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Why PPE is Important at Work

April 2nd, 2019

Last updated: April 26th, 2023

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is vital to employees in any work situation where health and safety hazards exist, as statistics tell us, and hence, employers have a legal duty to provide it and maintain it where it is applicable.

There are other PPE responsibilities within workplaces, it should be issued free of charge and employees need to be trained in how to use it, and the importance of using it to protect themselves.

Why is PPE Important?

Many of us know why PPE is important in healthcare due to high-profile discussions about protective equipment in recent years. However, not everyone has such a good understanding of why PPE is important in the food industry and other industries, such as construction.

Generally speaking, PPE protects the user from health and safety risks at work and includes items such as gloves, goggles, boots, harnesses and high-visibility clothing.

In terms of health and safety, an employer must carry out risk assessments to help monitor risks and to consider what controls are needed in the workplace. These controls usually come in the form of procedures, safe systems of work and engineering controls to make processes and equipment safe.

However, these don’t necessarily manage all the hazards present and hence, PPE is provided as a further control, often referred to as the ‘last line of defence’ or the ‘last resort’. Certainly, PPE should not be considered as the sole solution to controlling a risk. For instance, you can’t forego duct cleaning and provide staff with masks instead. The procedures and engineering controls should be put in place first.

Depending on the nature of the organisation, PPE can be issued to help control exposure to many different hazards, typically including contaminated air, falling materials, flying particles or corrosive liquids, contact with corrosive materials and for warmth and protection from extreme elements.

PPE Duties of the Employer and Employee

An employer has a duty to make appropriate PPE available and to monitor its use. Everyone in the workspace should understand why PPE is important, and respect the need to wear it.

The PPE should be suitable and in good condition, it should be issued free of charge and employees need to be trained in how to use it, and the importance of using it.

In addition, it should be noted that employees have their own duty to wear PPE that has been issued to them and to report any defects or problems with the PPE, ie. if it is not suitable for the specific job or if hazards still exist.

The employer should ensure that PPE is maintained and that the user has a safe place to store it. They should also ensure that ample supplies are stocked in order to issue replacement items ASAP. It is recommended that a PPE procedure is put in place to ensure PPE is issued to the right people, signed for and that visitors and contractors coming on site are also monitored, issued with PPE where applicable and subject to the same control systems in place.

Requirements of PPE

PPE needs to be selected depending on the type of exposure, who is exposed, how long they are exposed to the hazard for and how much of the hazard they are exposed to. This should all be considered via a formal risk assessment specific to the individual task or piece of equipment involved. Equally, the PPE needs to be suitable for the user in terms of size, fit and weight and it should be CE marked by the manufacturer. Obelis Group provide a brilliant explanation of CE marking and why it matters.

An employer can refer to legislation to ensure they have covered all aspects of PPE. This is detailed in The Personal Protective Equipment Regulations 2002 and the Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992. These outline the main requirements of an employer in issuing PPE, while other more specific regulations cover work with hazardous substances such as lead, asbestos, noise and radiation.

What if an Employer Doesn’t Provide Adequate PPE?

Like the majority of aspects covered by the Health and Safety at Work Act, not providing the right PPE could result in fines and legal action.

Worker’s rights are a priority in the UK, and if an employer does not provide the right PPE, and a worker is injured as a result, the employer could be deemed to be at fault. This could result in legal action, and compensation being issued.

For an employer, there are many aspects of record-keeping, such as ensuring that equipment like a boiler is serviced. When it comes to providing PPE, ensuring that there are records, and proof that the correct training and PPE has been provided can help to show that you are legally compliant if there is any potential legal action.

For more information and guidance on your legal responsibilities of providing a safe and adequate workplace, and PPE equipment, please click here to contact us.

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