EHSO Guide to Assessing the Need
for Personal Protective Equipment:
A Guide for Small Business Employers

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You must consider many factors when selecting PPE to protect your employees from workplace hazards. With all of the types of operations that can present hazards and all of the types of PPE available to protect the different parts of a worker's body from specific types of hazards, this selection process can be confusing and at times overwhelming. Because of this, OSHA requires that you implement a PPE program to help you systematically assess the hazards in the workplace and select the appropriate PPE that will protect your workers from those hazards. As part of this PPE program, you must do the following:

  bulletAssess the workplace to identify equipment, operations, chemicals, and other workplace components that could harm your employees.


bulletImplement engineering controls and work practices to control or eliminate these hazards to the extent feasible.


bulletSelect the appropriate types of PPE to protect your employees from hazards that cannot be eliminated or controlled through engineering controls and work practices.


bulletInform your employees why the PPE is necessary and when it must be worn.


bulletTrain your employees how to use and care for the selected PPE and how to recognize PPE deterioration and failure.


bulletRequire your employees to wear the selected PPE in the workplace.

The basic information presented here attempts to establish and illustrate a logical, structured approach to hazard assessment and PPE selection and application for you to use as a starting point for your PPE program.

Other Sources of OSHA Assistance

Safety and Health Program Management Guidelines

Effective management of worker safety and health protection is a decisive factor in reducing the extent and severity of work-related injuries and illnesses and their related costs. To assist employers and employees in developing effective safety and health programs, OSHA published recommended Safety and Health Program Management Guidelines (Federal Register 54 (18): 3908-3916, January 26, 1989). These voluntary guidelines apply to all places of employment covered by OSHA.

The guidelines identify four elements that are critical to the development of a successful safety and health management program:

  bulletManagement commitment and employee involvement


bulletWorksite analysis


bulletHazard prevention and control


bulletSafety and health training.

The guidelines recommend specific actions under each of these general elements to achieve an effective safety and health program. A single free copy of the guidelines can be obtained from the U.S. Department of Labor, OSHA/OSHA Publications, P.O. Box 37535, Washington, DC 20013-7535, by sending a self-addressed mailing label with your request. See also Federal Register notices on EHSO's Web site.

State Programs

The Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 encourages states to develop and operate their own job safety and health plans. States with plans approved under section 18(b) of the Act must adopt standards and enforce requirements that are at least as effective as federal requirements. There are currently 25 state-plan states: 23 of these states administer plans covering both private and public (state and local government) employees; the other two states, Connecticut and New York, cover public employees only. Plan states must adopt standards comparable to Federal requirements within 6 months of a Federal standard's promulgation. Until a state standard is promulgated, Federal OSHA provides interim enforcement assistance, as appropriate, in these states. A listing of approved state plans appears at the end of this publication.

Free On-Site Consultation

Free on-site safety and health consultation services are available in all states to employers who want help in establishing and maintaining a safe and healthful workplace. Primarily developed for smaller employers with more hazardous operations, the OSHA Consultation Service is largely funded by OSHA and is delivered by state governments employing professional safety consultants and health consultants. The full service assistance that is offered includes an appraisal of all mechanical systems, physical work practices, occupational safety and health hazards of the workplace, and all aspects of the employer's present job safety and health program. In addition, the service offers assistance to employers in developing and implementing an effective workplace safety and health program that corrects and continuously addresses safety and health concerns.

This program is completely separate from OSHA's inspection efforts. No penalties are proposed or citations issued for any safety or health problems identified by the consultant. The service is confidential. The employer's name, the firm's name, and any information about the workplace, plus any unsafe or unhealthful working conditions that the consultant uncovers will not be reported routinely to the OSHA inspection staff.

The only obligation is the employer's commitment to correct serious job safety and health hazards in a timely manner. The employer is asked to make this commitment prior to the actual visit.

For more information concerning consultation services, see the list of state consultation projects at the end of this publication.

Voluntary Protection Programs (VPP)

The Voluntary Protection Programs are designed to recognize and promote effective safety and health program management. In the VPP, management, labor, and OSHA establish cooperative relationships at workplaces that have implemented strong programs.

Sites approved for VPP's Star, Merit, and Demonstration programs have met, and must continue to meet, rigorous participation standards. Benefits of VPP participation include improved employee motivation to work safely, leading to better quality and productivity; lost-workday case rates that generally are 60-80 percent below industry averages; reduced workers' compensation and other injury- and illness-related cost; positive community recognition and interaction; further improvement and revitalization of already good safety and health programs; and partnership with OSHA.

A valuable offshoot of the Voluntary Protection Programs is the Mentoring Program operated by the VPP Participants' Association, a private, nonprofit organization that supports the VPP's goals. Worksites that have qualified for participation in the VPP share their experience and expertise with sites that have requested help in developing and implementing effective worker safety and health programs. Information on mentoring can be obtained from the VPP Participants' Association, 7600-E Leesburg Pike, Suite 440, Falls Church, VA 22043, telephone (703) 761-1148.

Voluntary Protection Programs and on-site consultation services, when coupled with an effective enforcement program, expand worker protection to help meet the goals of the OSH Act.

For additional information about the VPP, contact the VPP Manager in your OSHA Regional Office, listed at the end of this publication.

Training and Education

OSHA's area offices offer a variety of information services such as publications, audiovisual aids, technical advice, and speakers for special engagements. OSHA's Training Institute in Des Plaines, IL, provides basic and advanced courses in safety and health for federal and state compliance officers, state consultants, federal agency personnel, and private-sector employers, employees, and their representatives.

The OSHA Training Institute also has established OSHA Training Institute Education Centers to address the increased demand for its courses from the private sector and from other Federal agencies. These centers are nonprofit colleges, universities, and other organizations that have been selected after a competition for participation in the program. They are located in various parts of the United States.

OSHA also provides grants to nonprofit organizations for workplace training and education in subjects where OSHA believes there is a lack of workplace training. Grants are awarded annually, and grant recipients are expected to contribute 20 percent of the total grant cost.

For more information on grants, training, and education, contact the OSHA Training Institute, Office of Training and Education, 1555 Times Drive, Des Plaines, IL 60018, telephone (847) 297-4810.

For further information on any OSHA program, contact your nearest OSHA area or regional office. A list of these offices is at the end of this publication.


For life-threatening situations, call (800) 321-OSHA. Complaints will go immediately to the nearest OSHA area or state office for help.

For further information on any OSHA program, contact your nearest OSHA area or regional office.


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This page was updated on 30-Mar-2016