Effective Date: July 1, 1997 (Issue No. 2)

Last Updated: December, 2014

A. Introduction

In a teaching and research institution with a wide range of activities, the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) may be required to handle various potential hazards. The PPE may be used to protect against chemicals which are poisonous, irritating, corrosive, carcinogenic, or to protect from hearing loss due to exposure to excessive noise levels. There may be situations where multiple forms of PPE will be required. Therefore, it is important that employees and students are aware of the possible hazards and employ protective measures, including the use of appropriate PPE. The Health, Safety and Environment  Office (HSEO) is available to assess the need for PPE as well as to recommend the appropriate equipment.

PPE shall be provided and shall be used whenever necessary to protect personnel against hazards capable of causing injury or impairment in the function of any part of the body. No unprotected person shall knowingly be exposed to a hazardous environmental condition.  This document is intended to raise readers' awareness of various potential occupational hazards and to offer some guidance on the selection of the appropriate PPE.


B. Planning

Prior to selecting the appropriate PPE, the user must evaluate each task in order to determine the associated risks. This evaluation must include thorough considerations of physical, chemical and biological hazards involved. Hazards must be eliminated through engineering or administrative controls when engineering controls are feasible. The hazard evaluation should be reviewed by a knowledgeable person in advance of the operation to confirm the presence of the hazards and adequacy of the selected PPE.

PPE will be provided and used in the following circumstances:

1. Where it has been determined by an occupational hygienist or safety specialist that the use of PPE is necessary to protect the health and safety of employees.
2. Where it has been determined that adequate engineering and/or supervisory controls are not feasible.
3. Where development or installation of engineering controls is pending.
4. During short term, non-routine operations for which engineering controls are not feasible.
5. During emergency situations such as spills, ventilation malfunctions, emergency exit, damage control activities, etc.


C. Responsibilities

Principal investigators/supervisors are responsible for establishing safe procedures and providing the necessary protective equipment for any particular operation. They must instruct their personnel as to the possible hazards, the safety precautions, and proper work and handling procedures, the consequences of an accident, as well as the actions to be taken in case of an accident.

Employees and students are required to learn and understand the hazards of their work, to follow all precautions applicable to each task, and to use suitable PPE properly. HSEO assists supervisors, employees and students in maintaining safe work areas by providing information on the hazardous properties of materials, recommending methods for controlling the hazards, and by monitoring the work environment. In addition, HSEO offers general training courses on the concepts of the recognition, evaluation, and control of various safety hazards as well as on the selection and use of PPE.

PPE selected must meet the following minimum requirements:

1. It shall provide adequate protection against the particular hazard for which it is designed.
2. It shall be reasonably comfortable when worn under the designated conditions.
3. It shall fit properly and not unduly interfere with the movements of the wearer.
4. It shall be durable.
5. It shall be capable of performing as designed in worst-case-expected situations.
6. It shall be capable of being disinfected if worn repeatedly on or about the head or if it is to be used by more than one person.
7. It shall be easily cleanable.
8. It shall be maintained in good repair.
9. It shall be of safe design and construction for the work to be performed.


D. Training

Personnel shall be trained in the selection, use, inspection, and care of the PPE required for their work. Such training shall include explanations emphasizing the reasons for using the PPE selected. Records of PPE training shall be maintained by HSEO.

Employees shall use the provided PPE in accordance with the instructions and training received. Employees shall guard against damage to PPE. Any malfunction of PPE shall be promptly reported to supervisory personnel. Damaged or malfunctioning equipment shall not be used during hazardous operations.


E. Medical Clearance

Personnel who are expected to use PPE that may cause physiological stress shall be evaluated by competent occupational health personnel in accordance with Chapter 12, Occupational Health and Medical Surveillance, to ensure that the employee is not unduly affected by the additional stress.


F. Personal Attire

When specific items of personal attire are judged to be hazardous to an operation or work environment, their use shall be prohibited. For example, the wearing of long sleeves, jewelry, and loose-fitting or dangling clothing shall not be permitted around moving machinery. Silk, wool, rayon, nylon, and other synthetic fiber garments shall not be worn in any operation in which the generation of static electricity would create a hazard. Provision of everyday suitable attire, including appropriate shoes, normally worn by prudent individuals to avoid unnecessary risk, is the responsibility of the employee and must be considered a condition of employment.


G. Eye and Face Protection

Proper eye and face protection should be worn in situations where there are risks of eye and/or face injuries. Appropriate protection will be required for the following situations:

1. Working with hazardous chemicals such as organic solvents, acids and bases.
2. Working with certain types of laser equipment which could present the risk of serious and permanent damage to the eyes (please refer to Chapter 11, Laser Safety, for more information).
3. Operations, such as grinding, torching, chiseling, etc., which can produce airborne particles that can damage the eyes.
4. Welding and cutting operations in which intense ultra-violet and infra-red radiations are emitted.

