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.
PPE regulations after April 2018
The updated 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.
The tax implications of providing PPE to employees
A temporary tax exemption for PPE was introduced by the government on 1 May 2020 during the pandemic, meaning PPE was treated as exempt from income tax and NICs when it was provided by the employers.
However, this was discontinued in November 2020, after a six-month exemption. The 20% sales tax once more applies to protective equipment bought by firms and consumers.
Products previously covered by the zero rate included:
- Disposable gloves
- Disposable plastic aprons
- Disposable fluid-resistant coveralls or gowns
- Surgical masks – including fluid-resistant type IIR surgical masks
- Filtering face piece respirators
- Eye and face protection – both disposable or reusable full face visors and goggles
An employer’s guide to PPE
To make things easy, we’ve summarised three key simple-to-follow sections that outline your obligations as an employer:
- Control measures
Remember: the summary below it just that – a summary.
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.
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.
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.
Give your employees easy access to PPE when they need it. Generally, each employee should be provided with their own PPE.
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.
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.
Involve your employees in the selection of their PPE. All equipment must take into account the requirements of the individual user.
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.
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).
Make sure you monitor the condition of the PPE you supply. It will need replacing when required.
You’ll also need to keep a record of what PPE you issue to employees.