What does PPE stand for?

  • PPE stands for personal protective equipment.  PPE means any device or appliance designed to be worn or held by an individual for protection against one or more health and safety hazards. 

What regulations apply to PPE?

What about PPE worn in leisure activities  e.g  sports helmets, arm bands etc?

What types of activities and sectors may require PPE?

When must PPE be used?

  • The fundamental principle is that personal protective equipment (PPE) should only be used as a last resort.

  • The safety and health of employees must be first safeguarded by measures to eliminate workplace risks at source, through technical or organisational means (e.g by substituting hazardous chemical ) or by providing protection on a collective basis (e.g providing scaffolding instead of harnesses).

  • Collective protective measures covering numbers of employees in a workplace must have priority over protective measures applying to individual employees.

  • If these measures are not sufficient, only then should PPE be used to protect against the hazards that are unavoidable.

Why should PPE only be used as a last resort?

PPE has its limitations because:

  • PPE only protects the wearer.

  • It is ineffective if not working or fitted properly

  • Theoretical levels of protection are seldom reached in practice.

  • The use of PPE always restricts the wearer to some degree.

  • The psychological effect of PPE may be such that the individual wearing the PPE feels more protected than he or she actually is.

 I have heard people say PPE is the last line of defence. What does this mean?

  •  If PPE is not working or fitted properly, then the person wearing it is exposed to the risk as this is the only (or last) protection the wearer has against the particular hazard.

What should I do before I buy PPE?

  • The employer has to make an assessment of the hazards in the workplace in order to identify the correct type of PPE to be provided and to ensure that PPE is appropriate to the risk. Care must be taken in selecting PPE as certain types give reasonably high levels of protection while others,  that may appear almost the same, give relatively low levels of protection. The level of risk must be assessed so that the performance required of the PPE can be determined.

  • Selection of PPE must take account of the proper wearing and fitting of the equipment – an employer should take into account that one type of PPE may not fit all.

  • In sourcing PPE, the employer must therefore, select appropriate PPE which is user-friendly and which fits the individual employee correctly, after adjustment if necessary.

  • Special care should be taken where persons suffer from certain medical conditions, e.g. certain types of respiratory protective equipment (RPE) may not be suitable for employees with asthma, bronchitis or heart disease. Where situations such as these occur, the employer should seek medical advice as to whether the employee can tolerate the use of PPE. Employers should make provision for medical conditions where they are aware of such conditions.

  • Ensure any PPE you buy is ‘CE’ marked and complies with the requirements of the European Union (Personal Protective Equipment) Regulations 2018, which require PPE to have the appropriate CE mark. The CE marking signifies that the PPE satisfies certain essential health and safety requirements.

Who pays for PPE in workplace?

Section 8 of the Safety Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005 places a duty on employers to supply PPE where risks cannot be eliminated or adequately controlled.

  • Employers cannot pass on to employees any financial costs associated with duties relating to safety, health and welfare at work.  An employer may not ask for money to be paid to them by an employee for the provision of PPE whether returnable (e.g. a deposit) or otherwise.

  • Employers may charge a worker for PPE if the worker is truly self-employed.

  • Where an employee wishes to upgrade to a more expensive item of PPE (e.g employee wants a more fashionable brand), the employer & employee may enter into an agreement whereby the employee makes up the difference between the cost of the original item of PPE & that of the more expensive item, assuming they both give the same level of protection within the workplace.

Do I have to keep providing PPE when employees say they have “lost” their PPE?

  • Draw up policies in relation to PPE

  • PPE policies should be simple e.g.

a)      Adopt "new for old" system for disposable PPE - gloves, boots etc

b)      Apply signing in / out procedure for special equipment - harness etc

c)       Implement a points procedure for lost equipment as part of the employees' ownership (as part of the disciplinary procedures)

To be successful, time is required to control and monitor PPE and detailed records must be kept.

Do I need training in use of PPE

  • Where PPE is provided employees must be informed of the risks against which they are being protected by the PPE.

  • Employees must also be provided with suitable information, instruction and training (including training in the use, care or maintenance of PPE) to enable them to make proper and effective use of any PPE provided for their protection.

  • PPE users must be trained as regards the wearing, proper use and any limitations of PPE.

  • Managers and supervisors should also be aware of the reasons for providing PPE, its proper use and, in particular, the level of protection afforded.

  • Training, both theoretical and practical, should also cover persons involved in the selection, maintenance, repair and testing of PPE.

  • The level of training provided will vary with the level of risk involved and the complexity and performance of the equipment. For instance, the use of respirator equipment will require a comprehensive degree of training with regular refresher courses, whereas the training for using protective gloves for dealing with hazardous substances may require demonstration only. The frequency of the refresher courses required in the case of PPE for high-risk situations will depend on the nature of the equipment, how frequently it is used and the needs of the employees using it.

As an employee, do I have to wear PPE

There is a duty on employees, having regard to their training and instructions, to make correct use of PPE. Employees should:

  • Use PPE properly whenever it is required to be used.

  • Report any defects in or damage to the PPE immediately.

  • Participate in any training or instruction provided on PPE.

  • Inform their employer of any medical conditions they have that might be affected by the use of the PPE provided to them

As an employer, how do I ensure employees wear their PPE?

  • Under the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005, there is a duty on employees to wear PPE provided.  Where this is not being adhered to, you should ask the employees why the PPE is not being worn in case there is a genuine difficulty being encountered by the wearer.

  • Employers could consider including persistent non wearing of PPE into their disciplinary procedures.

Does PPE have to be tested and inspected?

  • PPE must be thoroughly examined regularly by competent staff according to manufacturer’s instructions. As a general rule, simple maintenance may be carried out by the user, provided that he or she has been adequately instructed and trained (e.g. lens cleaning on goggles or replacing helmet straps).

  • The examination, maintenance and repair of PPE used in high-risk situations (e.g. PPE used by firemen) should be carried out by properly trained staff who manufacturer or supplier (or both). Those involved should have the necessary tools and materials to carry out proper repairs.

How should PPE be stored?

  • PPE must be stored according to the manufacturer’s instructions.  This is extremely important as leaving PPE lying around increases the risk of parts deteriorating by exposure to dirt, oil, UV rays, sunlight etc.

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