There are a wide variety of products which afford eye and or face protection. These include safety glasses, goggles and face shields. It is important to select the most appropriate eye protection for each particular task. The selection should be based upon the properties of the hazard, the quantity involved and the nature of the operation. Contact HSEO for assistance on the selection of the proper eye protection. Prescription safety glasses are available through HSEO.

It is essential that eye and face protectors be kept clean. They shall be cleaned and inspected daily. Pitted or scratched lenses or face shields reduce vision and seriously reduce protection. Lenses and face shields that are pitted or scratched shall be replaced accordingly. Slack, wornout, or sweat-soaked headbands, which may interfere with the proper use of goggles and face shields, shall be replaced.

Contact lenses should not be worn in the laboratory, and especially when working with hazardous chemicals. The lenses can trap particles against the eye, and plastic lenses can absorb and be damaged by airborne solvents and can prolong chemical contact with the eye. Furthermore, it has been reported that the lenses have become bonded to the eyes due to the interaction of the plastic lenses with airborne solvents.


H. Body Protection

Lab coats, sleeve protectors and/or aprons should be worn by personnel handling hazardous materials and should be appropriate for the type of hazard involved. Contaminated clothing should be removed and cleaned or disposed of as necessary. It is important to remove contaminated clothing in such a way that the user will not be contaminated (see Appendix 13A at end of this chapter for procedures).


I. Hand Protection

When handling toxic or hazardous chemicals, it is critical to select gloves that are made of a material which is impervious to the particular chemical. For instance organic solvents such as alcohols will penetrate through surgical gloves made of thin latex. There is no glove which is impermeable to all substances and there are some compounds which will penetrate any glove material. However, there are gloves which are more impermeable than others and it is a matter of limiting the contact time and changing the gloves as necessary. Chemicals which are soluble in non-polar compounds, such as carbon tetrachloride and benzene, and insoluble in polar compounds, such as water, are skin permeable.

The following are some general guidelines for selecting gloves:

1. Thick latex gloves such as those used around the home are suitable for general purposes.
2. Thinner latex gloves such as surgical gloves are suitable for use with aqueous solutions, tissue culture, and most dry chemicals. Polyethylene or polyvinylchloride gloves are not recommended for culture work because of reports of virus penetration of the gloves.
3. Gloves should be long enough to cover the cuff of the lab coat in order to prevent contamination of the wrist.
4. Two pair of gloves should be worn when working with extremely hazardous materials including carcinogens and unbound radioiodine. The outer gloves should be changed when contaminated. Gloves used for this purpose should never be reused.
5. Powder free gloves may be desired if there is a concern for experiment contamination or worker allergy.
6. Gloves should not be worn when working with equipment with moving parts due to the potential hazard of catching them in the equipment.
7. When working with cryogens, special gloves are recommended. The gloves should be loose fitting, and non-asbestos.


There are other hazards to the hands including thermal burns as a result of exposure to extremely hot or extremely cold conditions. There are a wide variety of gloves and HSEO is available to help in the selection process.

Disposal gloves:

Disposable gloves are designed to provide barrier protection and tactile sensitivity to the wearer. Thin mil gloves are not intended for applications involving prolonged, direct exposure to chemicals. The following chemical compatibility information provides a guideline for using thin mil gloves in applications where incidental splash exposure to various chemicals may occur. Gloves should be removed and replaced immediately if incidental splash exposure occurs.

  Chemical resistance reference chart of Medicom disposal gloves 


Chemical-resistant gloves:

    Chemical resistance reference table of SilverShield/4H chemical-resistant gloves
    Chemical resistance reference table of MAPA A-15 Nitrile chemical-resistant gloves
    Chemical resistance reference table of Ansell chemical-resistant gloves


J. Respiratory Protection

Respiratory protective equipment shall be required, provided, and used whenever the oxygen level in an atmosphere is less than 19.5 percent and/or whenever the airborne concentration of a contaminant or combination of contaminants exceeds exposure limits as determined by HSEO.

Inhalation of air containing hazardous materials, whether a dust, fume, vapour, mist, fog spray or some other aerosol, can result in lung disease and even death. The best way to prevent such exposure is to capture the contaminant at the source via some type of ventilation or exhaust system such as a fume cupboard or biosafety cabinet. The total elimination of exposure via these methods is not always possible so that situations can arise which require some level of respiratory protection.

