Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations (PPE)
The Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992 (PPE) (or The Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations (Northern Ireland) 1993) is defined in the regulations as 'all equipment (including clothing affording protection against the weather) which is intended to be worn or held by a person at work and which protects him or her against one or more risks to his or her health or safety', e.g., safety helmets, gloves, eye protection, high-visibility clothing, safety footwear and safety harnesses.
Hearing protection and respiratory protective equipment provided for most work situations are not covered by these regulations because other regulations apply to them. However, these items need to be compatible with any other PPE provided.
Cycle helmets or crash helmets worn by employees on the roads are not covered by the regulations. Motorcycle helmets are legally required for motorcyclists under road traffic legislation.
Requirements under the regulations
The main requirement of the Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992 (or The Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations (Northern Ireland) 1993) is that personal protective equipment is to be supplied and used at work wherever there are risks to health and safety that cannot be adequately controlled in other ways. The regulations also require that Personal Protective Equipment:
- Is properly assessed before use to ensure it is suitable
- Is maintained and stored properly
- Is provided with instructions on how to use it safely
- Is used correctly by employees
Charging for providing PPE
An employer cannot ask for money from an employee for PPE, whether it is returnable or not. This includes agency workers if they are legally regarded as your employees. If employment has been terminated and the employee keeps the PPE without the employer's permission, then, as long as it has been made clear in the contract of employment, the employer may be able to deduct the cost of the replacement from any wages owed.
Assessing suitable PPE
To allow the right type of PPE to be chosen, carefully consider the different hazards in the workplace. This will enable you to assess which types of PPE are suitable to protect against the hazard and for the job to be done. Ask your supplier for advice on the different types of PPE available and how suitable they are for different tasks. It may be necessary in a few particularly difficult cases to obtain advice from specialist sources and from the PPE manufacturer.
Another useful source of information is the British Safety Industry Federation whose website can be accessed below.
What to consider
Consider the following when assessing whether PPE is suitable:
- Is it appropriate for the risks involved and the conditions at the place where exposure to the risk may occur? For example, eye protection designed for providing protection against agricultural pesticides will not offer adequate face protection for someone using an angle grinder to cut steel or stone.
- Does it prevent or adequately control the risks involved without increasing the overall level of risk?
- Can it be adjusted to fit the wearer correctly?
- Has the state of health of those who will be wearing it been taken into account?
- What are the needs of the job and the demands it places on the wearer? For example, the length of time the PPE needs to be worn, the physical effort required to do the job and the requirements for visibility and communication.
- If more than one item of PPE is being worn, are they compatible? For example, does a particular type of respirator make it difficult to get eye protection to fit properly?
The hazards and types of PPE
Hazards: chemical or metal splash, dust, projectiles, gas and vapour, radiation.
Options: safety spectacles, goggles, faceshields, visors.
Hazards: impact from falling or flying objects, risk of head bumping, hair entanglement.
Options: a range of helmets and bump caps.
Hazards: dust, vapour, gas, oxygen-deficient atmospheres.
Options: disposable filtering facepiece or respirator, half- or full-face respirators, air-fed helmets, breathing apparatus.
Protecting the body
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.
Hands and arms
Hazards: abrasion, temperature extremes, cuts and punctures, impact, chemicals, electric shock, skin infection, disease or contamination.
Options: gloves, gauntlets, mitts, wristcuffs, armlets.
Feet and 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.
Make sure of the following:
- Make sure anyone using PPE is aware of why it is needed, when it is to be used, repaired or replaced and its limitations
- Train and instruct people how to use it properly and make sure they are doing this
- Because PPE is the last resort after other methods of protection have been considered, it is important that users wear it all the time 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 fully any reasons why it is not. Safety signs can be useful reminders to wear PPE
Make sure equipment is:
- Well looked after and properly stored when it is not being used, for example in a dry, clean cupboard, or in the case of smaller items, such as eye protection, in a box or case;
- Kept clean and in good repair - follow the manufacturer's maintenance schedule (including recommended replacement periods and shelf lives). Simple maintenance can be carried out by the trained wearer, but more intricate repairs should only be done by specialists.
Also make sure that suitable replacement PPE is always readily available.
Ensure any PPE you buy 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 in some cases will have been tested and certified by an independent body.
The PPE at Work Regulations do not apply where the following six sets of regulations require the provision and use of PPE against these hazards. For example, gloves used to prevent dangerous chemicals penetrating the skin would be covered by the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 (as amended) (or Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2003 (as amended)). The regulations are:
- The Control of Lead at Work Regulations 2002 (or Control of Lead at Work Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2003)
- The Ionising Radiations Regulations 1999 (or Ionising Radiations Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2000)
- The Control of Asbestos Regulations 2006 (or Control of Asbestos at Work Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2003)
- The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 (as amended) or Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2003 (as amended)).
- The Noise at Work Regulations 1989 (or Noise at Work Regulations (Northern Ireland) 1990).
- The Construction (Head Protection) Regulations 1989 (or Construction (Head Protection) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 1990).
Key points to remember
Are there ways (other than PPE) in which the risk can be adequately controlled, e.g., engineering controls? If not, check that PPE is offered and if it is that:
- It offers adequate protection for its intended use
- Those using it are adequately trained in its safe use
- It is properly maintained and any defects are reported
- It is returned to its proper storage after use