Proper training is essential to the effective use of personal protective equipment in the workplace, and should leave users with sufficient knowledge on how to equip, use, maintain and store any PPE they may use.
So, what steps can you take to ensure your PPE training is effective?
1. Be guided by risk assessments
Risk assessments for any activity or equipment should always consider whether PPE is required – protecting the worker with PPE is the last resort once all other controls have been considered.
If a risk assessment has determined that PPE is necessary for work to be undertaken safely, then follow this guidance and let it inform the PPE you choose and therefore the training you provide.
2. Cover why PPE is needed
Your employees need to understand why they are wearing the PPE and what risks it will be protecting them from. It is essential they understand the importance of wearing the equipment correctly and consistently, in order to prevent unnecessary injuries or ill-health from misuse.
Before you even begin the training process, you can get your employees involved in the selection of the PPE – this can help them to understand its importance.
3. Teach how to use PPE
It is vital that your workers know how to equip, adjust, and remove their PPE correctly, to ensure that they are both comfortable and safe while wearing it.
If there is a particular sequence to putting the equipment on, they must be given clear instructions on how to do so, and they should be made aware of any additional steps they must take, such as how they should remove gloves without contaminating their skin.
4. Cover how to look after PPE
PPE needs to be properly maintained in order to be effective – it should be stored correctly in a dry, clean place, and reusable equipment should be cleaned and in a good condition.
Workers should know what actions they can take themselves to keep their kit in good condition, such as where to store it, and minor maintenance tasks such as replacing shoelaces. In many cases, if equipment is more complex it may need to be sent to the manufacturer for specialist repairs.
In these cases, or if the PPE provided to them is defective, lost, or destroyed, your employees should be trained on the process of how to report this.
5. Look at how different types of PPE interact
It is very possible that more than one risk may be present at any given time, requiring workers to wear multiple pieces of PPE at once. Some pieces of PPE may disrupt the use of others, such as ear defenders not fitting around hard hats, or safety glasses breaking the seal of a respirator.
When selecting PPE for a task, you should be selecting it with this in mind anyway so that you can provide your workers with equipment that works cohesively together. However, it is something they should be be aware of, so they can identify when equipment is not suitable to be used together and report it.
6. Understand the law
As per The Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992, employers by law must ensure that:
- Workers receive sufficient information, instruction and training on PPE use
- PPE is properly maintained and stored
- PPE is assessed before use to ensure it is fit for purpose
- You provide instructions to explain how to use PPE safely
- Workers use their PPE correctly
7. Understand your duties as an employer
Training is not just your employers, but also for you – following on from the above, you should also understand what your duties are as an employer. If you work in an industry where PPE is required, you must:
- Use a risk assessment to assess PPE requirements
- Select the correct type of PPE
- Provide suitable PPE free of charge
- Provide instructions and training on maintenance, fitting and use
- Provide suitable storage facilities
- Check that employees are using PPE correctly
- Check that PPE is maintained
8. Ensure employees understand their duties
Employees must be trained on their responsibilities at work when PPE is present. This includes:
- Always wearing their assigned PPE when required
- Only using PPE for the intended purpose
- Using PPE correctly
- Maintaining PPE as instructed
- Inspecting PPE before and after use
- Storing PPE correctly
- Checking PPE is compatible
- Reporting defects or problems with PPE
9. Cover the limitations of PPE
When selecting PPE, you should ensure it is fit for purpose and suitable for the user – however PPE can have its limitations.
This may include restricted movement, communication difficulties, dehydration risks and more.
Training on these issues can help your employees to identify any limitations specific to them, which you can then use to inform your PPE purchasing decisions.
10. Combine awareness and practical training
Awareness training can easily be completed online at the learner’s own pace, and can help them to understand the importance of PPE, and how to use and store it correctly. In order to gain the rest of the skills required to use PPE safely, this should be used in conjunction with practical face-to-face training.
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