The Meaning of PPE: What It Is and How To Use It

Do you know the definition of PPE? This guide will give you all of the information you need on the acronym PPE, like its definition, usage, and more!

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What Does PPE Stand For?

The abbreviation PPE stands for personal protective equipment. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) defines PPE as anything that works as a barrier between a person’s mouth, nose, eyes, and skin to prevent viral and bacterial infections.

These are regulated to government standards from OSHA and include nitrile gloves, medical masks, respirators like N95 respirators, eye protection like visors, aprons, gowns, and safety boots and shoes. This specialized clothing often has long sleeves to prevent a disease from penetrating to the skin.

Wearing PPE by both medical professionals and regular people is important for preventing exposure to COVID-19 and other hazards. While healthcare workers may need to wear more protective clothing for occupational safety, the CDC (Center for Disease Control) still recommends everyday people wear masks to prevent the spread of infection. Masks can help prevent body fluids from entering our nose and mouth, which is how the infection spreads. 

The health administration also recommends hand-washing and hand sanitizers to help prevent the spread of surface-borne particles, like how masks prevent the spread of airborne particles. 

What Are the Types of PPE?

There are many different types of PPE that a person might choose to wear or be required to wear. Many of these are listed below, thanks to the Health Services Administration.

Face Protection

First, the piece of PPE we know well: masks. Both healthcare professionals and others use surgical masks like KN95s to help prevent infection. 

These masks work by covering the nose and mouth to protect yourself from another person who might be infected and prevent spreading your own infection to another person.

Eye Protection

Next, we have eye protection like goggles and face shields. These are also worn in the workplace by doctors and other medical professionals to prevent bodily fluids from spattering into the eyes. 

Some people might also choose to wear these PPEs to protect themselves from the spread of disease even if they are not in the medical profession. Make sure to follow instructions and guidelines from the CDC to protect yourself properly.

Respiratory Equipment

Next, we have respiratory protective equipment, also known as RPE. These particulate respirators help filter particles from a working environment such as dust, fumes, gases, mist, sprays, chemicals, and vapors while providing oxygen. This type of breathing apparatus is used in extreme circumstances. 

Non-Medical Equipment

There are also other types of non-medical PPE like helmets and boots. These might be used as personal protective equipment somewhere like a construction site. 

Often, construction sites have their own set of guidelines for personal protective equipment that needs to be worn to protect workers. This will likely be different from requirements for a medical professional or between construction jobs, depending on the project. 

A welder may need to wear a special type of face mask, while someone building something with a hammer or power tool may have specific gloves and boots they need to wear.

What Else Can PPE Stand For?

The Free Dictionary provides many different potential definitions of the acronym PPE. 

When we are looking at news articles or listening to recent developments in COVID-19 cases, we will often hear PPE used to mean personal protective equipment. However, this acronym has a variety of other potential meanings. 

You never want to confuse someone by using an acronym they are unfamiliar with, so do not be afraid to clarify what you mean by PPE:

  •  Preparticipation Physical Evaluation
  •  Production Process Engineering
  •  Power Pc Processing Element
  •  Pharmacy Practice Experience (various organizations)
  •  Pago por Evento (Spanish: Pay per Event)
  •  Packet Processing Engine
  •  Purple People Eater
  •  Park Place Entertainment (now Caesars Entertainment, Inc.)
  •  Propriété Par Étage (French)
  •  Pre-Public Examination (various schools)
  •  Pre-Production Evaluation
  •  Personne Politiquement Exposée (French: Politically Exposed Person)
  •  Property, Plant, and Equipment
  •  Personal Property Eviction (property preservation service)
  •  Peripheral Processor Element
  •  Priority Poverty Expenditure
  •  Politics Philosophy and Economics
  •  Power Plant, Electric
  •  Potential Psychic Energy (Palladium Games)
  •  Professional Performance Evaluation (education)
  •  Pdf Print Engine
  •  Policies Per Equivalent Employee (insurance)
  •  Program in Political Economy (various schools)
  •  Pre-Production Environment (software development)
  •  Plastic Process Equipment (Macedonia, OH)
  •  Pracownicze Programy Emerytalne (Polish: Employee Pension Plan)

More Meanings of PPE

That’s not all! With such a common initialism, there was bound to be even more meanings of PPE to explore:

  •  Pruritic Papular Eruption
  •  Personal Protection Equipment
  •  Professional Practice Experience (various organizations)
  •  Partnership for Public Engagement (UK)
  •  Prototype Production Evaluation
  •  Post-Production Engineering
  •  Professional Practice Examination (Canadian engineering accreditation)
  •  Parallel Page Engine (Oracle portal)
  •  Password Policy Enforcer (network security software)
  •  Phase Partitioning Experiment
  •  Programmable Priority Encoder
  •  Porcine Proliferative Enteropathy (Lawsonia Infection)
  •  Permissible Exposure Limit (safety regulation)
  •  Pacific Performance Engineering (Fullerton, CA)
  •  Planning Purpose Estimate (engineering document)


Overall, the term PPE stands for personal protective equipment. This is a type of equipment that a person in a profession must wear to protect themselves from risk. We also see personnel protective equipment in our everyday life through the masks we use to prevent the spread of COVID 19.


  1. PPE – What does PPE stand for? | The Free Dictionary 
  2. Personal Protective Equipment – Overview | Occupational Safety and Health Administration 
  3. Risk at Work – Personal protective equipment (PPE) | HSE