Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

By Fiona Burns
12 Jan 2021

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is essential in some industries. In 2020 however, all businesses had to become familiar with the term.

In this article we’ll take a look at some of the most common questions we receive at Croner regarding PPE.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is a face covering the same as PPE?

No the HSE confirmed that face coverings are not classed as PPE for the following reasons:

  • There are no specific British Standards that apply or any manufacturing standards
  • They do not protect against work related COSHH risks such as fume, or dust or spray

PPE in health & safety hierarchy is to be used as a last resort. Other measures should be in place to control the risk more effectively and these are:

  • Social distancing for smaller premises
  • Reduce numbers onsite or change work patterns
  • Adopt excellent hand hygiene protocols
  • Increase cleaning and washing down of high contact surfaces
  • Ensure shift workers and teams remain together (bubble principle)
  • Use Perspex screens or physical barriers to separate staff and visitors

Face coverings need to be worn correctly. This means covering the nose and mouth, as they are the main modes of transmission of the COVID-19.

Should I use face shields or visors instead of face masks?

Face shields or visors should not be used instead of a face covering. This is because they don’t adequately protect the nose and mouth. However, if worn in addition to a face mask this will further reduce the risk of transmission by absorption through the eye.

For full details, including exemptions and how to make your own face mask, please see the government link below:

Living Safely With COVID-19

Do we have to provide PPE to first aiders?

If there are simple, inexpensive steps an employer can take to keep their employees safe, they should take them. Providing PPE for use by first aiders seems a “reasonably practicable” action at the current time.

The issue of first aid coverage during the Covid-19 pandemic raises a number of issues. Perhaps the most prevalent is the concern about being exposed to the virus.

For the employer this matter raises a number of risks, including:

  • Your first aiders refusing to provide assistance, resulting in the injured party coming to increased harm
  • Liability if a first-aid trained member of staff contracts COVID-19 after assisting a person with symptoms or who is asymptomatic.

The purpose of first aid is to preserve life and prevent a worsening of the condition. In the current pandemic, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) guidance states that first aiders should “try to assist at a safe distance from the casualty as much as you can and minimise the time you share a breathing zone” and that if they are capable, tell the injured/ill party to “do things for you”.

However, the HSE also states that “treating the casualty properly should be your first concern”.

Employers should think carefully about the risks in their workplace and whether, if a first aider is exposed to Covid-19 and PPE was not provided, they could argue that they did everything “reasonably practicable” to control the risks. If it’s decided not to provide PPE for first aiders, especially if it has been requested, a written record should be kept of the factors taken into account in making the decision.

Does a CE marking mean PPE is genuine?

The short answer is: not necessarily. There is an insatiable demand for PPE throughout the world presently. As a result, there will be an element of misdescribed and substandard PPE in the supply chain. Be vigilant, as this could have devasting consequences for the users.

In practice, caveat emptor — let the buyer beware — applies to sourcing PPE where CE approval is applicable. Where possible, only ever go to trusted suppliers who have their own verification processes in place with manufacturers. The supplier also needs to understand your specific product requirements to avoid wrong, but fully tested, PPE being procured.

PPE that doesn’t meet CE standards could still — quite improperly — be displaying the logo. More often, other statements or logos that might be confused with CE marking could be used by the manufacturer.

CE means "Conformité Européenne." The mark shows conformity with various Directives of the European Community (EC) that specifically relate to product standards and safety. An image of a genuine CE mark can be found on the EC website.

There is nothing to prevent a manufacturer just using the letters C and E without necessarily infringing the EC’s legal rights, which is why knowing what a real CE mark should look like is important. Sometimes other words like “China Export” or other phrases may be added near to the C and E letters. They are meaningless in terms of any CE standards having been met.

Always check apparent CE markings and you could ask the manufacturer for a certificate of conformity. A real CE mark may show a four-digit identification number of the Notified Body concerned with the CE approval process.

Expert support

If you have further questions regarding PPE, you can get answers from our expert health & safety team. Give them a call today on 01455 858 132.

About the Author

Fiona Burns

Fiona Burns has practical experience in Health & Safety and Risk Management having worked for major insurer prior to joining Croner.

She has gained extensive helpline experience offering competent advice and timely support to large number of clients, in various industries and at all levels.  Completed the NEBOSH General Certificate, also passed NEBOSH Environmental Diploma Unit A, (IOSH Managing Environmental responsibilities). NEBOSH Fire and Risk Management Certificate, FPA Advance Fire Training, NCRQ Diploma – Distinction currently completing IPD and volunteering for Community project in Atherstone also as a Dementia support worker with CWPT.


Fiona Burns

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