary training has been provided. A written certification showing the name of the employee and date of training is required. The document must be identified as a certificate of training. Retraining must be completed if there is a change in workplace conditions, a change in the PPE used or the employee demonstrates inadequacies in the skills required to use the PPE.

Defective PPE

The general requirements section indicates defective or damaged PPE must not be used. It covers all defects or damages—not just visible ones. Employees can determine if the protective ability of the PPE has been compromised by handling or donning the equipment.

Payment of PPE

While some OSHA standards specifically require the employer to pay for PPE, this standard was silent on the issue until 2008. This rule now outlines what is required of employers in regards to the payment of the PPE and also provides clarification on:

  • Replacement of PPE
  • Employee-owned PPE
  • Upgrading PPE
Commonly Asked Questions
Q. Are employers required to select PPE that meets voluntary consensus standards such as ANSI and ASTM standards?
A: No, but the employer must demonstrate that the PPE meets the performance requirements of the applicable voluntary consensus standard such as ANSI or ASTM.
Q. When is a reassessment of workplace hazards needed?
A: Work areas must undergo a hazard assessment anytime there is a process change, new equipment is introduced, an upward trend in accident statistics that indicate a problem area is noted, or when reviewing the appropriateness of the previously selected PPE.
Q. If an employee is allowed to use their own PPE, who is responsible for maintaining and sanitizing the PPE?
A: The employer is still required to ensure that the PPE is appropriate for the task, including proper maintenance and sanitation of the employee purchased PPE.

OSHA 29 CFR Part 1910 Subpart I

(Rev. 6/2015)

Find even more information you can use to help make informed decisions about the regulatory issues you face in your workplace every day. View all Quick Tips Technical Resources at

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Please Note:
The information contained in this publication is intended for general information purposes only and is based on information available as of the initial date of publication. No representation is made that the information or references are complete or remain current. This publication is not a substitute for review of the current applicable government regulations and standards specific to your location and business activity, and should not be construed as legal advice or opinion. Readers with specific questions should refer to the applicable standards or consult with an attorney.

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