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PPE Glossary: What Do These Safety Terms Mean?

Updated: Feb 28, 2023

Now is the time to ensure maximum safety and comfort in your organization. Take care of your workplace with the right combination of protective measures and personal protective equipment for employees.

This quick glossary of common terms related to PPE and Covid-19 will help you find your

way around and address the needs of your organization.


The term PPE stands for “personal protective equipment” which includes clothing or other equipment that protects the wearer from injury or infection at their workplace. There are different PPE standards depending on the industry and workplace environment. In healthcare facilities and in the context of Covid-19, PPE may include medical masks, gloves, protective aprons and gowns, and others.

CE certified

Personal protective equipment such as medical and non-medical face masks might bear a CE certification label. Here’s what the official European Union website explains:

Many products require CE marking before they can be sold in the EU. CE marking indicates that a product has been assessed by the manufacturer and deemed to meet EU safety, health and environmental protection requirements. It is required for products manufactured anywhere in the world that are then marketed in the EU.

Look for products that bear CE marking among other certifications to ensure that your PPE meets the necessary quality standards.

FFP1, FFP2 and FFP3

FFP masks provide the highest filtration of small particles among most commercially available face masks. They protect the wearer against droplets and particles transmitted in the air that could contain infectious aerosols.

There are three categories of FFP masks according to the effectiveness of their filter and leakage around the face:

  • FFP1 masks filter at least 80% of aerosols

  • FFP2 masks filter at least 94% of aerosols

  • FFP3 masks filter at least 99% of aerosols


The micron is a small unit of measurement. The size of the coronavirus particle varies but it is usually around 0.1 microns in diameter. However, it is always attached to a larger particle or droplet produced when people sneeze, cough, or talk.

There is never a naked virus floating in the air or released by people,highlights Linsey Marr, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at Virginia Tech who specializes in airborne transmission of viruses.

This is why it is important to know the filtration levels of the face masks you purchase. Face masks with high filtration levels such as N95, FFP2, and FFP3, when worn properly and with a tight seal around the face, filter out 95% of particles of 0.3 microns or larger.

Health organizations

Whether in public or at the workplace, always follow the safety recommendations of recognized authoritative bodies. The following organizations focused on public health and safety provide reliable and trustworthy information on Covid-19 developments and PPE requirements.

WHO = World Health Organization

Their primary role is to direct international health within the United Nations’ system and to lead partners in global health responses.

CDC = Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

As the health protection agency of the US, CDC saves lives and protects people from health, safety, and security threats.

OSHA = Occupational Safety and Health Administration

Their mission is to ensure safe and healthful working conditions for working men and women by setting and enforcing standards and by providing training, outreach, education and assistance.

ECDC = European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control

Their mission is to identify, assess and communicate current and emerging threats to human health posed by infectious diseases.

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