Personal Protective Equipment

What is Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

The use of PPE in the work place is covered by the Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992 which defines PPE as:

'all equipment (including clothing affording protection against the weather) which is intended to be worn or held by a person at work and which protects them against one or more risks to their health or safety’.

Examples of PPE include safety helmets, gloves, eye protection, high-visibility clothing, safety footwear and safety harnesses. Hearing protection and respiratory protective equipment are covered by other Regulations.  If being used with other PPE always check compability.


What do the Regulations require?

The main requirement is that PPE is to be supplied, free of charge to employees for use wherever their work poses a risk to health and safety that cannot be adequately controlled in other ways. The Regulations also require that PPE is:

  • Properly assessed before use to ensure it is suitable
  • Maintained and stored properly
  • Provided with instructions on how to use it safely
  • Used correctly by employees
  • Issued for personal use if it is necessary for the PPE to be hygienic and free from health risks

Choosing the correct PPE

PPE must only be used as a last resort when there are no other available controls eg substitution of a substance with a non hazardous type.  To choose the right type of PPE, consider the different hazards associated with the work activity as this will help you identify which is the most suitable PPE to protect against the hazard.  You may also need to ask suppliers and sometimes even specialists for advice on the different types of PPE available and how suitable they are for different tasks. The British Safety Industry Federation (www.bsif.co.uk) are also a useful source of information. 


Consider the following when assessing if PPE is suitable:

  • Is it CE Marked
  • Is it appropriate for the risks involved and the environment where it is to be used? For example, eye protection designed to protect against pesticides will not offer adequate face protection against an impact risk
  • Does it prevent or adequately control the risks involved
  • Can it be adjusted to fit the wearer correctly ie consider facial hair, long hair, wearing of glasses etc which may get in the way
  • Has the state of health of those who will be wearing it been taken into account
  • What are the needs of the job and the demands it places on the wearer? For example, the length of time the PPE needs to be worn, the physical effort required to do the job and the requirements for visibility and communication.
  • If more than one item of PPE is being worn, are they compatible? For example, does a particular type of respirator make it difficult to get eye protection to fit properly

Training

Ensure anyone using PPE is trained and instructed in its correct use.  This includes an awareness of why the PPE is needed, what its limitations are, when it is to be used, repaired or replaced, correct storage, cleaning etc.  In addition, always make sure staff know how to obtain new / replacement PPE.

Maintenance

Always check PPE is kept clean and in good order with items stored correctly when not in use.  It is important to refer to manufacter's guidance to ensure maintenance schedules, including recommended replacement periods and shelf lives are followed. 

Further information