It is extremely critical to select the correct respirator for the operation involved. Various types of respirators including dust masks, half-face/full-face respirator and supplied air breathing apparatus are available on campus.

1. Negative pressure air-purifying respirators with filter cartridges are the most widely used type of respirator, aside from disposable dust masks. When using this type of respirator it is important to select cartridges which are suitable to the type and concentration of airborne contaminant. It is also important to understand the limitations of this type of respirator, such as the fact that it is totally ineffective in an oxygen deficient environment and use in such a situation could lead to death. Refer to Chapter 12, Section F  for medical surveillance requirement.
2. Supplied air respirators are effective against and required for use in oxygen deficient environments. At HKUST, situations calling for the use of supplied air include emergency situations and possibly confined space entry. Users of this type of equipment must receive special breathing apparatus (BA) training and participate in bi-monthly refresher courses. Also, refer to Chapter 12, Section F for medical surveillance requirement.

The following minimum requirements must be adhered to when respirator use is authorized:

  1. Respirators must be selected on the basis of the hazards to which employees may be exposed.
  2. Written procedures must be developed and implemented which address specific requirements for each authorized use.
  3. Where practicable, respirators shall be assigned to individual personnel for their exclusive use.
  4. Respirators shall be regularly cleaned and disinfected. Equipment used by the same person shall be cleaned after each day’s use or more often if necessary. Equipment used by more than one person shall be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected after each use. Respirators for emergency use shall be inspected monthly and records maintained.
  5. Respirators shall be stored in convenient, clean, and sanitary locations.
  6. Respirators used routinely shall be inspected during cleaning. Worn or deteriorated parts shall be replaced. Only approved (i.e. by manufacturer) replacement parts shall be used.
  7. Appropriate surveillance of work area conditions and degree of employee exposure to stress shall be maintained.

It is essential for the safe use of any respirator that the user be properly instructed in its selection, use, and maintenance. Both supervisors and employees shall receive training conducted by a competent person(s) that shall include the following:

1. Instruction on the nature of the hazard and an honest appraisal of what may happen if the respirator is not used or used improperly.
2. An explanation of why a more positive control (e.g. engineering) is not immediately feasible.
3. A discussion of why the respirator selected is the proper type for use for the particular purpose.
4. A discussion of the respirator’s capabilities and limitations.
5. Instruction and training in actual use of the respirator, including close supervision to ensure that the respirator continues to be properly used.
6. Classroom and field training to recognize and cope with emergency situations.
7. Other training as needed for special use.
8. An opportunity to handle the respirator and have it fitted properly, test its facepiece-to-face seal, wear it in normal air for a familiarity period, and wear it in a test atmosphere.
9. An explanation of the prohibition on the use of a respirator facepiece when facial hair comes between the sealing periphery of the face piece and the face or if facial hair interferes with respirator valve function.
10. Evaluation of the need to wear spectacles, either protective or corrective, goggle or face shield, or welding helmet in conjunction with a respirator facepiece. This type of combined used must be such that the equipment worn does not adversely affect the facepiece-to-face seal.


K. Hearing Protection

Unprotected exposure to excessive noise levels can result in temporary or permanent loss of hearing. Hearing protection devices will be required, provided, and worn by employees who are exposed to continuous noise greater than 85 dBA or impulse/impact noise greater than 140 dB.

Most elevated noise levels on the HKUST campus are limited to plant operations such as the seawater pump station and the chiller plant. HSEO performs noise surveys to assess ambient levels of noise, personnel exposure, and to make recommendations for corrective and/or protective actions. Personnel exposed to noise levels in excess of the occupational limits shall be included in the HKUST hearing conservation program.

The following minimum requirements must be adhered to when hearing protection are authorized:

1. The noise attenuation provided by the device must be adequate to reduce exposures below 85 dBA .
2. Employees who are exposed to hazardous noise levels above 85 dBA on an 8 hour time-weighted average basis must be enrolled in an audiometric testing program as described in Chapter 12, Occupational Health and Medical Surveillance.

Employees required to wear hearing protection, other than for incidental exposures, must be properly instructed on the following topics:

1. Characteristics of Noise-induced Hearing Loss (NIHL)
2. Types, effectiveness, and use of protective devices


L. Fall Protection

Fall protection is required when the provision of a safe working platform is not practicable.

1. Materials

Fall protection can be conveniently achieved by wearing appropriate types of safety belts or safety harnesses. Safety belts should conform with appropriate national standards such as BS 1397.

