Using personal protective equipment (PPE) to control risks at work

1. Overview

Employers must protect workers from health and safety risks. This means they must provide PPE free of charge if a risk assessment shows it is needed.

To stay safe, workers may have to wear PPE such as safety helmets, gloves, eye or hearing protection, high-visibility clothing, safety footwear and harnesses.

PPE also includes respiratory protective equipment (RPE) to prevent workers breathing in dust, mist, gas or fume.

When to use PPE

Employers must do a risk assessment. Some hazards may still remain after engineering controls and safe systems of work have been applied. PPE may then be needed to reduce the risk of injury from:

  • breathing in dust, mist, gas or fume
  • falling materials hitting people
  • flying particles or splashes of corrosive liquids getting into people’s eyes
  • skin contact with corrosive materials
  • excessive noise
  • extremes of heat or cold

What the law says

The Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992 place duties on employers to ensure 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 workers

Employers must ensure workers have sufficient information, instruction and training on PPE use.

Duties regarding PPE were extended on 6 April 2022 to include PPE for limb (b) workers. There is guidance explaining the changes.

If you provide PPE, you should ensure it complies with product supply legislation.

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Updated 2024-03-25