What Is PPE? - Definition, Safety & Requirements

Instructor: Lynee Carter
From this lesson you will be learning about PPE. This includes how they prevent the spread of germs, the different types of PPE, and when to use them appropriately.


Some jobs can be dangerous. Workers who face potential injury on the job often have to use protective equipment. Construction workers wear hard hats to protect their heads from falling debris. Police officers put on bulletproof vests to protect their bodies when they go places they can possibly be shot. Chemists wear goggles when working with certain chemicals that can accidentally splash in their eyes.

Healthcare workers are also put at risk of being injured when they are exposed to germs that are in the environment. Although germs can live just about anywhere, certain places like doctor's offices and hospitals have more because they are where sick people are located.

germs in hospital

What is PPE?

PPE stands for personal protective equipment. This equipment is used to protect healthcare workers and prevent the spread of germs to others. The equipment is personal because it's used individually and not shared with others. Most of them are thrown away after being used one time. They are protective because the equipment works as a barrier between the body and the germs. Gloves, gowns and masks are the most common pieces of equipment used. Other ones includes goggles, respirators, and head and shoe coverings.

Although germs cannot be seen without a microscope, they still are present on various surfaces. One of the top ways germs are spread to other locations is through your hands. Every time you touch an object, there is a potential opportunity to pick up germs such as bacteria or virus. Then they are transferred to the next location you touch.

Germs can also live in the air, making it easy for you to breath them in. They can be transferred to another person when you cough, sneeze, laugh, sing and even just talk! Then there is the obvious exposure to germs through body fluids such as blood, urine, and body secretions. Regardless if you think something has germs or not, the appropriate PPE should be worn for your protection.

Types of PPE

Let's first start talking about the three G's -- gloves, gowns and goggles.

Gloves are worn to protect your hands when handling dirty items and potentially touching body fluids. This is the number one PPE you will use a lot in a healthcare environment.

Gowns are worn over your clothes and uniforms. Germs can even live on them and be transferred other places. Gowns can keep you clean when you are exposed to body fluids and dirty items.

Goggles protect your eyes from the body fluids that can potentially splash in your eyes.

The next two types of PPE both cover your nose and mouth but have different ways they protect you from certain germs.

Masks protect you from splattered body fluids. They are called surgical or procedural masks.

Respirators protect you from airborne germs by filtering the air you breathe. There are several different types and some have to be specifically measured to fit your face in order for them to be effective.

The last types of PPE are worn in areas where there is a higher risk of being exposed to body fluids, like in an operating room. I am sure you have seen those paper hats and shoes the doctor wears when performing surgery. The head coverings are protecting their heads while the shoe coverings are protecting their shoes, which is another common way germs can be easily spread.


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