The colour of PPE

When it comes to personal protection equipment you’ll see a lot of different colours, with red, yellow, green, blue and orange in abundance. But the colour involved in PPE isn’t purely a matter of aesthetics. There's a method behind the design, and the colours used have significance.

Foreign objects and avoiding errors

Blue Food PPE

One of the best examples of colour use in PPE is the food processing industry. You will frequently find safety gloves and hearing protection are present throughout the production process, yet there is a danger here that the protective equipment itself could end up as foreign objects in the food. To prevent this, PPE used for food processing is blue in colour, as there are no foodstuffs that are naturally blue. The blue is an immediate indication that food has been contaminated, allowing it to be quickly noticed and removed.

Other signal colours in PPE

Blue isn’t the only ‘signal colour’ used in PPE. Building sites and roadworks are other examples of areas where colour is used to ensure safety. The dust created in these environments and other elements of the working conditions means visibility is key. There is a real danger that workers might not be seen, and as a result, protective clothing is brightly coloured, usually in orange, yellow, and sometimes red, to ensure that no matter how dark or dusty it gets, workers can be easily seen.

Colours for qualifications and function

PPE coloured helmets

Colour can also be used to identify the function and level of qualification of workers themselves, as well as the PPE gear they wear. For example, there is a wide range of coloured helmets present on a building site, and these are often used to visually identify key members of the construction team or the trade a particular person is working in.

Safety helmet colours on Build UK members' sites adhere to the following colour scheme:

  • White - for site managers, competent operatives and vehicle marshalls (distinguished by the wearing of a different coloured high-visibility vest)
  • Black - for site supervisors
  • Orange - for slingers and signallers
  • Blue - for all other site visitors

For more details on this take a look at the NBS guidance page it explains the standards around safety helmets and the reasons guidance was changed in 2017.

Rail construction


The exception to the above is rail - PPE standard requires only white and blue safety helmets to be used on site. With regards the workwear itself rail construction workers must wear orange. The reasons are simple, this colour can't be confused with track symbols (red-stop, yellow-proceed with caution, green-go) plus orange contrasts strongly with the countryside environment in which rail workers most frequently operate.

HeathBrook offer PPE for those in the rail industry. This conforms to all the regulatory standards and we can advise on all aspects of our complete range.

Colours to identify purpose and function

Many PPE manufacturers employ colour coding to help their customers and end-users create a system for visually identifying the purpose and function of a worker based on the colour of their gear.

For example, single-use eye protection is usually white or blue, while heat resistant goggles are generally red. Flight workers are usually easily identifiable by their bright green ear defenders.

Our PPE complies with industry best practices and safety standards, our experts can advise on the most suitable equipment for every job.