Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) Types & Examples

07 Jan.,2023


Chemical Protective Coverall

Types of Personal Protective Equipment

Some PPE examples include but are not limited to face masks, safety goggles, and protective gloves. The types of PPE in healthcare have traditionally consisted of latex or vinyl-based materials because these materials are highly resistant to moisture that could carry contaminants. Various types of PPE are used to protect any number of body areas such as the face, hair, hands, feet, lungs, etcetera. Ordinarily, they come in a wide array of variations suitable for very low-risk situations to extremely high-risk situations where the chance of contamination or infection is critical.

Two healthcare workers getting ready to see a new patient.

Face Shields

Face Shields are a type of PPE that does exactly as the name suggests; they shield the face from various foreign substances and infectious agents. To protect the wearer, they typically cover all vulnerable places on the face, such as the eyes, nose, and mouth. Face shields are used as PPE in various settings such as hospitals, prisons, or other places where the risk of being exposed to bodily fluids and germs is higher than usual. The clear plastic allows the wearer full visibility and the ability to work like usual; however, it helps keep them safe from infection.


Gloves are a type of PPE that protect a wearer's hands and wrists from any number of potentially harmful substances and materials. Gloves can come in various materials and be tailored to various uses. In medical settings, gloves are typically made of vinyl or latex, which have water-resistant properties that protect a wearer from bodily fluids such as blood, mucus, urine, etc. This protection is vital when healthcare professionals take blood or administer shots. Other settings requiring more durable gloves can be made out of materials such as rubber, cotton, cowhide, etcetera. These materials can protect a wearer's hands from heat, cold, lacerations, etc., weakening the body's defenses making it more susceptible to infection.

Goggles and glasses

Goggles and Glasses help to protect one of people's most vulnerable and valuable body parts, the eyes, from infectious agents. Although they are similar, there is a significant difference between goggles and glasses. Glasses are typically much looser and are held on the face by what are known as temples or the skinny arms that sit on a person's ears. Goggles are generally larger and held into place by an elastic strap and rubber cups around the eyes that help form a seal around a person's eyes. Due to the design, goggles, on average, provide adequate protection. Glasses are more commonly used when the risk to the eyes is much more solid base, such as metal or wood shavings that could cause damage to the eyes. Goggles are more commonly used when the risks are more liquid-based such as bodily fluids or harmful chemicals, which might more easily get around the looser fitting glasses.


Gowns are a type of PPE designed to protect individuals' exposed skin and their clothing from infectious agents. Gowns are typically long-sleeved clothing pieces made out of waterproof or at least water-resistant material that covers the upper body. Although regular clothing helps protect people from harmful substances, the gowns protect the clothing so that the individual does not have to change clothes or risk those harmful substances seeping through their clothes and exposing them. Typical protective gowns are made of a basic plastic material that protects low-risk situations such as general hospital admission and clinical care. However, higher-quality protective gowns are also made and used for more high-risk situations such as surgical or isolation practices.

Head Covers

Head Covers are another type of PPE that protects a person's head and hair from transmitting infection from the head by tucking the hair. Due to the liquid retaining nature of human hair, headcovers help protect an individual's hair from coming into contact with bodily fluids and other harmful substances. Headcovers are typically made of similar water-resistant material that gowns are. Head covers are often used in various medical situations, from basic clinical care to invasive surgery. Ordinarily, the level of risk associated with a particular time, place, or situation will dictate whether or not a head cover is a necessary precaution.


Masks are a type of PPE specifically designed to protect the mouth and nose from infectious agents. Medical masks are generally disposable and should ideally be changed when a medical provider goes from one patient to another to help further mitigate the spread of bacteria and viruses. Typically if a mask gets wet or damaged, it should also be changed. Masks are generally worn more so in circumstances that include medical providers and patients; however, it can also become appropriate for individuals to wear masks when the chance of the transmission of infectious agents is high in public or private settings.


Respirators are a special kind of PPE that takes the concept of the mask a little further. While a simple mask acts as a barrier device with a simple filter, respirators take it a couple of steps further through the use of finer filters to help protect the wearer's lungs from dust, fumes, vapors, etc. In addition to being used in a medical healthcare capacity, respirators can also be commonly used by first responders such as firefighters, police officers, and even the military. Respirators help reduce the risk of various respiratory complications commonly associated with inhaling any number of airborne infectious agents such as tuberculosis.

PPE helps to protect individuals from any number of chemicals and harmful substances.

Shoe Covers

Shoe Covers are a kind of PPE used to cover an individual's shoes, boots, or other footwear. Shoe covers serve a similar purpose to gowns in that they protect the individual's skin from coming into contact with infectious agents and their clothing. Shoe covers play a unique role because they prevent possibly contaminants from being spread from one place to another via an individual's shoes when they walk. Many infectious agents on the ground or floor can contaminate a person's shoes and then easily spread.

Lesson Summary

PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) overall can make a world of difference when attempting to prevent the spread of any number of infectious agents that can lead to various diseases like the common cold to tuberculosis. PPE can be face shields, gloves, glasses and goggles, gowns, head covers, masks, respirators, or shoe covers. Various types of personal protective equipment can often be the difference between sickness and health, or even life and death for any number of medical professionals, first responders, and the countless people they serve daily. So whether it be a nurse cleaning a wound on her patient, or a surgeon who has to wear a respirator to protect himself from tuberculosis, PPE is vitally important to preserving health and preventing the spread of germs through physical contact, droplet, or airborne routes.