We are all aware that employers need to take steps to keep workers safe. These safety requirements include providing adequate Personal Protective Equipment and provide training to educate the employee on how to use PPE safely.

However, employees have responsibilities, too, and workers must follow the rules regarding PPE. Your PPE rules are outlined in the PPE at Work Regulations 1992 and include aspects such as correctly wearing the correct clothing to avoid accidents and injury.

Here we take a look at PPE legislation, what PPE should be provided, how to store and ensure PPE has adequately maintained procedures and the different types of PPE.

PPE has a crucial role in protecting workers against health and safety risks in the workplace and include:

High visibility clothing
Fireproof clothing
Face coverings 
Mechanics overalls
Industrial workwear

PPE at Work Regulations 1992

The PPE at Work Regulations 1992 aims to ensure employees wear PPE where other measures for controlling risks cannot be put into place. As an employee, you should not be asked to contribute to or be charged for PPE provision and its maintenance. Your employer must supply PPE free of charge, as outlined in The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.

The PPE at Work Regulations 1992 doesn’t apply when requirements are detailed in other regulations. Examples include The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002, which covers respirators, their provision, and maintenance.

Different regulations usually exist for specific hazards and the handling of hazardous substances. There may also be alternative regulations for the handling of noise, ionising radiation, and asbestos.

Employee’s responsibilities regarding PPE

Employees must take reasonable steps to ensure they are provided with PPE and that it is used correctly.

As an employee, you must ensure:

• PPE is used or worn as stipulated by the instructions supplied with it
• Your PPE is of a size that fits and is appropriate for your height, weight, and shape
• You conduct a visual examination of the PPE and know how to spot and report faults
• Return your PPE to the provided accommodation, except where PPE is taken away from the worksite, such as in the case of clothing or footwear
• After use, you return your PPE to a dry and clean storage unit, ready for it to be laundered hygienically and replaced (unless authorised to take the PPE home), as may be the case for footwear
• Take responsible care of your PPE
• Must not carry out maintenance yourself, unless you are both authorised and trained to do so
• Report the loss of PPE or any defect immediately to your line manager

Why PPE is important

PPE has an essential role in protecting your body, hands, eyes, lungs, and face from dangers such as corrosive chemicals and extreme cold or heat. Here we highlight what your responsibilities are and the good practices you should follow when using PPE:

Contaminated air: PPE may be needed to prevent you from breathing in polluted air, viruses such as the coronavirus, dust, gases, vapour, and fumes. Respirators are designed to filter the air you breather to protect your lungs. You should ensure the respirator fits properly with a good seal around the face and ensure it has the right filter for the range of substances you are exposed to. You should also ensure that other PPE does not interfere with your respirator or face mask’s fitting.

Impacts and falling objects: You may require PPE to protect your feet and head from falling objects, such as tools and materials. Your PPE might also need to protect you from bumping your head or ensure that your hair does not become entangled in machinery. PPE options include safety helmets, hairnets, bump caps, shoes and boots with protective toecaps, chainsaw boots, and foundry boots. If they take an impact or receive damage, they should be replaced.

Eyes splashes: PPE can protect your eyes from corrosive liquids, flying particles, gas, radiation, vapour, and dust. Safety goggles, safety glasses, face shields, face screens, and visors should fit the task, considering protection against impacts, splashes, molten metals, and dust particles.

Corrosive chemicals: PPE can protect your skin from coming into contact with corrosive materials, chemicals, radiation, electricity, prolonged immersion in water, and cuts. PPE includes gloves, gauntlets, sleeve covers, and gloves with cuffs. It is vital to understand how to remove gloves without contaminating your skin. You should not use loose gloves when using tools such as drills that might catch the materials, and you should use inner cotton gloves if your hands get hot and sweaty.

Noise: Your choice of PPE should consider the duration of exposure to noise, the level of sound, and exposure to high-level sounds. Earmuffs and earplugs protect against noise, and you should ensure you can still safely communicate with others.

PPE is the last resort where other safety controls cannot be implemented. Employees should always recognise the limitations of PPE and ensure it is worn, even when the job takes a few minutes, or you are passing through the work environment where PPE is required.