Personal protective equipment (PPE) is often referred to as the least desirable way to protect workers from hazard. It is the "last line of defense" against harmful substances or sources of energy, to be used only when other controls have failed to eliminate or isolate the hazard.

But to a worker in a hazardous environment, PPE is not a last resort. It's a suit or a helmet, a respirator or hearing protector that serves as a barrier to falling and flying objects, chemicals and vapors, noise, electricity or heat. It is the second skin that keeps the worker healthy, safe and alive. It is the only thing that makes it possible to work in many environments and the best option for working in many others. Far from being the "third line of defense," it is the "first line of protection."

Personal protective and safety equipment is technically sophisticated, designed, built and tested to exacting standards of performance. The equipment must be properly selected and fitted, and workers must be properly trained in its use, application and maintenance. Its selection demands professional skill, knowledge of the workplace and understanding of the potential hazards.

In fact, there is no replacement for PPE in many situations. And in many others, it is the logical first choice, or an affordable alternative to costly engineering and administrative controls. Because few, if any, workplaces can be cleared of all hazards, PPE is an essential component of any occupational safety and health program.

The use of quality, properly-selected PPE by workers trained in proper fit and use in tandem with other control methods is a time-proven, cost-effective method of protecting workers from hazards in the workplace. ISEA is dedicated to educating workers, supervisors, regulators and others about the benefits of personal protective equipment.

Personal protective equipment should be considered an integral part of worker protection, not an option of last resort.

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