Personal Protective Equipment

Risk Alert – Personal Protective Equipment


Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is all equipment which is intended to be worn or held by a person at work and which protects against one or more risks to health and safety.

The exclusion is the ordinary working clothes and uniforms not designed to provide protection for the health and safety of the employee.

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is generally regarded as a ‘last resort’ control option. However, its importance must not be misconstrued from this description, as it lays a crucial role in preventing and reducing occupational fatalities, injuries and occupational diseases.

In these uncertain times, you may work in a sector where PPE is vital to protect your employees’ health and wellbeing, and therefore you need to be aware of your responsibilities.

Key Actions

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

  • By virtue of Section 9 of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974, no charge can be made to the worker for the provision of PPE which is used only at work.

Employer’s responsibilities

When a risk assessment reveals a hazard that can only be managed using PPE, employers must:

  • Assess that PPE is suitable to control the risk;

  • Ensure compatibility when more than one item is used;

  • Provide, maintain, accommodate and replace equipment including loss or defectiveness;

  • Provide adequate information, instruction and training; and

  • Ensure proper use.

Employee’s responsibilities:

The employee must:

  • Use the equipment in accordance with training and instructions;

  • Store it in the accommodation provided; and

  • Report any loss or defect.

Choosing PPE:

Before choosing PPE as a risk-control option, you must assess the task to be undertaken and consider:

  • Who does what?

  • What is used?

  • Where it is to be carried out?

  • How is it to be done?

You must also assess the likely hazards, are they:

  • Electrical

  • Immersion

  • Ionising radiation

  • Mechanical i.e. falls, blows, cuts, impact, crushing, stabs, grazes or slipping

  • Noise and/or vibration

  • Non-ionising radiation

  • Substances i.e. dust, fume, vapours, splashes, gases, bacteria or fungi

  • Thermal i.e. scalds, burns, heat, fire or cold

You must also consider all those who might be harmed by the hazard i.e.

  • Cleaners and maintenance staff

  • Contractors

  • Employees

  • Members of the public

  • Visitors to the site or premises

You must evaluate the risk from the hazards, by carrying out a risk assessment and then put in place the control measures required.

Remember that the PPE should only be selected as the control option if the risk cannot be eliminated at source, substituted for a safer

alternative or controlled by other means such as a change of working methods, enclosures, guards or extractions.

Using PPE as the control option:

PPE should be regarded as the ‘last resort’ option of protection. Hazard elimination, safe systems of work and engineering controls should be used in preference to PPE.

If the circumstances dictate that PPE will still be needed to control the risk adequately, then the ‘Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992 (amended 2003)’ will take effect.

Where specific hazards exist such as noise, lead, asbestos, ionizing radiation, hazardous substances and head protection on a construction site, then the appropriate Regulations must be followed in addition to Regulation 5 of the ‘Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992 (amended 2003)’.

The reasons for this approach are:

  • PPE protects only the person using it, whereas measures controlling the risk at source can protect everybody in the workplace

  • Theoretical maximum levels of protection are seldom achieved using PPE. Effective protection can only be achieved by PPE which is correctly fitted, maintained and properly used at all times

  • PPE may restrict the wearer by limiting mobility and visibility

  • The use of PPE may reduce employees’ perception of the hazards they are dealing with

You should therefore provide PPE to employees only where there is a health and safety risk that cannot be adequately controlled by other means.

It is recommended that you consult the potential wearers of PPE before items are supplied because they are usually best placed to know what is demanded by their jobs and the type and configuration of PPE that is best suited to their working environment.

You should maintain a record of the items issued, to whom, the date of issue and the date of any replacement or maintenance required.

There are also considerable differences in physical dimensions of different workers, depending on their gender, ethnicity, and lifestyle, therefore, different sizes and contours should be available to fit wearers. PPE should also be adjustable and where problems occur, advice should be sought to take account of any medical conditions.

Training, instruction and information will also need to be provided to wearers of PPE so that they understand the limitations of the equipment, how to clean and maintain the PPE, how to report defects and where to get replacements or replacement parts such as filters.

Charging for PPE

You cannot charge an employee for PPE which is only used at work, regardless of whether the PPE in question is returnable or not. This prohibition on charging extends to agency workers if they are legally regarded as employees.

Types of PPE

The different types of PPE include:

  • Head and scalp protection

  • Eye protection

  • Hearing protection

  • Atmospheric protection

  • Hand and arm protection

  • Foot and leg protection

  • Body protection

  • Skin protection

  • Height and access protection

If you require any of your employees to use PPE, you should have a Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) policy.

For more information or for a full review of your insurance needs, please contact your usual Towergate Insurance Brokers adviser or email

Personal Protective Equipment Template