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Personal protective equipment (PPE)

Employers have duties concerning the provision and use of personal protective equipment (PPE) at work.

PPE is equipment that will protect the user against health or safety risks at work. It can include items such as safety helmets, gloves, eye protection, high-visibility clothing, safety footwear and safety harnesses. It also includes respiratory protective equipment (RPE).

Case study

A commercial gardener was using a petrol-driven strimmer to trim undergrowth. He hit a piece of unseen debris, which was thrown into the air and caught him in the eye. He lost the sight in that eye because he was not wearing protective goggles, which was advised in the manufacturer's written instructions for using the strimmer.

How similar accidents can be prevented

Ensure those operating strimmers are trained to recognise the hazards posed by unseen debris and wear appropriate PPE, including protective goggles.

Why is PPE important?

Making the workplace safe includes providing instructions, procedures, training and supervision to encourage people to work safely and responsibly.

Even where engineering controls and safe systems of work have been applied, some hazards might remain. These include injuries to:

PPE is needed in these cases to reduce the risk.

What do I have to do?

Selection and use

You should ask yourself the following questions:

When selecting and using PPE:

Other advice on PPE

Maintenance

PPE must be properly looked after and stored when not in use, eg in a dry, clean cupboard. If it is reusable it must be cleaned and kept in good condition.

Think about:

Employees must make proper use of PPE and report its loss or destruction or any fault in it.

Monitor and review

Types of PPE you can use

Eyes

Hazards
Chemical or metal splash, dust, projectiles, gas and vapour, radiation

Options
Safety spectacles, goggles, face screens, faceshields, visors

Note
Make sure the eye protection chosen has the right combination of impact/dust/splash/molten metal eye protection for the task and fits the user properly

Head and neck

Hazards
Impact from falling or flying objects, risk of head bumping, hair getting tangled in machinery, chemical drips or splash, climate or temperature

Options
Industrial safety helmets, bump caps, hairnets and firefighters' helmets

Note

Ears

Hazards
Noise – a combination of sound level and duration of exposure, very high-level sounds are a hazard even with short duration

Options
Earplugs, earmuffs, semi-insert/canal caps

Note

Hands and arms

Hazards
Abrasion, temperature extremes, cuts and punctures, impact, chemicals, electric shock, radiation, vibration, biological agents and prolonged immersion in water

Options
Gloves, gloves with a cuff, gauntlets and sleeving that covers part or all of the arm

Note

Feet and legs

Hazards
Wet, hot and cold conditions, electrostatic build-up, slipping, cuts and punctures, falling objects, heavy loads, metal and chemical splash, vehicles

Options
Safety boots and shoes with protective toecaps and penetration-resistant, mid-sole wellington boots and specific footwear, eg foundry boots and chainsaw boots

Note

Lungs

Hazards

Options – respiratory protective equipment (RPE)

Note

Whole body

Hazards
Heat, chemical or metal splash, spray from pressure leaks or spray guns, contaminated dust, impact or penetration, excessive wear or entanglement of own clothing

Options
Conventional or disposable overalls, boiler suits, aprons, chemical suits

Note

Emergency equipment

Careful selection, maintenance and regular and realistic operator training is needed for equipment for use in emergencies, like compressed-air escape breathing apparatus, respirators and safety ropes or harnesses.

Find out more

The law

The Personal Protective Equipment Regulations 2002 and the Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992 (as amended) give the main requirements.

Other special regulations cover hazardous substances (including lead and asbestos), and also noise and radiation.

Updated 2014-01-20