Safety Services


Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

PPE is equipment that protects the wearer against health or safety risks at work. This page provides guidance on the selection and use of PPE at UCL.

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What is Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

Workers in a laboratory wearing personal protective equipment (PPE)
PPE is equipment that protects the wearer against health or safety risks at work. 

Common types of PPE:

Risk assessment 

To make the workplace as safe as reasonably possible, a risk assessment is undertaken of the work environment and activities that take place within it.

Control measures are identified and put in place to prevent injury or ill health. PPE is the last of the risk control measures in the hierarchy of risk controls and must always be used with other control measures.

PPE must be worn correctly and fitted properly:

  • PPE only protects the wearer, it does not protect others who are not wearing PPE.
  • If used incorrectly, or if the wrong type of PPE is chosen, it may not provide the protection required.
  • PPE often 'fails to danger' - if your PPE fails you may be directly exposed to a hazard e.g. if your gloves rip chemicals could directly contact your skin.

PPE is a useful risk control measure and can reduce the risk of injury or ill health. Even when more effective risk control measures such as engineering controls (e.g. local exhaust ventilation) and safe systems of work (e.g. safe working practices) have been applied, some hazards may remain. These could include injury to:

  • Lungs e.g. from breathing in contaminated air.
  • Head and feet e.g. from falling materials.
  • Eyes e.g. from flying particles or splashes of corrosive liquids.
  • Skin e.g. from contact with corrosive materials.
  • Body e.g. from extremes of heat or cold.

Selection and use

To make sure the right type of PPE is chosen, the risk assessment should consider the different hazards in the workplace and identify the PPE that will provide adequate protection against them. 

Consider the following when assessing suitability

  • Do you know the parts of the body that may be affected and the consequences?
  • Does the PPE protect the wearer from the risks and take account of the environmental conditions where the task is taking place? e.g. eye protection designed to protect against chemical splash may not be suitable when cutting steel or stone.
  • Does using PPE increase the overall level of risk or add new risks? e.g. by making communication more difficult.
  • Can it be adjusted to fit the wearer correctly?
  • Do you know the state of the health of the individuals who will be wearing it? e.g. will this negatively impact their safety, health or wellbeing?
  • What are the needs of the job and the demands it places on the wearer? e.g. the length of time the PPE needs to be worn, the physical effort required to do the job or the requirements for visibility and communication.
  • If someone wears more than one item of PPE, are they compatible? e.g. does using a respirator make it difficult to fit eye protection properly?

When selecting PPE

  • Choose products which are CE marked – suppliers can advise you.
  • Choose equipment that suits the user – consider the size, fit and weight of the PPE. If the users help choose it, they will be more likely to use it.
  • You may need to consider the health of the wearer e.g. if equipment is very heavy, or wearers have pre-existing health issues, standard PPE may not be suitable.
  • If more than one item of PPE is worn at the same time, make sure they can be used together. 

When using PPE

  • Instruct and train people how to use it e.g. train wearers to remove gloves without contaminating their skin.
  • Tell wearers why it is needed, when to use it and what its limitations are.
  • Never allow exemptions for those jobs that ‘only take a few minutes’.
  • If something changes on the job, check the PPE is still appropriate – refer to the manufacturers instructions.
  • If in doubt, seek further advice from safety@ucl.ac.uk.
Types of PPE
Body part requiring protectionHazardsTypes
Eyes and faceChemical splash
Dust mist, fumes
Radiation (e.g. UV, lasers
Gas and vapour
Metal swarf

Safety glasses / over-glasses
Safety goggles for use in wet labs (chemical and biological splashes) *
Face shields and visors
Welding masks

* Bolle BLAST safety goggles available on UCL eMarketplace

HeadBump hazards e.g. low pipework / ceilings 
Impact from falling or flying objects 
Hair entanglement  
Hard hats
Bump caps
HearingNoisy equipment, instuments or tools
Waste handling
Constuction or demolition 
Forging or stamping
Breathing (respiratory system)Dust 
Mist / fumes

Disposable filtering face-mask or respirator
Half or full-face respirators
Air fed helmets

See: Face fit testing

Hands and armsChemicals
Cuts and punctures
Skin infection or disease
Temperature extremes
Abrasion or mechanical impact
Feet and legsChemical splash 
Cuts and punctures 
Wet conditions - slipping 
Falling objects 
Electrostatic build-up 
Metal swarf / projectiles
Safety boots or shoes with protective toe caps and penetration-resistant mid-soles

Maintenance and storage

PPE must be properly looked after and stored when not in use.

  • Store PPE appropriately when it is not being used to protect it from damage or contamination e.g. in a dry, clean cupboard or for smaller items in a box or case.
  • Keep PPE clean and in good repair – follow the manufacturers' maintenance schedule (including recommended replacement periods and shelf lives).
  • Simple maintenance can be carried out by the trained wearer, but more intricate repairs should only be done by specialists.
  • Use the right replacement parts which match the original e.g. respirator filters.
  • Identify who is responsible for maintenance and how to do it.
  • Ensure employees make proper use of PPE and report its loss or destruction or any fault in it.
  • Ensure suitable replacement PPE is always readily available. It may be useful to have a supply of disposable PPE e.g. for visitors who need protective clothing.


  • Managers, Supervisors and Principle Investigators (PI's) should check regularly that PPE is used. If it isn’t, find out why not.
  • If there are any significant changes to the work environment or activities then the PPE provided should be reviewed and changed if necessary e.g. using a different chemical or new machinery.
  • A record of PPE that has been issued to employees should be established and retained.
  • A record of maintenance, cleaning and disinfection should be retained for reusable and shared PPE.
  • Areas where PPE is mandatory should be made clear with health and safety signs and its use enforced.

Last updated: Tuesday, October 6, 2020