Using The Right Protection: The Difference Between PPE and Protective Workwear

Is it protective workwear, or is it personal protective equipment (PPE)? That’s a question many people find themselves trying to answer when it comes to protecting the workforce. People became better acquainted with PPE during the pandemic in a bid to stop the spread of infection, but protective workwear is possibly more familiar to those who work in environments such as construction or engineering.

But which one is right for your workplace? We’ll take a closer look at the difference between protective workwear and PPE so you can always ensure your workers are protected.

Understanding Protective Workwear and PPE

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

Personal Protective Equipment, commonly known as PPE, refers to specialised equipment worn to minimise exposure to various hazards. This equipment acts as a barrier between the wearer's body and potential dangers such as chemicals, biological agents, physical impacts, and electrical hazards. Examples of PPE include gloves, goggles, helmets, respirators, and safety harnesses. The main purpose of PPE is to protect the individual wearer from specific risks associated with their job tasks.

Protective Workwear

Protective workwear, on the other hand, encompasses a broader range of clothing and attire designed to provide protection against workplace hazards. Unlike PPE, which focuses on individual items of equipment, protective workwear includes garments and accessories worn as a complete ensemble. This may include overalls, high-visibility vests, flame-resistant clothing, and steel-toed boots. Protective workwear aims to offer comprehensive protection to workers by covering large areas of the body and mitigating various risks inherent in the work environment.

Which should you use and when?


Personal Protective Equipment is typically employed in situations where specific hazards need personal protection (hence the name!). For instance, workers handling chemicals may require gloves, masks and goggles to shield against splashes and fumes, while construction workers may need hard hats and safety harnesses to prevent head injuries and falls. PPE should be selected based on the identified risks in the workplace and the nature of the tasks being performed.

Protective Workwear

Protective workwear is suitable for environments where employees face multiple hazards at the same time, or where the risk factors are more generalised. Industries such as manufacturing, construction, and engineering often mandate the use of protective workwear to ensure overall safety. By providing comprehensive coverage, protective workwear offers continuous protection against a range of potential dangers, including physical, chemical, and thermal hazards.

Common questions about protective workwear

Are uniforms considered PPE?

You may be wondering, are uniforms considered PPE?, but uniforms alone do not qualify as Personal Protective Equipment unless they are specifically designed and tested to offer protection against workplace hazards. While uniforms may have some benefits in providing identification or branding, they must be supplemented with appropriate PPE where necessary to ensure adequate protection for wearers.

Are uniforms an effective form of PPE?

Uniforms may offer limited protection against minor hazards such as dirt, dust, or abrasions, but are uniforms an effective form of PPE? Uniforms are not sufficient for safeguarding against more significant risks. Employers should assess the specific hazards present in the workplace and provide additional PPE or protective workwear as needed to address these risks effectively. The Health and Safety Executive has some useful guidance to help learn more about when PPE should be used.

Does PPE offer the same protection from hazards as protective workwear?

While both workwear and PPE the purpose of safeguarding workers, they offer different levels of protection. PPE provides targeted protection for specific body parts or hazards, whereas protective workwear offers more comprehensive coverage. The choice between the workwear and PPE depends on the nature of the hazards and the level of protection required. It’s important to have someone in place to conduct risk assessments and put the right measures in place to protect against hazards. As workwear experts, we’ve put together a useful health and safety guide for small businesses to help you understand what’s required, including whats needed for PPE workwear.

Who is responsible for providing PPE and protective workwear?

Employers have a legal obligation to assess workplace hazards and provide appropriate PPE and protective workwear to employees free of charge. This includes ensuring that the equipment is properly maintained, replaced when necessary, and that employees are adequately trained in its use. Employees also have a responsibility to wear PPE and protective workwear as instructed and to report any defects or issues promptly.

Protecting your workforce with phs Besafe

At phs Besafe, we understand the importance of ensuring your workforce have the protection they need. We provide services to clients across sectors including:


·         Transport and automotive

·         Mining

·         Engineering

·         Chemical

·         Utilities

·         Construction


As well as many others. We not only supply protective workwear garments but we also provide a managed laundry service to help ensure your garments are always maintained to the highest standard. With more than 1.2 million workwear garments laundered in the UK every year, consider phs Besafe your workwear experts, providing protective workwear and PPE when your workers need it. Contact us today for more information.


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