Skip to main content
Skip global navigation and go to main content

General Questions

OSHA’s PPE standard can be found at 29 CFR 1910.132 for General Industry, and 29 CFR 1926.28 for Construction.

In general, OSHA requires PPE to be worn in all operations where there is, or likely to be, exposure to hazardous conditions in the workplace. Employers should evaluate PPE requirements only after applying engineering and work practice controls to reduce or eliminate hazards.

OSHA says that employers are responsible for paying for PPE where it is used to comply with the Agency’s standards. In general, OSHA requires employers to pay for hard hats, gloves, goggles, safety shoes (non-specialty), safety glasses, welding helmets and goggles, face shields, chemical protective equipment and fall protection equipment. There are a few exceptions that can be found at OSHA’s 1910.132(h).

OSHA requires that PPE be replaced whenever the equipment can no longer protect employees from hazards present in the workplace or when the equipment is damaged.

A hazard assessment determines hazards present in the workplace and must be conducted to help employers decide what PPE to provide employees. Every employer must verify that a workplace hazard assessment has been performed through a written certification under 29 CFR 1910.132(d)(2).

Safety Vests & Apparel

There are three common types of ANSI-certified safety vests:

  • Class 1 – Used commonly in areas where employee safety risk is low. For example, these types of vests are used in areas where traffic is low-speed and infrequent.
  • Class 2 – Used commonly in areas where employee safety risk is high. These types of safety vests are larger and usually colored yellow and orange, and contain at least 201 square inches of high-visibility reflective material.
  • Class 3 – Used commonly in areas where visibility is at an all-time low and traffic speeds exceed 50mph. These types of vests must contain at least 310 square inches of high-visibility reflective material.

What class safety vest employees will need depends on the work they do. For example, the most common type of safety vest used in General Industry and Construction sites is the ANSI Class 2 vest.

Type R, Class 2 safety vests are commonly used in low-visibility environments. These types of vests keep workers visible to other workers, and civilians driving on the road.

OSHA doesn’t specifically require, by standard, that safety vests be worn by all personnel on a construction site. However, that doesn’t mean they aren’t required to. In fact, employers must ensure that employees who work in hazardous environments are adequately protected—this includes requiring employees who work on construction sites to wear safety vests.

Hand & Foot Protection

There is no ANSI standard for gloves, but OSHA recommends that selection be based upon the tasks to be performed and the performance and construction characteristics of the glove material. For protection against chemicals, glove selection must be based on the chemicals encountered, the chemical resistance and the physical properties of the glove material.

The American National Standard Institute (ANSI) lists 9 different levels of cut-resistant gloves:

  • A1: Protects up to 200 to 499 g cut load
  • A2: Protects up to 500 to 999 g cut load
  • A3: Protects up to 1000 to 1499 g cut load
  • A4: Protects up to 1500 to 2199 g cut load
  • A5: Protects up to 2200 to 2999 g cut load
  • A6: Protects up to 3000 to 3999 g cut load
  • A7: Protects up to 4000 to 4999 g cut load
  • A8: Protects up to 5000 to 5999 g cut load
  • A9: Protects up to a minimum of 6000 g cut load

OSHA requires that cut resistant gloves be worn when employees’ hands are exposed to hazards including, but not limited to:

  • Severe cuts
  • Lacerations
  • Abrasions
  • Punctures
  • Burns

OSHA requires foot protection be worn when employees work in areas where there is danger of foot injuries due to falling or rolling objects, or objects that may pierce the sole, or near electrical hazards.

Head Protection

The most commonly used types of head protection in General Industry and Construction are hard hats.

Hard hats are required in areas where there is potential for head injury from falling objects or other overhead hazards.

OSHA’s Head Protection standard can be found at Subpart I, 1910.135.

While OSHA doesn’t mention that hard hats must have a dedicated color, many in the industry recognize the following common colors for hard hats:

  • Yellow. Used by general laborers and equipment operators.
  • Blue. Typically used by tradesmen, including electricians or similar contractors.
  • White. Typically used by onsite management and leadership, including managers, supervisors, chiefs, and foremen.

