Protecting workers and the public in a workplace is of vital importance, and a lot of thought and effort goes into minimising risks in terms of training and procedures to ensure that everyone is safe. However, even when every precaution has been taken, some hazards might remain, so personal protective equipment (PPE) is used as a last resort. It protects its wearer from these hazards. It can include safety helmets, gloves, eye protection, high-visibility clothing and safety footwear. It also includes respiratory protective equipment (RPE).
What are the requirements of PPE Regulations (1992)?
Under the PPE Regulations, employers have duties concerning the provision and use of PPE at work. Employers must pay for and provide their employees with PPE which fits them and protects them from any risks (including bad weather), and also ensure they are trained to use it properly whenever there is a risk. All PPE must be properly looked after and stored, kept in good condition, regularly checked and maintained and replaced in case of faults or wear and tear.
Employers must ensure the right type of PPE is chosen and used in each workplace situation and that, in cases where several different types of PPE are used, they are compatible (eg, a helmet doesn’t make it impossible for goggles to sit correctly, or an eye mask doesn’t impact on a face mask worn below it). All PPE should be ‘CE marked’ – this shows it has been fully tested and certified as suitable.
Employees should be fully trained in the use of PPE and its limitations. It’s important that PPE is used all the time, every time – no going without it because the job ‘will only take a minute or two’. This can often be when accidents happen.
What are the different types of PPE?
Hazards: Dust, projectiles, chemical or metal splashes, gas, vapour, radiation .
PPE types: Safety glasses, goggles, visors, faceshields, screens.
PPE types: Earmuffs, earplugs, ear canal caps.
Hazards: Bad weather, heat, chemical, metal splash, spray, dust, impact or entanglement.
PPE types: Overalls (reusable or disposable), boiler suits, aprons, chemical suits. These can be made of specific material for the purpose – eg flame retardant, high-visibility or chemically impermeable.
Head and neck
Hazards: Head trauma, hair getting tangled in machinery, chemical splashes, heat/cold.
PPE types: Safety helmets, hairnets, bump caps.
Hazards: Dust, gas, vapour, low-oxygen atmospheres.
PPE types: Respiratory protective equipment (RPE) – whether simple filtering facepieces or power-assisted respirators, breathing apparatus.
Hands and arms
Hazards: Electrical shocks, chemicals, radiation, vibrations, cuts, hot/cold.
PPE types: Gloves, with or without cuffs and sleeving to cover the arms.
Feet and legs
Risks: Falling objects, heat/cold, slipping, chemicals, electrostatic build up, cuts and punctures.
PPE types: Safety boots or shoes with protective toe caps, wellington boots.
For more information on PPE requirements from HSE click here.