Personal Protective Equipment

Peter Clark

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25 Nov 2019

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If you work with hazardous substances, or in extreme temperatures, you’ve probably heard the term PPE. Here’s what it is, and how (and when) you should you use it.

 

What is Personal Protective Equipment?

It’s equipment or can be clothing to protect your employees from health & safety risks at work, commonly known as PPE. It can include:

  • Helmets or other head protection.
  • Gloves or gauntlets.
  • Eye protection such as goggles, visors or full shields.
  • High-vis, fire-resistant, thermal, anti-stab or cut such as Kevlar, body armour or clothing.
  • Safety boots, clogs, wellingtons
  • Harnesses and lanyards or other fall arrest systems or devices.

But what is Personal Protective Equipment used for? PPE is for protection against hazards. More specifically, you’ll provide it to your employees for protection from:

  • Contaminated or insufficient air or environment.
  • Materials falling on your head, feet or body.
  • Small flying particles, projectiles, or hazardous chemical liquids splashing into your eyes.
  • Protection against contaminants coming in to contact with your skin, penetration or amputation.
  • Extreme temperatures hot or cold.

 

When to use different types of Personal Protective Equipment

The type of PPE you use is dependent on the risk your employees face.

Each hazard presents challenges, so it’s important you understand which part of each issue will affect and how. The main dangers are to the:

  • Eyes: Chemical or liquid metal splashes, dust, gas, vapour, radiation and projectiles.
  • Head and neck: Impact from falling objects, bumping head, hair tangled in machinery, chemical drips, and splashes.
  • Ears: Primarily noise: sound levels and length of exposure.
  • Hands and arms: Cuts, punctures, impact, electric shock, vibration, radiation, chemical exposure, extreme temperatures, and abrasion.
  • Feet and legs: Cuts, punctures, chemical exposure, vehicles, falling objects, slipping, electrostatic build-up, extreme temperatures, and wet conditions.
  • Lungs: Inhaling dust, gases, and vapours. Oxygen-deficient atmospheres.
  • Whole-body: Impact, penetration, the entanglement of clothing, extreme temperatures, chemical or liquid metal splashes, spray from pressure leaks or spray guns, contaminated dust.

Types of personal protective equipment

So, now you know where you should use PPE but you must use PPE as the last resort where the risk is unable to be adequately controlled.

Here’s a personal protective equipment list categorised by the part of the body you want to protect:

Eyes

  • Goggles.
  • Face shields and riot shields.
  • Visors.
  • Face screens.

Head & neck

  • Safety helmets or hard hats.
  • Bump caps.
  • Hairnets.
  • Fire-resistant balaclavas.

Ears

  • Earplugs rigid or disposable.
  • Earmuffs.
  • Semi-insert/canal caps.

Hands & arms

  • Gloves.
  • Gauntlet
  • Long sleeves.

Feet & legs (industry-specific)

  • Safety boots or shoes.
  • Wellington boots.
  • Clogs or overshoe protectors.
  • Chaps or Kevlar trousers
  • Leather aprons for foundry use

Lungs

  • Respirators.
  • Half/full masks.
  • Fresh-air hose.
  • Self-contained breathing apparatus.

Whole-body

  • Overalls.
  • Boiler suits.
  • Aprons.
  • Chemical suits.
  • Salopettes.

While there are numerous personal protective equipment examples, you should conduct a risk assessment to find the exact equipment specifications for the role.

 

Conducting a Personal Protective Equipment risk assessment

The first step in identifying whether you need to provide employees with PPE is to try to manage out those risks if this is not possible then consider the use of PPE.

Follow these five steps:

  1. Identify the hazard (any of those listed above).
  2. Decide which of your employees face harm and how.
  3. Evaluate the risk and any precautions you could take to limit it.
  4. Keep a record of all of your findings.
  5. Review the assessment regularly and update it with any new findings.

Once the risk assessment is complete, where necessary communicate to staff whether there is a mandatory policy required where relevant PPE must be worn.

Remember, PPE should be a last resort and you must not rely on it alone to protect your workers from hazards. Take other precautions to guarantee the safety of your staff.

 

Personal protective equipment against cross-contamination

Those working in the medical profession will wear PPE to protect themselves and others from potentially infectious materials. However, equipment alone can’t completely eliminate exposure.

Also, you should provide regular training for all staff. The first instance of this training should occur prior to the use of PPE and whenever there are changes to the types of equipment employee use.

 

Personal protective equipment at work regulations

The two laws relating to the use of PPE are:

  1. The Personal Protective Equipment Regulations 2002.
  2. The Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992 (amended).

These cover a lot of ground, but the main points are as follows:

  • Ensure you properly assess all PPE before use to ensure fit for purpose.
  • Maintain, store, and dispose of it properly.
  • Provide all staff with clear instructions on how to use each piece of equipment.
  • Ensure your employees are using the equipment correctly for example face fit testing.

There are other regulations that provide guidance on certain hazardous substances (such as asbestos or COSHH).

 

Expert support

Not sure if you’re using PPE correctly? Require training for your staff? Speak to a Croner expert today for comprehensive advice on 0808 145 3380.

About the Author

Peter Clark joined Croner in 2018 as a Senior Health and Safety Consultant advising clients all on matters of health and safety compliance. Peter has over 15 years’ experience as a health and safety practitioner in many varied industry sectors including Manufacturing; Printing; Construction; Agriculture; Retail; Education; and the Care Sector.

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