Personal protective equipment, also known as PPE, is designed to protect the wearer against health and safety risks in the workplace. It includes items such as helmets, Hi-Vis clothing, footwear, safety goggles, harnesses and plenty more. It can also include the use of hearing and breathing protection, such as respirators and ear guards, for dangers that are more internal.
The regulations require that PPE should be a last resort and that if possible, no employee should be put in any dangerous situations. It should only be used in circumstances that cannot be controlled in any other way. This is according to the Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations from 1992. This act also makes several other requirements around PPE.
Firstly, it states that all PPE must be properly assessed before it is used in order to make sure it is fit for purpose. This means it needs to be maintained and stored properly and that the necessary instructions are provided for safe use. The regulations also say that employees should be assessed to ensure they are using the equipment in the correct way.
The conditions in every workplace will be different, which means that a risk assessment needs to be carried out to see what PPE is required. If you are unsure, then ask your supplier about the suitability of equipment for different tasks. In some cases, this may involve getting specialist advice from the manufacturer.
You will need to answer certain questions before making your decision. This includes whether the PPE will reduce overall risk and is it suitable to the environmental conditions? Can it be adjusted to fit the employee correctly in all situations? And if more than one item of PPE is needed, will they be compatible?
You need to make sure you are choosing PPE that is up to standard. Look for the CE mark which means it complies with the PPE Regulations from 2002. Make sure you are choosing equipment that is suitable for the person who will be wearing it. You are also required to provide adequate training in the correct use of the equipment.
Under the regulations you are obliged to make sure all equipment is in good working order. This includes storing it in the correct way when not being used, for example, by use of a dedicated space such as a dry, clean cupboard. Equipment should be regularly inspected for cleanliness and state of repair. Any specific repair work should be carried out by a specialist, including fitting spare parts.
As well as the 1992 PPE Regulations, there are various other governmental regulations that overlap and affect the use of PPE. For example, the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 makes special reference to the use of gloves when using chemicals, so knowledge of this is also essential.
It is also required that you have at least one person who is responsible for the implementation, care and training for PPE within the workplace.
These regulations exist to keep us all safer at work, so having thorough knowledge of them is not only required by law, but helps to prevent accident and injury.