YOUR GUIDE TO PERSONAL PROTECTIVE EQUIPMENT (PPE)
PPE or Personal Protective Equipment, is equipment designed to protect workers against health and safety hazards in the workplace. It includes items such as safety helmets and hard hats, eye protection, high-visibility clothing and safety footwear. Further protective equipment; ear defenders and respirators are not covered by PPE regulations because they have their own specific sets of regulations; The Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005 set out guidelines for protecting workers hearing. The laws regarding the use of respirators and breathing equipment are covered in five separate pieces of regulation, including 'The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health' and 'The Control of Asbestos at Work Regulations'.
The provision and use of PPE is governed by the 'Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992'. PPE should be used as a last resort, where there are health and safety risks that cannot be adequately controlled by other measures, the law requires employers:
To ensure you choose the correct PPE, you need to consider the work environment and hazards present, the tasks employees will be performing and how their needs may change from task to task, other equipment and clothing they will be using/ wearing.
It is also important to question whether the PPE creates more hazards, for example, by making communication difficult.
Consider the following points when selecting equipment:
Hazards include falling or flying objects, risk of head bumping or entangling hair in machinery. The options include helmets, hard hats, bump caps and hairnets. Some helmets also incorporate ear defenders and visors.
Hazards include splashes from chemicals or molten metals, dust, projectile objects, gas and vapours. Safety spectacles, goggles and face-shields/ visors are all available, but you should ensure they offer suitable protection for the task and a secure fit for the wearer.
Hazards include dust, vapour, gas, oxygen deficient atmospheres. The range of PPE available includes disposable filtering face-pieces or respirators, half or full face respirators, airfed helmets and breathing apparatus. You must ensure that your selected product meets your exact requirements, as each is only suitable for a limited range of substances. Where there is a shortage of oxygen or high levels of harmful fumes, only use breathing apparatus, never a filtering cartridge. Filters only have a limited life, so when replacing with any other part, check manufacturers guidance and ensure correct replacement part is used. Also see HSE's publication: 'Respiratory Protective Equipment at Work: A Practical Guide'.
Hazards include extremes of temperature, adverse weather, molten metal or chemical spills, impact or penetration, contaminated dust, excessive wear or entanglement of own clothing. The options include; disposable or conventional boilersuits and overalls and can be found in specific materials such as flame retardant, anti-static, chain mail, chemically impermeable and high visibility.
Hazards include abrasions, temperature extremes, cuts and punctures, impact, chemicals, electric shock, skin infection, disease and contamination. The options for hand and arm protection include a range of gloves, gauntlets, mitts and wristcuffs. Gloves and gauntlets are available for a range of purposes and may be anti-static, chemically impermeable or cut proof. Avoid using gloves when operating certain machinery as they could get caught. Consider using a separate cotton inner-glove to keep the wearers hand cool and dry and avoid irritation. Consider that some people may be allergic to latex -nitrile gloves are a good alternative here.
Hazards include, wet, electrostatic build-up, slipping, cuts and punctures, falling objects, molten metal and chemical splash and abrasion. Safety shoes and boots are available with steel capped toes, or composite toes, reinforcement, metatarsal protectors etc. There is also a variety of sole patterns and materials which may be slip resistant, oil or chemical resistant, anti static, electrically conductive or thermally insulating. Select appropriate footwear for the risks identified.
It is important that users wear PPE everytime (and all the time) they are exposed to the risk. Signs are a useful way of reminding people they are in a hazardous area and that PPE should be worn, and managers/ supervisors should set a good example to staff. Employers should check that PPE is being used as required, and investigate when it is not.
PPE should be properly maintained and faults, wear and tear or damage should be reported and the item taken out of use. Minor faults may be fixed by the trained wearer, but larger problems will require specialist attention. Where replacement parts are sought they should match the original and meet manufacturers specifications. Suitable PPE should always be available and it may be worth keeping extra, disposable PPE for visitors.