October 17, 2018

An Employer’s Guide to PPE

In April 2018, the regulation on the provision of personal protective equipment became more complex for employers. Do you fully understand your obligations when providing employees with PPE? If you’re unsure, we’ve created an employer’s guide to PPE to help you.

In the Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992, regulation 4 states an employer’s obligations.

‘Every employer shall ensure that suitable personal protective equipment is provided to his employees who may be exposed to a risk to their health or safety while at work except where and to the extent that such risk has been adequately controlled by other means which are equally or more effective.’

This means you must take action when your employees are at risk of compromising their health and safety at work. That action might be to provide PPE but only if you can’t control the risk in other ways. And those other ways must be as effective (or more effective) than the PPE.

PPE regulations before April 2018

The law that regulated PPE was aimed at manufacturers. It defined “essential requirements” that PPE needed to satisfy at the time of manufacture and before it was placed on the market.

New PPE regulations after April 2018

The new regulation now applies to the whole supply chain. Everyone involved in the manufacture, supply and distribution of PPE, must ensure their PPE meets with the standard requirements.

This means you’re legally required to meet the new certification standards when you supply PPE to your employees.

An employer’s guide to PPE – and a summary

To make things easy, we’ve summarised three key simple-to-follow sections that outline your obligations as an employer:

  1. Control measures
  2. Selection
  3. Provision

Remember: the summary below it just that – a summary. If you’d like a comprehensive guide to PPE, click here to download your free copy.

1. Control measures

Companies must carry out risk assessments in order to comply with the Management of Health and Safety Regulations at Work. These assessments should identify hazards and evaluate any risks to the health and safety of employees. They should also identify the controls that are, or will be, used to reduce risks to an acceptable level.

Where it’s not feasible to sufficiently reduce risks by other means, employees must be provided with suitable PPE. You’ll need to carry out further assessment before you select any PPE.

The assessment should:

• Define the characteristics that the PPE must have, in order to be effective against the hazards. You should also take into account any risks that the equipment may create.

• Compare the characteristics of the available PPE with the established requirements.

Precautions

Please note that PPE is not suitable for use unless it:

  • Is appropriate for the risk and conditions where exposure to that risk may occur.
  • Takes account of the ergonomic requirements and state of health of the person who wears it.
  • Is capable of fitting correctly, if necessary, after adjustment.
  • Is effective to prevent or adequately control the risk without increasing the overall risk or be the best protection practicable under the circumstances.
  • Complies with a relevant standard in respect of design or manufacture.

2. Selection

As part of the employer’s guide to PPE, you need to answer these questions: Who is exposed and to what? How long are they exposed for? How much are they exposed to?

When selecting and using PPE:

  • Your first consideration should be performance, not price. Most types of PPE are available in various grades, depending upon their level of performance. You don’t have to buy the highest grade if your assessment shows that a lower grade has all the characteristics required to provide effective protection of your employees.
  • Choose a reputable supplier. We strongly advise you to obtain your PPE from a reputable supplier that has in-depth knowledge of their products.
  • Choose equipment that suits the user. Consider the correct size, fit and weight of the PPE.

3. Provision

Availability
Give your employees easy access to PPE when they need it. Generally, each employee should be provided with their own PPE.

Training
Employers have a duty to provide information, instruction, and training to their employees in the use of PPE. This should include describing why use of the equipment is necessary, the results of not wearing it, how to clean and maintain it, how to store it correctly and where to obtain replacements.

Free PPE
You’re can’t charge your employees for their PPE when there’s a specific requirement for you to provide it. This includes any PPE provided as a result of an assessment of risks rather than just for the company’s image or the comfort or convenience of the employees.

Employee selection
Involve your employees in the selection of their PPE. All equipment must take into account the requirements of the individual user.

Equipment compatibility
Check all items are compatible when more than one item of PPE is worn at the same time. For instance, you can’t wear safety helmets properly with certain types of ear muffs. So choose a combined helmet and ear muff set instead.

Maintenance
You must ensure that PPE is in efficient working order and kept clean. This means making adequate arrangements for cleaning and storing PPE (e.g. providing lockers, drying facilities).

Replacements
Make sure you monitor the condition of the PPE you supply. It will need replacing when required.

Records
You’ll also need to keep a record of what PPE you issue to employees.

If you’re an existing Moorepay Health & Safety customer and would like further guidance on providing PPE for your employees, please contact our Advice Line on 0845 073 0240 (select option 1).

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About the author

Donna Buckle

She has eight years' experience in the field of environmental health, having previously worked in the charitable sector as Health & Safety Lead and Depot Manager before joining the team as a Consultant in 2015. Donna is NEBOSH-qualified and a University of Reading graduate.