The University of Iowa

PPE - Protective Clothing Guide


Personal protective clothing is required where employees may be exposed to such hazards as toxic or corrosive chemicals, biological pathogens, molten metal splashes, thermal extremes, etc. The protective clothing may take the form of aprons, coveralls, coats, pants, hats, hoods, sleeves, gloves, and totally encapsulating chemical protective suits. An example of special clothing is a vest to reflect light for outdoor night workers.

Clothing Use

It is important to select clothing based upon its ability to resist degradation and permeation caused by different agents.

In General:

  • Wool and specially treated cotton clothing are fire-resistant and comfortable.
  • Heavy fabrics protect against cuts and bruises from heavy, sharp or rough materials.
  • Leather guards against dry heat and flame.
  • Rubber protects against acids and chemicals.
  • Synthetic materials may catch on fire more easily.
  • Disposable suits of paper like material protect against dusty materials.
  • Disposable or reusable suits for liquid or vapor protection should be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

Clothing Design Standards

The OSHA rule states that protective clothing shall be of safe design and construction for the work to be performed. The clothing selected should be able to protect the body by preventing injury or impairment through absorption or physical contact.

Clothing Wear Factors

Shall be provided and maintained in a sanitary and reliable condition. Defective or damaged clothing should not be used.

Clothing Limitations

Generic chemical resistance information should be verified with the manufacturer since similar materials (e.g., nitrile) available from different manufacturers may vary widely in their performance depending upon the particular manufacturing method and glove design.