Personal protective equipment

A major contributory factor to accidents in the workplace is the misuse, incorrect selection or lack of maintenance of personal protective equipment (PPE).

Lack of information, instruction and training is often the root cause of a lot of these incidents.

Protection offered by PPE is rarely complete. Think of it as the last line of defence to control a risk after all other control measures have been implemented, or where a foreseeable failure of such measures could expose workers to danger.

It’s made clear in the Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations that employers are responsible for providing suitable PPE and associated training and employees are duty-bound to use PPE when required.

  • Complete and maintain records of risk assessments identifying workplace hazards and type of PPE you might need. Your assessment should answer these questions for each hazard:

    - What is it?

    - Who is exposed to it?

    - How much of it are they exposed to?

    - How long are they exposed to it for?

  • Make sure that the most appropriate engineering, technical and organisational risk control measures are in place; then identify existing residual or potential risks for which PPE is needed.
  • Talk to employees and safety representatives about PPE and what is needed, including training.
  • Select suitable PPE, taking into consideration:

    - the type of protection required;

    - the level of protection required;

    - compatibility with other PPE;

    - individual issues (e.g. beards, spectacles);

    - wearer acceptability and comfort (including suitability for those with health conditions);

    - fit (so that it can be worn correctly and be as effective as possible); and

    - information, instruction and training requirements (in use, care, cleaning, limitations, inspection, maintenance arrangements, fault or defect reporting, etc).
  • Discuss specifications and general procurement needs with a specialist. It may be necessary to contact manufacturers to assist with particular risks or circumstances.

    - There are a number of EN Standards for safety equipment. The detailed text of these standards is available from the British Standards Institution (BSI).
  • Provide suitable storage arrangements for PPE.
  • Set up and maintain a system to record the issue, training, maintenance and servicing of PPE, including an opportunity to report its condition and faults or defects.
  • Give supervisors and managers information, instruction and training so they can monitor and supervise effective use of PPE.
  • Do reviews at suitable intervals or when circumstances change or new information or equipment becomes available.
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Correct provision and use of PPE is an essential consideration for various risk topics, including:
Guidance about selecting and using PPE can be found via the following webpages: