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, e.g. from breathing in contaminated air
- the head and feet, e.g. from falling materials
- the eyes, e.g. from flying particles or splashes of corrosive liquids
- the skin, e.g. from contact with corrosive materials
- the body, e.g. 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, e.g. head protection on most construction sites), you must provide this for your employees free of charge
You must choose the equipment carefully and ensure employees are trained to use it properly, and know how to detect and report any faults
The Personal Protective Equipment Regulations 2002 and the Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992 (as amended) give the main requirements.
Other special regulations cover hazardous substances (including lead and asbestos), and also noise and radiation.