Does Wearing PPE Make You Safe?

You’re safety conscious, right? You take pride in following all the safety rules! You always wear every piece of required PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) for your site. No chance you will be injured on the job, right? WRONG!


PPE can give you a false sense of security

PPE is a basic component of the safety world. There is PPE for every conceivable danger out there - hard hats to steel toe boots to protect us from head to toe...and everything in between. Too often though, the mere fact that we’re required to wear PPE gives us a false sense of security. You visit a site that requires you to wear every possible piece of PPE known to man, hard hat, safety glasses, ear plugs, respirator, high-vis vest, flame retardant clothing, and steel toe shoes. And you think “wow this place must be really safe!” I offer to you that in fact the opposite may be closer to the truth. If we consider the Hierarchy of Controls, we quickly see that PPE is at the bottom of the inverted pyramid. Meaning that all the other options should be exhausted before PPE is implemented. PPE is the last choice.

1. Elimination

Eliminate the hazard sounds like a great idea. It is but that option is not often considered. Which is disappointing because often times, eliminating a hazard is a very realistic option.

2. Substitution

Similar to elimination, substitute a less hazardous ________ (chemical, task, operation) for the hazardous one.

3. Engineering Controls

Guarding, interlocks, two-hand operation. Devices that remove employees or their body parts from the dangers of the operation.

4. Administrative Controls

Procedures, job rotation, cross training. Defining the safe way to do a particular task or time limits on how long employees can be exposed to a particular hazard.

5. Finally….PPE

If the hazards cannot be controlled with any of the other methods then PPE is employed to “protect” our people. The hazards are still there!

Hierarchy of Controls



Employers who use the Hierarchy of Controls to address hazards often times will eliminate or reduce the need for certain PPE because the hazards affecting employees (or visitors) are gone or no longer a threat. So the next time you are required to wear all PPE known to man, beware. Look around and see where the Hierarchy of Controls could be employed to reduce or eliminate hazards in the work place.

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