Personal protective equipment (PPE) refers to protective clothing, helmets, goggles, or other garment designed to protect the wearer’s body from injury by blunt impacts, electrical hazards, heat, chemicals, and infection, for job-related occupational safety and health purposes, and in sports, martial arts, combat, etc. Personal armor is combat-specialized protective gear. In British legislation the term PPE does not cover items such as armour.

The terms “protective gear” and “protective clothing” are in many cases interchangeable; “protective clothing” is applied to traditional categories of clothing, and “gear” is a more general term and preferably means uniquely protective categories, such as pads, guards, shields, masks, etc. Protective equipment for biological hazards includes masks worn by medical personnel (especially in surgery to avoid infecting the patient but also to avoid exposing the personnel to infection from the patient. Gloves, frequently changed, are used to prevent infection but also transfer between patients A feature of most humans societies is the wearing of clothing, a category encompassing a wide variety of materials that cover the body. The primary purpose of clothing is functional, as a protection from the elements. Clothes also enhance safety during hazardous activities such as hiking and cooking, by providing a barrier between the skin and the environment. Further, clothes provide a hygienic barrier, keeping toxins away from the body and limiting the transmission of germs.

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Clothing performs a range of social and cultural functions, such as individual, occupational and sexual differentiation, and social status. A uniform, for example, may identify civil authority figures, such as police and military personnel, or it may identify team, group or political affiliations. In many societies, norms about clothing reflect standards of modesty, religion, gender, and social status. Clothing may also function as a form of adornment and an expression of personal taste or style. Throughout history, many materials have been used for clothes.

Materials have ranged from leather and furs, to woven materials, to elaborate and exotic natural and synthetic fabrics. Recent scientific research estimates that humans have been wearing clothing for as long as 650,000 years. Others claim that clothing probably did not originate until the Neolithic Age (the “New Stone Age”). Articles carried rather than worn (such as purses), worn on a single part of the body and easily removed (scarves), worn purely for adornment (jewelry), or those that serve a function other than protection (eyeglasses), are normally considered accessories rather than clothing.

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