A safety belt is normally comprised of a waist belt (or body harness in the case of a safety harness) and a lanyard. The lanyard must be of the appropriate length for the application and as designed by the manufacturer of the safety belt. The replacement of the original lanyard of a safety belt with a longer one is not allowed because of the risk of injury to the wearer during a fall. The waist belt and the lanyard should be supplied by the same manufacturer and they should be compatible with each other.

2. Use of Safety Belts

The safety belt must be properly attached to a secure anchor when used.

In situations where free movement of the wearer is required, a life line may be used. The life line should be properly attached to a secure anchor point. A special fitting is needed for connecting the lanyard to the life line. Other proprietary types of fall arresting systems may also be considered for this purpose. Please contact HSEO for evaluation.

3. Inspection of Safety Belts

Safety belts must be periodically inspected for signs of defects and/or damage. Safety belts showing any signs of defect and/or damage must be immediately removed from service. Defective or damaged safety belts should be destroyed to prevent further use.

Users should pay close attention to the wear indicators or warning flags built into belts, straps, and lanyards. Most manufacturers state conditions that render the product unacceptable for further use. The following are some general conditions which should be looked for during equipment inspections. If any of these conditions are found, the safety belts in question must be immediately removed from service and subsequently destroyed.

a. cuts, or frayed edges;
b. abrasions;
c. mildew or mold;
d. undue stretching;
e. chemical burns;
f. corrosion or charring;
g. broken stitches;
h. damaged or distorted snap hooks or faulty springs;
i. tar or similar products that penetrate and harden in the fibres;
j. rivets that are loose or distorted;
k. deformed thimbles or enlarged buckle tongue holes or grommets;
l. cracks or distortions in fall protection hardware.

4. Cleaning and Storage of Safety Belts

Safety belts should be regularly cleaned of surface dirt with a clean sponge that has been dipped in mild, soapy water.

Safety belts should be stored in a cool, dry, ventilated area free from exposure to heat, harmful fumes, or damaging corrosives. They should not be stored near any sharp objects and must be returned to proper storage after use.


M. Head Protection

Hard hats shall provide a clearance of at least 1-1/4 inches between the top of the wearer’s head and the shell of the hard hat. Both the shell and the suspension of hard hats shall be kept clean and in good repair. Accessories such as chin straps shall also be properly maintained. Holes shall NOT be drilled into the shell. Any paints or solvent type materials applied to hardhats shall be selected so as not to damage the shell or reduce protection.

1. Examples of working environments which require the use of hard hats include:
a. Construction sites as defined in accordance with the statute.
b. Areas where there is a potential risk of falling objects.
c. Areas, such as storage compounds, plant rooms, etc., where there are protruding objects or where there is a restriction in the head room which may result in head injuries.
2. Hard hats must be of the appropriate type and must conform with the appropriate national standards, such as BS 5240.


N. Foot Protection

1. Proper footwear should be worn for work. Thongs, sandals or slippers are not suitable, especially when working in laboratories, workshops and plant rooms.
2. Safety shoes with toe caps and puncture-proof insoles should be worn in situations where there is a potential risk of foot injuries from heavy objects falling on, or rolling over the feet, or where sharp objects are on the ground.
3. Wellington boots with slip resistant insoles should be worn when working in flooded or constantly wet areas. Some wellington boots are also equipped with toe-caps and steel insoles.


O. Protective Clothing

Protective clothing includes coveralls, aprons, sleeves, leggings, gloves, hand pads, finger cots, shoulder capes, and garments that enclose the entire body. These items are intended to protect the wearer against heat, cold, moisture, toxics, acids, corrosives, electricity, and physical hazards such as sharp flying objects, excessive dust, grease, etc. Protective clothing is available in a variety of materials that must be matched to the particular hazard or hazards under consideration.


Appendix 13A

Removal of Contaminated Clothing

The following procedures should reduce or eliminate the risk of self-contamination when removing contaminated clothing:

1.Remove articles of clothing, so as to invert them inside out as they are being taken off.

2.When removing gloves, grab the cuff of the outer glove and remove it by turning it inside out. When removed, roll up the first glove and place in the palm of the other hand so that it is contained inside of the second glove when it is removed. If there are 2 pairs of gloves and the second pair is grossly contaminated, remove them and replace with a clean pair.

3.Remove disposable sleeves.

4.Remove shoe coverings.

5.Remove head covering.

6.Remove respirator. If there is any risk of exposure to airborne contaminants, the respirator should not be removed until you are clear of the contaminated area. Handle the respirator as contaminated.

7.Remove remaining pair of gloves using the method described in number 2 above.

8.Wash hands, arms, forearms, and face thoroughly. This should be followed by a complete body shower with particular attention to shampooing the hair.