PPE ordinarily is the last control option considered. Situations where use of PPE may be recommended include:
- while engineering controls are being installed,
- when current engineering controls are insufficient to reduce exposure to acceptable levels and administrative controls are not practical (the installation of additional feasible controls should be considered),
- when engineering and administrative controls are not feasible or practical or an emergency exists, and
- when intermittent, short-term exposures may not merit major engineering, e.g., in maintenance.
With respect to the latter situation, special attention should be paid to the use of PPE by maintenance personnel. Maintenance conditions typically differ from routine operations. For example, contaminant concentrations are frequently higher because of the very nature of the maintenance problem or because the ventilation system has been deactivated in order to allow the worker to perform the maintenance activity. Instituting certain work practice controls may be helpful in such circumstances, but additional personal protective equipment is frequently needed.
Emergency use of PPE requires additional planning and training. Special procedures for each potential emergency should be developed and practiced regularly.
Regardless of the situation in which PPE is used, the effectiveness of PPE in controlling exposures ultimately depends upon the correct selection and use of the equipment. As recommendations on this use may vary from country to country, employers should contact their appropriate regulatory authority for guidance. Use of PPE should always occur under a properly administered program.