PPE stands for personal protective equipment and defined in the Regulations as all equipment (including clothing affording protection against the weather) which is intended to be worn or held by a person at work and which protects him against one or more risks to his health or safety, e.g. safety helmets, gloves, eye protection, high-visibility clothing, safety footwear and safety harnesses.
Hearing protection and respiratory protective equipment provided for most work situations are not covered by these Regulations because other regulations apply to them.
However, these items need to be compatible with any other PPE provided. Cycle helmets or crash helmets worn by employees on the roads are not covered by the Regulations.
Motorcycle helmets are legally required for motorcyclists under road traffic legislation.
Assessing Suitable PPE Equipment
To allow the right type of PPE to be chosen, carefully consider the different hazards in the workplace. This will enable you to assess which types of PPE are suitable to protect against the hazard and for the job to be done.
Ask your supplier for advice on the different types of PPE available and how suitable they are for different tasks.
It may be necessary in a few particularly difficult cases to obtain advice from specialist sources and from the PPE manufacturer.
Consider the following when assessing whether PPE is suitable:
Is it appropriate for the risks involved and the conditions at the place where exposure to the risk may occur? For example, eye protection designed for providing protection against agricultural pesticides will not offer adequate face protection for someone using an angle grinder to cut steel or stone.
Does it prevent or adequately control the risks involved without increasing the overall level of risk?
Can it be adjusted to fit the wearer correctly?
Has the state of health of those who will be wearing it been taken into account?
What are the needs of the job and the demands, it places on the wearer? For example, the length of time the PPE needs to be worn, the physical effort required to do the job and the requirements for visibility and communication.
If more than one item of PPE is being worn, are they compatible? For example, does a particular type of respirator make it difficult to get eye protection to fit properly?
The hazards and type of PPE
Hazards: chemical or metal splash, dust, projectiles, gas and vapor, radiation.
Options: safety spectacles, goggles, face shields, visors.
Hazards: impact from falling or flying objects, risk of head bumping, hair entanglement.
Options: a range of helmets and bump caps.
Hazards: dust, vapour, gas, oxygen-deficient atmospheres.
Options: disposable filtering face piece or respirator, half- or full-face respirators, air-fed helmets, breathing apparatus.
Protecting the body
Hazards: temperature extremes, adverse weather, chemical or metal splash, spray from pressure leaks or spray guns, impact or penetration, contaminated dust, excessive wear or entanglement of own clothing.
Options: conventional or disposable overalls, boiler suits, specialist protective clothing, eg chain-mail aprons, high-visibility clothing.
Hands and arms
Hazards: abrasion, temperature extremes, cuts and punctures, impact, chemicals, electric shock, skin infection, disease or contamination.
Options: gloves, gauntlets, mitts, wrist cuffs, armlets.
Feet and legs
Hazards: wet, electrostatic build-up, slipping, cuts and punctures, falling objects, metal and chemical splash, abrasion.
Options: safety boots and shoes with protective toe caps and penetration-resistant mid-sole, gaiters, leggings, spats.
Training to Use PPE
Make sure anyone using PPE is aware of why it is needed, when it is to be used, repaired or replaced and its limitations.
Train and instruct people how to use it properly and make sure they are doing this.
Because PPE is the last resort after other methods of protection have been considered, it is important that users wear it all the time they are exposed to the risk. Never allow exemptions for those jobs which take ‘just a few minutes’.
Check regularly that PPE is being used and investigate fully any reasons why it is not. Safety signs can be useful reminders to wear PPE.
Maintenance of PPE Equipment
Make sure equipment is:
Well looked after and properly stored when it is not being used, for example in a dry, clean cupboard, or in the case of smaller items, such as eye protection, in a box or case;
Kept clean and in good repair – follow the manufacturer’s maintenance schedule (including recommended replacement periods and shelf lives). Simple maintenance can be carried out by the trained wearer, but more intricate repairs should only be done by specialists.
Make sure suitable replacement PPE is always readily available.
PPE With CE marking
Ensure any PPE you buy is ‘CE’ marked and complies with the requirements of the Personal Protective Equipment Regulations 2002.
The CE marking signifies that the PPE satisfies certain basic safe work method requirements and in some cases will have been tested and certified by an independent body.
Key points to remember for good safety environment
Are there ways (other than PPE) in which the risk can be adequately controlled, eg engineering controls? If not, check that:
PPE is provided;
- It offers adequate protection for its intended use;
- Those using it are adequately trained in its safe use;
- It is properly maintained and any defects are reported;
- It is returned to its proper storage after use.
Basic learning outcomes after reading this page, you will be able to:
Describe the two primary means of protecting employees from workplace hazards prior to considering personal protective equipment (PPE).
Engineering Controls. Physically change the machine or work environment to prevent employee exposure to a potential hazard.
- Isolate the process
- Change the process
- Enclose the process
- Use proper ventilation
- Consider design specifications
- Substitute less harmful material
Work Practice Controls. Remove employees from exposure to the potential hazard by changing the way they do their jobs.
- Use of wet methods to suppress dust.
- Personal hygiene.
- Housekeeping and maintenance.
- Job rotation of workers.
Explain what should be included in PPE training.
Training should give the employees information and hands-on experience with the PPE.
- Guidance on when PPE is necessary
- Specifics about what types of PPE are necessary under certain circumstances
- Practice to properly put on PPE, take it off, adjust and wear it
- Information about limitations of PPE
- Guidance about the proper care, maintenance, useful life and disposal of PPE
List PPE that may be used to protect the eye, face, head, feet, hands/arms, bodies and hearing.
- Eyes -goggles, safety glasses and face shields
- Face – shields
- Head – hard hats
- Feet -safety shoes
- Hands/Arms – gloves and sleeves
- Body – coveralls, body suites, vests, aprons
- Ears/Hearing – earplugs, ear muffs, canal caps
Identify hazards that are lessened or eliminated by using the appropriate PPE for Eye protection, hearing protection, foot and hand protection, face protection and Body protection.
Goggles and safety glasses protect against:
- Dust, flying particles, shavings or sawdust
- Splashes from molten metal, acids or chemicals
- Splashes from blood or potentially infectious body fluids that might splash, spray, or splatter
- Intense light caused by welding tools or lasers
- Face shields protect against:
- Nuisance dusts
- Potential splashes or sprays of hazardous liquids
- Intense light caused by welding tools or lasers
Hard hats protect against:
- Falling objects
- Bumping head against fixed objects
- Contact with exposed beams or pipes
- Contact with electrical conductors
Ear plugs, ear muffs and canal caps (ear defenders) protect against:
- Intermittent, sudden or prolonged exposure to high decibel sounds
Safety shoes protect against:
- Heavy objects falling on or rolling against the foot
- Exposure to nails or other sharp objects that might pierce the foot
- Molten metal that might splash on the foot
- Hot, wet, or slippery surfaces
Gloves protect against:
- Burns, bruises, abrasions, cuts, and punctures
- Fractures and amputations
- Chemical exposure
Coveralls, body suits, vests, sleeves and aprons protect against:
- Intense heat
- Splashes of hot metal or other hot liquids
- Impacts from tools, machinery, or materials
- Hazardous chemicals
- Contact with potentially infectious material like blood