Five Essential Factors to Consider when Choosing PPE

People who work in laboratories face a wide range of daily workplace challenges that make choosing the right personal protective equipment (PPE) extremely important. With the right PPE, employers can minimize workplace accidents and significantly improve employee well-being, which in turn will have a positive effect on performance and productivity. However, selecting the right PPE is not an easy task. In this article, we explain which factors are important to consider for appropriate product selection.

1. Workplace Hazards

PPE should be selected based primarily on the hazards of the workplace. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), laboratory workers are exposed to several hazards including:


2. PPE Functionality

When working in the laboratory, concentration is key, so ensuring your PPE does not distract from your performance is paramount. In order to achieve this, it is fundamental to analyze the conditions in the laboratory and to take a closer look at application. For instance, selecting the wrong coating for safety glasses might cause the lenses to fog up which can create disturbances and reduce the focus on the task, which in turn might lead to errors, accidents, and lower compliance. In the case of coating selection, several external factors must be considered such as:

  • Temperature
  • Level of humidity and dirt
  • Use of other PPE

Therefore, it is important to undertake a risk assessment to identify all the potential hazards to which laboratory workers may be exposed during work operations and determine the PPE requirements.

3. PPE Comfort and Ergonomics

Besides chemical and biological risks, laboratory workers also experience psychological and physical stress due to high levels of concentration, time pressure, constrained posture, and monotonous activity. The PPE standards are mainly focused on direct hazards, leaving aside comfort and ergonomics - factors that are crucial to reducing psychological and physical stress, enhancing performance and reducing hazards in the long-term. The “pyramid of ergonomics” below shows the consequences of selecting PPE that doesn’t fulfil the ergonomic principle.

Pyramid of ergonomics

In regard to ergonomics, it is important to consider several factors such as:

  • Weight
  • Climate
  • Pressure points


For example, safety shoes that are ergonomically designed, lightweight and flexible with a multi-layer shock absorption system, support the natural movement of the entire body, reducing fatigue and musculoskeletal problems, as well as enhancing concentration and performance during the working day.

Uvex i-gonomics

4. PPE Fit

When thinking about fit, the first and most vital thing to remember is that one size does not fit all. Most protective devices are available in multiple sizes and care should be taken to select the proper size for each employee. The wrong size can create discomfort and reduce the performance of the PPE. For instance, respiratory masks that don´t have the proper fit can create leakages, reducing the wearer´s protection.

In the case of safety footwear, the width of the shoe is also an important factor to consider but one which is unfortunately often forgotten. Tight shoes can cause nerve entrapment in the foot, which can lead to pain, discomfort, and numbness. Wearing shoes that are too tight for long periods of time can also damage the intermetatarsal nerves (metatarsus) and lead to the development of a relatively common benign fibrous tumor – Morton’s neuroma.

5. Sustainability of PPE Supply

Finally, sustainability is a factor that is becoming more and more important for product selection. After all, when it comes to safety, it´s not only about protecting our employees but also our planet and future generations. There are many factors that must be reviewed on this point, both at the product and the production level, including:

  • Location of the production site
  • Recyclability and biodegradability of the materials
  • Energy and waste management


Always remember to review these five essential factors when choosing the appropriate PPE to ensure that you are reducing workplace hazards and improving employee well-being, which will result in performance and productivity increases.


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