Understanding the PPE regulations will help you ensure you and your team are protected from risks in the workplace. So you don’t have to trawl through pages of dull legalese, we’ve summed up everything you need to know about the PPE at Work Regulations.
During the Covid-19 pandemic, we all became familiar with the importance of personal protective equipment (PPE). Suddenly, surgical masks and N95 respirators became essential pieces of kit.
While the need for masks has eased somewhat, many different types of PPE are still crucial for workplace health and safety. PPE can include anything from a hard hat to eyewear, gloves or even an apron.
If you’re not provided with the right type of PPE or are not using it correctly, your health could be at serious risk. This is why there are strict workplace PPE use rules to keep people safe.
What is PPE?
PPE is equipment that creates a physical barrier between you and a potential hazard. This definition covers a vast range of equipment with a variety of purposes. Almost every occupation imaginable has PPE of some kind or another.
Think of a circus tent with a cage with a lion and a lion tamer dressed in a spangly red coat. The lion tamer isn’t getting into that cage without something to keep that lion from getting at them. They’ll have a chair or a whip to keep the big cat at bay. That’s an example of PPE.
(OK, that’s a bit extreme. You probably won’t have to face off a lion with a wooden dining chair anytime soon. But the example does show that there are many different types of PPE.)
PPE is designed to protect people from three main types of workplace hazards:
- Biological: Such as viruses, animal droppings or toxic plants
- Chemical: Such as cleaning products, petrol or solvents
- Physical: Such as sharp objects, fall risks, radioactive materials and excessive noise or light
PPE and the Hierarchy of Risk Controls
It’s important to understand that PPE is just one part of the system of workplace risk controls. In fact, PPE is the lowest-ranking risk control, as you can see in the hierarchy of risk controls below.
Ideally, hazards should be eliminated. If this isn’t possible, the risk should be controlled by substituting with a safer work procedure. If this isn’t feasible, engineering or administrative controls should be used to either change the equipment used to perform the task or how the task is completed.
PPE is the last option as it only protects the person wearing it, and only then if they wear it correctly.
PPE at Work Regulations
The PPE at Work Regulations 1992 is the UK’s primary PPE legislation. The Personal Protective Equipment at Work (Amendment) Regulations 2022 recently amended the PPE at Work Regulations. These regulations are overseen and enforced by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).
The PPE at Work Regulations requires employers to provide PPE free of charge whenever workplace health and safety risks can’t be eliminated or controlled. The PPE regulations explicitly state that:
- If PPE is needed, then it must be assessed before use to ensure it is fit for purpose
- All PPE must be maintained and kept in good condition
- PPE must be appropriately stored in line with the manufacturer’s recommendations
- Staff must be provided with instructions and training on the correct use of PPE
- PPE must be used correctly and in the manner for which it was intended
What PPE Should Employers Provide?
Employers have a legal duty to provide PPE to their employees if a risk assessment determines that it is necessary. The PPE used should be sufficient to mitigate any health and safety risks.
Some of the most common types of PPE include:
- Head protection like hard hats or helmets
- Eye and face protection like safety glasses or face shields
- Hearing protection such as earplugs or earmuffs
- Respiratory protection such as dust masks or respirators
- Hand protection, like gloves to protect against cuts, abrasions, chemicals, or other hazards
- Foot protection such as non-slip safety shoes or steel-capped boots
- High-visibility clothing to enhance visibility
- Protective clothing like reinforced coveralls or industrial aprons
- Fall protection such as harnesses or lanyards
- Sun protection like sunscreen and hats
PPE doesn’t include ordinary clothes worn at work like uniforms, equipment used for food hygiene purposes, any protective wear used on public roads, or any equipment used during a sporting competition. Weapons used for self-defence or as a deterrent aren’t considered PPE. Neither are portable devices used to detect risks, like gas or radiation detectors.
What are Employees’ Responsibilities for PPE?
Employees also have responsibilities under the PPE regulations. If you’re issued PPE at work, you must use it properly per any instructions and according to any training you’ve received. Employees must take all reasonable care to maintain PPE and not modify or repair it without authorisation.
Before PPE is used, an employee should perform a quick visual check to ensure it’s in good condition. If there are any potential issues, these should be reported to a supervisor immediately.
After use, PPE must be put back in the correct storage area unless the usual practice is for the employee to take the PPE home.
If an employee loses, misplaces, or has PPE stolen, they must report the loss right away.
If PPE is required, no work should be undertaken without its use.
Why PPE Training Is Crucial
Even if you are in a hazardous occupation – like a lion tamer, for instance – you should never feel as though you’ll be physically harmed at work. PPE protects you from workplace risks to your short-term well-being and long-term health.
But PPE is only adequate if the person using it knows how to wear and use it correctly.
If you are injured while incorrectly or not using PPE, your employer could be found liable for your injury. Likewise, if you’re an employer and haven’t provided adequate PPE or trained your staff on how to use PPE properly, you could face serious legal problems if there’s an accident.
PPE training courses give staff the skills they need to use PPE properly. These training courses also educate employers on providing suitable types of PPE and ensuring it’s safe for use.
Be sure your people are protected. Sign up for our PPE Training course today.