Personal Protection

PPE - Personal Protective Equipment


    Many prop shops provide personal protective equipment for the staff. This includes eye/ face protection, hearing protection, gloves, respirators, and hard hats or back support braces when appropriate.  For artisans working in processes or areas containing foot hazards, safety-toed footwear may be required and some companies contribute to the provision of a pair of safety shoes.  Complete information on types of PPE and details on compliance is available at the ANSI or OSHA websites.


    All safety glasses and face shields should be evaluated for use relating to impact resistance, lens thickness, projectile penetration and optical quality. Just as processes and products in
the prop shop are widely variable, so to is the related eye-protection.  Where a splashguard goggle might be adequate for one prop process, other processes might require protection from chemical gases/ vapors or from flying wood/metal particles. Metal working and welding require special goggles or face shields with auto darkening glass to protect the eye from UV radiation burns.

    Eye protection should be provided specific to the nature of the hazard and fit to an individual or adjustable to provide adequate coverage and protection.  Face shields can never be considered primary eye protection but do provide coverage for dust and some “splash” applications. Many prop carpenters who require corrective lenses will opt to purchase glasses with safety lenses as their primary eye protection.  Some organizations will assist with the expense as part of their safety program.  Some eye protection goggles are also available to be worn over prescription lenses without disturbing the positioning of the glasses.  Eye protection should be comfortable to wear. Safety glasses should be equipped with side shields, allowing good peripheral vision.  All eye protection should be replaced when damaged or worn out.


    Work-related hearing loss is a critical issue.  Loud noises or continuous exposure
to high levels of noise can create a temporary, and eventually a permanent hearing loss. The degree of hazard is related to both the level of the noise and the duration of exposure.  Wearing some form of hearing protection affords the best protection.

    Expandable foam plugs are compressed and rolled into a thin cylinder placed in the ear and allowed to expand and conform to the wearer’s ear canal.  These plugs are usually a disposable item and can be purchased in quantities for use in areas where hearing protection is not required on a continuous basis.

    Pre-molded, reusable rubber or silicone plugs are available in various sizes offering pre-molded hearing protection to seal the ear canal.  Pre-molded plugs are relatively inexpensive, washable and thus re-useable, and comfortable to wear.

    Canal caps are made of a formable or pre-molded earplug on a plastic or metal band allowing the plugs to be quickly inserted and removed as necessary.  Many people wear them as headbands or neckbands.

    Earmuffs come in dozens of models, blocking noise by completely covering the outer ear.  Wearers with glasses, long hair, or working in a warm environment may find them problematic as some people find them heavy or hot to wear and difficult to get a complete seal.


    It is common for people to play a shop radio or CD player while working.  Appropriate playing levels should allow for easy communication between workers and the device turned off when it interferes with any work process or is distracting.  Personal devices such as IPods should not be utilized if they prevent the wearer from hearing others in the shop or when doing activity where the device or cord may produce a hazard.


Skin/ hand protection with the use of gloves and aprons are necessary when chemical exposure, burns/heat exposure, or cuts and laceration hazard is present. Full-length leather or canvas aprons are utilized to protect workers from welding sparks, sawdust, and splinters.  Rubberized aprons and long sleeves help protect against splashes and contamination when handling dyes and chemicals.

    No single glove type can do all levels of protection. Some gloves, due to their bulky nature needed for handling lumber or metal, become problematic for fine motor activities.  The performance characteristic should match the specific hazard. 


    Work activities should be evaluated considering dexterity required to do the process, duration, frequency, and degree of exposure, and what level of physical stress the glove may encounter.  Carpenters often wear abrasion resistant (AR) gloves to protect against slivers and protect against wear and tear.  Metal working artisans find temperature resistant (TR) gloves a good protection from the heat and sparks of welding.  Leather is a common material in these gloves.  Fabric gloves provide protection for lighter duty work.  Gloves should not be worn when working with machinery to prevent tangling in moving parts.

    In craft work, knowing the toxic properties of the chemicals being used and matching the penetration, permeation, and degradation rates to the appropriate glove means a wide variety of chemically resistant gloves must be available depending on what products are being utilized.  This is especially true in the props crafts area where casting and molding is being done and for paint/dye processes.  Safety supply companies provide detailed listings of gloves compatible with various chemicals and dyes allowing the correct gloves to be purchased to match the work being done in the shop.  Gloves also come in various sizes to match different hand sizes.  Due to some artisan’s allergic reaction to latex, vinyl or Nitrile gloves are an option available offering similar protection as latex.


    Use of a respirator helps protect the prop shop staff from airborne particles and the fumes and vapors of chemicals.  A respirator is not a substitute for adequate ventilation such as a spray booth and the use of appropriate air filtration systems. The prop shop spray booth should be large enough to allow adequate set-up for processing hazardous chemicals or products and a respirator used as a secondary line of protection in addition to the system filtration.


    Air-purifying respirators have a system of filters, cartridges, or canisters
to remove contaminants by passing ambient air through the elements before it reaches the wearer.  Depending on the work process in the prop shop, the respirator may be set up to protect against particulates such as dust, mist, and fumes or as a gas and vapor respirator.  Gas and vapor respirators use chemical cartridges to remove hazardous gases or vapors. A wide variety of cartridges are available to match specific chemical and vapor hazards.  By adding a particulate filter over the cartridge, a combination respirator may be created.  Combination respirators are often heavy and may be so large as to impede sight or be clumsy to wear.  They should only be used in an environment where exposure to both particulates and gases/vapors exists.

    Respirators should be custom fit to each individual and sealable storage bags provided to store respirators between uses. Respirators should be cleaned and disinfected prior to storage. Cartridges and filters need to be replaced as they become depleted or unusable. Some people with narrow faces or those with facial hair may have difficulty getting the necessary seal on a respirator.  A fit test should be conducted to ensure a proper face piece seal. 


    Atmosphere-supplying respirators supply clean air from a stationary source of compressed air or from a supply pack. This level of protection is rarely required by the work processes in the prop shop and is rarely used in theatre work due to the limited range of user-mobility.


    Disposable respirators and "Dust Masks" are made of cloth or paper
to prevent the wearer from breathing in irritating particulates.  These disposable respirators are rarely able to be formed as tight fitting as an air-purifying respirator and should not be worn in hazardous environments.  Some models have a metal nose strap allowing some minor level of adjustment and fitting to the face.  Elastic or adjustable straps also allow a more custom fit.  Some nuisance dust masks are available in fabric, and may filter particles down to 3 microns.  Typically these fabric dust masks are more comfortable, come in a variety of sizes, and are washable and reusable for many years.  

    When purchasing, be aware these filters have different ratings for usage.  Some cannot be used if there are oil aerosols (lubricants, cutting fluids) or non-oil aerosols present.  Others are rated for non-oil aerosols and particulates (paint and dust).  When a high level of dust or particulate is present, disposable respirators suffer from high filter loading making them unusable in a relatively short time.  Wearers should be cautioned to change respirators when breathing becomes more difficult and the filter is clogged. 


  Click here to view sub-topics:


Worker’s Compensation                First Aid                Workplace Inspection


MSDS             Fire Protection               Lock-out/Tag-out

  Click here to view sub-topics:


Worker’s Compensation                First Aid                Workplace Inspection

MSDS             Fire Protection               Lock-out/Tag-out

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