Employers have duties concerning the provision and use of personal protective equipment (PPE) at work.
PPE is equipment that will protect the user against health or safety risks at work. It can include items such as safety helmets, gloves, eye protection, high-visibility clothing, safety footwear and safety harnesses. It also includes respiratory protective equipment (RPE).
Why is PPE important?
Making the workplace safe includes providing instructions, procedures, training and supervision to encourage people to work safely and responsibly.
Even where engineering controls and safe systems of work have been applied, some hazards might remain. These include injuries to:
the lungs, eg from breathing in contaminated air
the head and feet, eg from falling materials
the eyes, eg from flying particles or splashes of corrosive liquids
the skin, eg from contact with corrosive materials
the body, eg from extremes of heat or cold
PPE is needed in these cases to reduce the risk.
What do I have to do?
Only use PPE as a last resort
If PPE is still needed after implementing other controls (and there will be circumstances when it is, eg head protection on most construction sites), you must provide this for your employees free of charge
You must choose the equipment carefully (see selection details below) and ensure employees are trained to use it properly, and know how to detect and report any faults
Selection and use
You should ask yourself the following questions:
Who is exposed and to what?
How long are they exposed for?
How much are they exposed to?
When selecting and using PPE:
Choose products which are CE marked in accordance with the Personal Protective Equipment (Enforcement) Regulations 2018 – suppliers can advise you
Choose equipment that suits the user – consider the size, fit and weight of the PPE. If the users help choose it, they will be more likely to use it
If more than one item of PPE is worn at the same time, make sure they can be used together, eg wearing safety glasses may disturb the seal of a respirator, causing air leaks
Instruct and train people how to use it, eg train people to remove gloves without contaminating their skin. Tell them why it is needed, when to use it and what its limitations are