Why Not to Trust Personal Protective Equipment

Personal protective equipment (PPE) like safety goggles and lab coats should not be trusted to protect you from harm. This is because they depend on the wearer to maintain and wear them properly in order for them to function effectively. No person can be relied upon to always, 100% of the time wear his or her PPE properly—or even at all!

Additionally, PPE itself is not 100% effective. A large fraction of eye injuries happen to people who were not wearing the proper eye protection (or were wearing it incorrectly). If you think about this, it also means that some eye injuries occur even when the victim is wearing appropriate eye protection! Imagine a chemical splash that dislodges the goggles from your face as an example.

Do not depend on PPE as your only defense against an incident unless you cannot avoid it. If you have a close call in which your PPE is tested—perhaps a flying part intercepted by your safety glasses—you should re-examine the various hazard controls protecting you, because you came very close to an injury. PPE is your last safety barrier; if it fails, you will have an incident.

If you have questions about PPE and your different layers of hazard control, contact Dr. Daniel Kuespert, Homewood Laboratory Safety Advocate, at [email protected]. See Dr. Kuespert’s website, https://labsafety.jhu.edu, for more safety information. As always, emergency response is available from Security at 410-516-7777.