Employers have a duty by law to protect their workers from health and safety risks. PPE is an integral part of this duty, and must be provided free of charge if a risk assessment shows it is needed. However, there are a few things you need to know when selecting, using, and looking after your safety equipment – luckily, we’re here to break down the essentials for you!
1. What is PPE?
PPE is equipment designed to protect the user against health and safety risks at work – this incudes safety helmets, gloves, eye or hearing protection, high-visibility clothing, safety footwear, harnesses and respiratory protective equipment.
2. When You Should Use PPE
The need for PPE should be identified by a risk assessment – if there are hazards that still remain after controls and safe systems of work have been applied, PPE may be needed to reduce the risk of injury.
This may include protection from:
- Extreme temperatures
- Hazardous substances
- Falling objects
- Excessive Noise
3. Employer Duties
Employers have a duty by law under The Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992 to make sure that any PPE is:
- Used correctly
- Maintained and stored correctly
- Fit for purpose
- Assessed before use
- Provided with instructions on how to use it safely
Employers also have a duty to ensure workers have sufficient information, instruction and training on how to use PPE.
4. Controls to Consider Before Using PPE
PPE should always be the very last resort, and other controls should be considered first. The order in which controls should be considered is:
- Eliminating the hazard by physically removing it
- Substituting the hazard by replacing it with something else
- Implementing engineering controls to keep people away from the hazard
- Implementing administrative controls to change the way people work
If all of these options have been exhausted and a hazard still remains, this is when PPE must be used.
5. How To Select PPE
Consider the physical characteristics of the user to ensure that the size, fit and weight of the PPE is compatible. Ill-fitting PPE can increase the risk of injury and be ineffective in protecting the user against hazards.
If you’re unsure what PPE you need for a job, a supplier or specialist can advise.
6. Using Multiple Pieces of PPE
A task may often require more than one piece of PPE to be worn – in this case, you must ensure that the items are able to be used together.
For example, hard hats and ear defenders should be chosen on how well they fit together, and safety glasses should be checked to ensure they don’t disturb the seal of a respirator.
7. How To Maintain PPE
PPE must be stored correctly, and if reusable must be kept clean and well looked after. Some equipment, such as hi-vis clothing, is less effective if it is dirty.
Make sure if replacement parts are required, you follow the manufacturer’s replacement schedule and use the correct parts.
8. Monitoring and Review
You should regularly check for changes in equipment, materials and methods to see if any updates need to be made to your PPE, and you should monitor whether workers are using their equipment. If not, you should investigate why not.
9. Complying with PPE Legislation
Employers must choose UKCA (or CE in some situations) marked products – this means the products have met the requirements to be sold in the UK.
You should also check that your PPE has a Declaration of Conformity and instructions on how to use the item.
10. Amended PPE Regulations
Earlier this year, the Personal Protective Equipment at Work (Amendment) Regulations 2022 were introduced, which extended the employers’ and employees’ duties to limb (b) workers. The duties themselves remain unchanged, but now also apply to workers who generally have a more casual employment relationship and work under a contract for service.
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