Personal Protective Equipment at Work

Many jobs require employees to wear certain kinds of equipment in order to carry on their tasks without endangering their personal health and safety.

The Personal Protective Equipment Regulations 1992 provide various obligations on both employees and employers to ensure that this happens.

The Personal Protective Equipment Regulations 1992

Protective Equipment

What is meant by Protective Equipment?

The term protective equipment is defined the Personal Protective Regulations 1992 as all equipment (including clothing affording protection against the weather) which is intended to be worn or held by a person at work which protects them against one or more risks to their health and safety.

Examples of such equipment will be hard hats, high visibility jackets, protective footwear, goggles, life jackets, safety harnesses etc.

Clothing affording protection against the weather such as waterproofs or insulated clothing is only deemed to be protective equipment if the use of it is necessary to protect employees against adverse climatic or weather conditions that otherwise may affect their health and safety.

Legal Duties

The Personal Protective Equipment Regulations ensure that there is a legal duty for personal protective equipment to be appropriately selected by the employer and used by the employee where the risks cannot be controlled by other means.

When should Personal Protective Equipment be used?

Last Resort

Personal protective equipment should only be used as a last resort and where there are no other possibilities available. In the case of the use of working machinery all other effective safeguards such as glass screens should be evaluated before the worker is simply provided with goggles as protective eyewear.

The following are the key reasons why personal protective equipment should be considered as a last resort:

  • The personal protective equipment provided will only protect the individual person who is wearing it. if other measures are in place to control risks associated with certain machinery for example then the entire workforce will be protected.
  • When personal protection equipment is used the actual level of protection is very difficult to assess and therefore maximum levels of protection difficult to achieve. Effective protection using personal protective equipment requires each and every aspect of that equipment to be used, fitted and maintained correctly which places a certain pressure on the individual employee.
  • In some cases the personal protection equipment may restrict the wearers’ visibility or mobility. If this is the case extra health and safety hazards may be caused.

Risk Assessment

The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 impose a duty on all employers to undertake risk assessments in relation to Health and Safety. There are various other Health and Safety Regulations to be taken into consideration here also.

For example if the employment is concerned with hazardous substances then the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations will come into play or if the employment was in the construction industry then the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations would come into play, both which require full risk assessments.

If in carrying out risk assessments in relation to construction it was found that a hard hat was needed or in relation to control of substances that gloves were needed when handling the substance then the Personal Protective Equipment regulations would then come into play.

The use of personal protective equipment therefore becomes apparent through a risk assessment required from other Health and Safety Legislation.

Factors taken into account in Risk Assessments

In choosing the correct kind of personal protective equipment all of the hazards involved in the performance of the task must be considered and the most suitable equipment chosen.

The following are examples of how to assess the suitability of equipment:

  • Is the equipment appropriate for the risk involved – full face protection may be more suitable than goggles for a particular task
  • Does the equipment prevent or adequately control the risks associated with the task. In some cases protective gloves may impair the proper controlling of equipment and therefore create an increased hazard
  • Needs or job and demands on the wearer – in this case the existing health of the employee should be taken into account
  • If more than one piece of equipment is being worn are they compatible – for example if a worker wears both a respirator and eye wear care should be taken to ensure that the respirator does not impede sight
  • Can the equipment be adjusted to fit each individual wearer – if equipment does not fit an individual correctly then this will not be adequate protective equipment under the Regulations.

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For more information on:

  • Specific Equipment
  • Information, Instruction and Training
  • Maintenance
  • Further Duties of Employer
  • What duty do the Regulations impose on employees?
  • I am self employed – do the Personal Protective Regulations apply to me?
  • The Personal Protective Equipment Regulations 2002