PPE – The importance

PPE in the workplace to be worn at work

Making the workplace safe means having effective health and safety assessments and measures in place and ensuring that employees have adequate training and supervision. However, even with all these health and safety measures and systems in place, hazards can still be present. In these cases, personal protective equipment,(PPE) must be provided to protect employees from physical dangers and hazards.

What is PPE?

PPE is anything that can be worn to protect against hazardous conditions. Designed to reduce employee exposure to hazards, PPE is important safety equipment and should always be the correct size, fit and height of its user.

PPE can, for example, help protect the lungs from breathing in contaminated air, the head from falling materials, and the skin from contact with corrosive materials.

Examples of PPE

Examples of PPE include:

  • Gloves
  • Masks
  • Eye protection
  • Protective hearing devices
  • Hard hats
  • Respirators
  • Ear plugs

The type of PPE needed depends on the risks associated with the working environment.

PPE Regulations

According to the Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992, Regulation 4: “every employer must ensure that suitable PPE is provided to their 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.”

The guidance accompanying the regulation states that: “employers must do more than simply have the equipment n the premises. They employees must have the equipment readily available, or at the very least, have clear instructions on where they can obtain it.”

What industries use PPE?

PPE is traditionally used across industries including the healthcare sector, oil and gas, manufacturing and construction, and mining. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, however, PPE is now also a common sight in retail environments, restaurants and the travel industry.

Why is PPE so important?

A line of defence

PPE is the last barrier you have against hazards and is compulsory in many high risk environments.

All PPE is designed to protect employees from the hazards that can’t be mitigated by other health and safety measures, offering protection against risks such as falling bricks, hazardous substances, the spread of coronavirus, technology issues, natural disasters, water and gas issues, as well as hazardous spills.

Protection for the business

The main benefit of PPE is that it protects employees from injury and illness. But it also protects businesses from workplace injury or illness claims.

As a business, you are legally required to provide effective PPE free of charge to your workers an ensure they are trained on how, and when, to use it.

If an employee decides not to wear the PPE provided to them, then the company they work for may no longer liable for any accident or injury, providing they can demonstrate that the necessary measures were in place.  

Remember, PPE should only be used as a last resort. It is one step towards safeguarding your employees, but it shouldn’t be seen as a substitute for a safe working environment. To find out more about the role PPE can play in your company’s health and safety processes, please get in touch.

The HSE provide an overview as a PDF, this provides further details on the PPE requirements.