What is PPE?
PPE, or Personal Protective Equipment, is equipment that will protect employees against health or safety risks at work. PPE includes items such as safety helmets and hard hats, work gloves, eye protection, high-visibility clothing, safety footwear and safety harnesses.
Although hearing protection and respiratory protective equipment are not covered by the same Regulations as there are separate, more specific regulations that applies to them. It is important that, these items are compatible with any other PPE provided.
What do the Regulations require?
PPE should be used as a last resort. Wherever there are risks to health and safety that cannot be adequately controlled in other ways, the Personal Protective
Equipment at Work Regulations 1992 requires PPE to be supplied.
The Regulations also require that PPE is:
- properly assessed before use to make sure it is fit for purpose;
- maintained and stored properly;
- provided with instructions on how to use it safely;
- used correctly by employees
Selection and Use
When selecting PPE:
- choose good quality products which are CE marked in accordance with the Personal Protective Equipment Regulations 2002 – suppliers can advise you;
- choose equipment that suits the wearer – consider the size, fit and weight; you may need to consider the health of the wearer, eg if equipment is very heavy, or wearers have pre-existing health issues, standard PPE may not be suitable;
- let users help choose it, they will be more likely to use it.
Using and distributing PPE to your employers:
- instruct and train people how to use it;
- tell them why it is needed, when to use it and what its limitations are;
- never allow exemptions for those jobs that ‘only take a few minutes’;
- if something changes on the job, check the PPE is still appropriate – speak with your supplier, explaining the job to them;
- if in doubt, seek further advice from a specialist adviser.
The Hazards and Types of PPE
Here is a list of the types of PPE and the hazards that can affect these parts of the body, making PPE a requirement.
Hazards: Chemical or metal splash, dust, projectiles, gas and vapour, radiation.
Options: Safety spectacles, goggles, face-shields, visors.
Note: You must ensure that the eye protection has the right combination of impact/dust/splash/molten metal eye protection for the task and fits the user properly.
Hazards: Impact from falling or flying objects, risk of head bumping, hair entanglement.
Options: A range of helmets, hard hats and bump caps.
Note: It is possible to buy certain safety helmets which incorporate or can be fitted with specially-designed eye or hearing protection. Do not forget about neck protection, e.g. scarves for use during welding. Do not use head protection if it has been damaged; replace it.
Hazards: Dust, vapour, gas, oxygen-deficient atmospheres.
Options: Disposable filtering face-piece or respirator, half- or full-face respirators, air- fed helmets, breathing apparatus.
Note: The right type of respirator filter must be used as each filter is only effective for a limited range of substances. Where there is a shortage of oxygen or any danger of losing consciousness due to exposure to high levels of harmful fumes, only use breathing apparatus – never use a filtering cartridge. Filter cartridges only have a limited life; when you’re replacing them or any other part of the respirator, check with the manufacturer’s guidance and ensure the correct replacement part is used.
Hazards: Temperature extremes, adverse weather, chemical or metal splash, spray from pressure leaks or spray guns, impact or penetration, contaminated dust, excessive wear or entanglement of own clothing.
Options: Conventional or disposable overalls, boiler suits, specialist protective clothing, e.g. chain-mail aprons, high-visibility clothing.
Note: The choice of materials includes flame-retardant, anti-static, chain mail, chemically impermeable, and high-visibility so think about the type of work that you will be doing in order to use the correct PPE. Don’t forget other protection, like safety harnesses or life jackets.
Hands & Arms
Hazards: abrasion, temperature extremes, cuts and punctures, impact, chemicals, electric shock, skin infection, disease or contamination.
Options: Gloves, gauntlets, mitts, wrist-cuffs, armlets.
Note: Avoid wearing gloves when operating machines such as bench drills where the gloves could get caught. Some materials are quickly penetrated by chemicals so be aware of this when you are selecting them, see HSE’s skin at work website for more details (www.hse.gov.uk/skin). Barrier creams are unreliable and should not be used as a substitute for proper PPE. Also if you are wearing gloves for long periods of time, this can make the skin hot and sweaty, leading to skin problems. To avoid this use separate cotton inner gloves can help prevent this. You must also be aware that some employees may be allergic to materials used in gloves, e.g. latex.
Feet & Legs
Hazards: Wet, electrostatic build-up, slipping, cuts and punctures, falling objects, metal and chemical splash, abrasion.
Options: Safety boots and shoes with protective toe caps and penetration-resistant mid-sole, gaiters, leggings, spats.
Note: Safety Footwear has a variety of sole patterns and materials to help prevent slips in different conditions, including oil or chemical-resistant soles. There are also anti-static soles, electrically conductive or thermally insulating. It is important that the appropriate footwear is selected for the risks identified around the current job.
It is important to train staff about PPE, such as why it is needed and how to use it properly, for their own safety and the safety of those around them.
- Ensure that anyone using PPE is aware of why it is needed, when to use, how and when to repair or replace it, how to report it if there is a fault and its limitations.
- Train and instruct people how to use PPE properly and make sure they are doing this. Include managers and supervisors in the training, although they may not need to use the equipment themselves, they do need to ensure their staff are using it correctly.
- It is important that employees wear PPE whenever they are exposed to the risk. Never allow exemptions for those jobs which take ‘just a few minutes’.
- Check regularly that PPE is being used and investigate incidents where it is not.
- Safety signs can be useful reminders to wear PPE, make sure that staff understand these signs, what they mean and where they can get equipment, e.g. for visitors or contractors.
Make sure that when you are buying any PPE it is ‘CE’ marked and complies with the requirements of the Personal Protective Equipment Regulations 2002. The CE marking signifies that the PPE satisfies certain basic safety requirements and may have been tested and certified by an independent body.