Employers have duties of care regarding the provision and use of personal protective equipment (PPE) at work. PPE is equipment that will protect users against safety risks in and around the vicinity of a given workplace. It is often a legal requirement to wear PPE when dealing with hazardous situations. As such, this article will highlight the common and uncommon types of PPE clothing

Common Types of PPE: 

Hard Hat  

To start our list of common types of PPE clothing we have the standard and historic hard hat. The main purpose of hard hats is to protect your head, neck and eyes against falling objects, sudden impacts and electrical exposures. Nowadays, it is a legal requirement to wear a hard hat as set by the HSE. The law states that employers must provide workers/visitors with hard hats when walking in the vicinity of any place which may be deemed dangerous.

There are three industrial classes of hard hats:

  • Class A: Provides impact and penetration resistance and some protection from electrical hazards.
  • Class B: Class B hard hats provide the highest level of protection against electrical hazards, including high-voltage shock and burn protection while also providing impact and penetration resistance. 
  • Class C: Provides some impact protection but no protection from electrical hazards.

Safety Goggles 

Next on our list of common types of PPE clothing we have the safety goggles. Safety goggles are incorporated with PPE practices as they protect your eyes from flying debris, dust and hazardous liquids that could damage your vision. According to Manchester NHS foundation trust:

  • 90% of all eye injuries could have been prevented
  • Three out of every five workers injured were not wearing eye protection at the time of the accident
  • Surveys show that 94% of eye injuries occur from objects or chemicals going around or under the eye protection

For these reasons alone, safety goggles should be incorporated at all times and should never be neglected.

High Visibility Jackets  

High visibility jackets (or Hi-Vis for short) are worn around places such as warehouses to increase a person’s visibility and therefore prevent accidents caused by employees not being seen. By workers wearing a Hi-Vis jacket, vehicle/machine operators will be able to see their fellow workers so that catastrophic accidents are minimised.

The way Hi-Vis jackets function is by the sun’s UV rays reacting with the fluorescent colours to make them glow during day time hours. At night, light from sources such as car headlights or warehouse lighting bounce off the reflective areas to make the tape glow which results in greater visibility of the person wearing the Hi-Vis jacket. 


Earmuffs help protect workers’ hearing in loud workplaces. When operating heavy and industrial vehicles, they can be prone to creating loud noises. For this reason, employers enforce vehicle drivers to wear earmuffs to maximise safety procedures and to make sure their workers are not distracted or potentially harmed by loud noises when they are operating.

Face masks

Disposable face masks have become increasingly popular in today’s COVID-19 climate. face masks are made with non-woven fabric, which has been shown to have better bacteria filtration and airflow than woven cloth. As such, they have been literal life savers when trying to keep infectious diseases to a minimum. They come in a number of variations and during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, employers and the national government made it compulsory for employees to work with face masks to protect themselves and the public from the virus.

Uncommon Types of PPE: 

Now that we have listed the common types of PPE, it is time to highlight the not so common methods of personal protective equipment which can be listed below: 

Foot / Shin Guards 

Foot/shin guards are an uncommon method of PPE and are specific to places that deal with heavy object lifting or high risks of fallen objects. They help protect workers from a range of workplace hazards including falls, sharp objects, slippery and hot surfaces and electrical exposure. The guards can range from metatarsal protection which covers the front part of your feet (beneath the base of your toes), toe guards which clearly covers your toes, and shin guards which protect your lower legs and feet from harm.  

Face Shields

Face shields are the alternative to face masks. Face shields consist of a visor, a lightweight plastic or metal frame, and a suspension system that attaches the shield to the head of the wearer – providing full face protection. This type of PPE is typically worn on top of masks or goggles to prevent the inhalation of toxic substances. Not to mention, this method of PPE can be comfortable on the user’s head due to the lightweight frame and can easily be lifted if users need to communicate with others more clearly. 

Proximity Sensors

Proximity sensors are a new uncommon addition to the list of PPE methods, with their development derived by the COVID-19 pandemic. The device is typically used to indicate the proximity of a user to a hazardous object nearby but more recently, it has been updated to help manufacturing employees adhere to the six-foot/two-meter separation guidelines.