Eye Protection

Yes. OSHA requires safety glasses when employees’ eyes are exposed to hazards including, but not limited to:

  • Flying particles
  • Chemicals
  • Gases
  • Light radiation

OSHA requires that safety glasses that meet one the following consensus standards per 1910.133(b):

  • ANSI/ISEA Z87.1-2010
  • ANSI Z87.1-2003
  • ANSI Z87.1-1989 (R-1998)

While safety glasses may protect employees from eye hazards, they can’t fully protect the sides, bottoms, and tops of employees’ eyes like safety goggles can. Glasses are most commonly used for impact protection, while goggles add protection from particles or splashes.

Safety goggles can be worn over prescription glasses. However, the eye protection must fit comfortably over the employee's face and shouldn’t create additional hazards.

OSHA makes clear that employers don’t have to pay for prescription glasses, provided that employees are allowed to take the glasses offsite. However, if employers require that safety glasses stay onsite, they must pay for the prescription safety glasses.

Welding helmets alone can’t protect employees from the hazard present during welding operations. Safety goggles or glasses that meet OSHA’s requirements must also be worn underneath the helmet.

Hearing Protection

OSHA’s Occupational Noise Exposure standard can be found at 29 CFR 1910.95.

The type of hearing protection you select needs to reduce occupational noise exposure to below 90 decibels (dB) to be effective. Common types of hearing protection used in the industry includes over-the-ear muffs and ear plug inserts.

OSHA requires a hearing conservation program be introduced when employees are exposed to an 8-hour time weighted average of 85dB or higher, known as the action level. Hearing protection is required when the exposure is 90dB or higher. Most employers that have a program require hearing protection also, even if noise exposure is under 90dB.

Hearing protection must reduce occupational noise exposure below 90dB on an 8-hour time weighted scale average. Select hearing protection that can reduce exposure per OSHA’s requirements and provide enough comfort to employees’ ears throughout the workday.

Respiratory PPE

In general, the type of respiratory protective equipment you’ll need will depend on the hazards present in the workplace. For example, N95 masks are appropriate for employees who dust off equipment at the end of a work shift. However, they are not appropriate for employees who plan to work around gases and other vapors throughout an entire day.

The respiratory protection standard can be found at 29 CFR 1910.134.

OSHA provides a straightforward list of items to help you maintain your respiratory equipment. The list can be found at 1910.134 Appendix B.

Employers who provide respiratory equipment to their employees as necessary means of protection are also required to develop and maintain a written respiratory protection program. An evaluation of employee exposure levels is usually required to determine if respiratory protection is necessary.

Employers must provide respiratory protection training annually and more often if necessary.

Fit testing is required annually, or more often if necessary. Medical evaluations are not required annually, unless they are recommended. For example, a smoker might be required to undergo an annual medical evaluation.

Fall Protection

Fall protection equipment protects employees from falling on a walking-working surface with an unprotected side or edge that is 4 feet or more above a lower level. Fall protection can include:

  • Guardrail systems
  • Safety net systems
  • Personal fall protection systems (i.e., personal fall arrest, travel restraint, positioning systems)

OSHA requires fall protection whenever employees are four feet or more above a lower level. OSHA’s Duty to have fall protection and falling object protection standard can be found at 29 CFR 1910.28.

Before any employee is exposed to a fall hazard, the employer must provide training for each employee who uses personal fall protection systems or who is required to be trained as specified elsewhere in 29 CFR 1910 Subpart D.

OSHA requires that fall protection (which could be a safety harness or other method) must be used at four feet or more above a lower level.

In general, fall protection harnesses are good for up to five years. However, they must be inspected for deficiencies before and after each use.

OSHA requires a personal fall arrest system on boom lifts. However, there are cases where employees may not need them. For example, OSHA recognizes that employees need not wear a harness on scissor lifts that are equipped with the manufacturer-installed guardrails.



Economical, high-quality gear to fit price-conscious budgets. Shop now!

Best Selling PPE

Best Selling PPE

Check out our top selling products. Shop now!

J. J. Keller™ Personal Protective Equipment

Personal Protective Equipment

Protect your employees from potential hazards in their work environment with PPE. Shop all PPE now!