PPE: The Complete Guide
By Suzanne Dixon: Kedleston Safety
“PPE is the personal protective equipment that will protect you, the user, against health or safety risks”
What is PPE?
PPE can include items such as safety helmets, gloves, eye protection, hazmat suits, high-visibility clothing, safety footwear, safety harnesses, ear plugs, ear defenders and respiratory protective equipment (RPE).
So why is PPE important when it is seen as the last line of defence in the hierarchy of risk control?
PPE is still extremely important for workplaces to have it readily available and should be provided to ensure workers are safe under any conditions, and if any controls put in place fail. PPE may be labelled as the last line of defence, but it is as equally if not more important as the other lines of defence in the hierarchy. If the other steps fail, the worker can be put at risk for serious injury or death.
PPE protects only the person using it, whereas measures controlling the risk at source can protect everyone at the workplace. PPE is critically important as it is generally only used where other measures are insufficient and as such it plays a crucial role in preventing and reducing many occupational fatalities, injuries and diseases.
Did you know... 98% of employers said they have seen staff no wearing PPE, and these are their top excuses for not wearing it:
- It looks unattractive
- Its too hot
- It’s a poor fit
- It’s not easily accessible
The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 places a general duty of care on employers for ensuring the safety of their employees and others and requires that no charge may be made for anything done for the purposes of compliance (eg providing PPE) (Section 9). The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 require employers and self-employed people to carry out a suitable and sufficient risk assessment for all work activities for the purpose of deciding what measures are necessary for safety.
A risk assessment needs to be carried out to correctly identify precautions and measures that protect people from harm. The provision of PPE is a legitimate response to the presence of hazards in the workplace but should only be applied where other measures to remove, reduce or isolate the hazard are likely to prove insufficient.
Regulation 4 of the Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992 (the Regulations) makes it clear that employers must provide suitable PPE for employees exposed to health and safety risks except ‘where and to the extent that such risk has been adequately controlled by other means which are equally or more effective’. A similar duty applies to the self-employed with regard to supplying PPE for their own use.
The PPE Regulations Were Updated in 2018
On the 21st April 2018, Regulation (EU) 2016/425 on Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) came into force and replace the old PPE Directive 89/686/EEC.
The new Regulation now applies to the whole supply chain rather than just manufacturers. Everyone involved in the manufacture, supply and distribution of PPE must ensure their PPE meets with the standard requirements.
What Employers Need to Do
Employers should provide PPE to their employees only where there is a health and safety risk that cannot be adequately controlled by other means.
Where risks cannot be controlled by other means then PPE must be provided. It must:
- Be appropriate for the risks and for the working Environment;
- Take account of the user’s health, ergonomics, fit factors and be compatible with other items of PPE required to be worn;
- Adequately control the risk presented by the hazard without increasing overall risk experienced by the worker. For example, goggles which are to be used in a hot environment and therefore steam up making it difficult to see;
- Be supplied free of charge if supplied for work-related health-and-safety reasons;
- Be properly maintained and suitably stored (in practice, for mobile workers, it may be necessary to supply a holdall or other container to prevent damage to PPE in transit);
- Comply with relevant legislation implementing the European Directives concerning the design and manufacture.
Employers are also recommended to consult the potential wearers of PPE before items are supplied because they are usually best placed to know what is demanded by their jobs and the type and configuration of PPE that is best suited to their working environment.
What Employees Need to Do
The Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992 place duties on employees to take reasonable steps to ensure that the PPE provided is properly used.
The Regulations also place the following duties on employees.
- PPE must be worn and used in accordance with the instructions provided to them
- Employees must make sure that PPE is returned to the provided accommodation after use (unless the employee takes the PPE away from the workplace e.g. footwear or clothing).
- PPE should be returned to the appropriate storage unit (if applicable) after use, unless the employee takes their PPE home, for example footwear or clothing.
- PPE must be visually examined before use.
- Any loss or obvious defect must be immediately reported to their line manager.
- Employees must take reasonable care of any PPE provided to them and not carry out any maintenance unless trained and authorized.
Assessing Suitable PPE
The type and nature of the hazards in the workplace will be a primary indicator of the right type of PPE. The following questions should be considered when assessing whether PPE is suitable or not:
- Is it appropriate for the risks involved and the conditions at the place where exposure to the risk may occur?
- Does it prevent or adequately control the risks involved without increasing the overall level of risk?
- Can it be adjusted to fit the wearer correctly? (In the case of close fitting respiratory protective equipment specialist fit testing is required);
- Has the state of health or needs 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
- If more than one item of PPE is being worn, are they compatible?
There are various types of PPE available for use in the workplace. You can contact your local supplier to find out the right PPE solution for you.
PPE at a Glance
|Affected area||Hazard||Potential solutions|
|Eyes||Dust, gas or vapour, projectiles, radiation, chemical or metal splashes.||Safety spectacles, goggles, face screens or shields, visors.|
|Head and neck||Safety spectacles, goggles, face screens or shields, visors.||Industrial safety helmets, bump caps, hairnets and firefighters’ helmets.|
|Ears||Noise levels and duration.||Earplugs, ear mugs, semi-insert/canal caps.|
|Hands and arms||Abrasion, temperature extremes, cuts and punctures, impact, chemicals, electric shock, radiation, vibration, biological agents and prolonged immersion in water.||Gloves, gloves with a cuff, gauntlets and sleeving that covers part or all of the arm.|
|Feet and legs||Wet, hot and cold conditions, electrostatic build-up, slipping, cuts and punctures, falling objects, heavy loads, metal and chemical splash, vehicles.||Safety boots and shoes with protective toecaps and penetration-resistant, mid-sole wellington boots and specific footwear.|
|Lungs||Oxygen-deficient atmospheres, dusts, gases and vapours.||Respiratory protective equipment (RPE).|
Want more information?
By: Suzanne Dixon: Kedleston Safety