How to safely equip your staff with PPE

It’s a legal requirement for an employer to equip their employees with the necessary PPE for their role. Under various laws, from the Health and Safety At Work Act 1974 to the Personal Protective Equipment At Work Regulations 1992, employers are responsible for assessing whether their workplace or any aspect of an employee’s job description presents a risk to the health of the worker in question. Each separate role or position the company employs should be individually assessed.

PPE is not an automatic solution for every risk identified, however – it should only be issued when all other methods to control the specific hazard have been executed and exhausted. The issuing of PPE is also dependent on how long an employee would be exposed to a risk, once identified, and the degree of danger they would face.

If PPE does need to be used, as well as sourcing the appropriate equipment and footing the bill for it, employers must train each employee on how to use/wear it. They must ensure that their employees understand the hazard(s) that they may encounter in the course of their work, and how the correct PPE protects them against it - as well as how to store and maintain the equipment.

This may seem laborious, but if an employee claims they didn’t receive the correct PPE or the right training from their employer, they could sue the company if their health was negatively impacted as they carried out their role. If they did receive the appropriate protective apparatus, and it can be proven that they knew full well how to use it but they just chose to ignore their training…well then, that’s their fault.

All risk assessments must be recorded and regularly reviewed. Training should be routinely refreshed, which should also be officially noted.

Employees have their own responsibilities to adhere to, with regards to PPE. For instance, if an item of protective equipment is showing signs of wear and tear, it may be less effective as a result. In these instances, employees should report the damage to their manager immediately. Employers are financially responsible for replacing, repairing and disposing of any PPE equipment.

It’s not always immediately clear when it comes to clothing what constitutes PPE and what classes as simply uniform. Put simply, if the clothing an employee wears protects any part of their body from harm or contamination, it is PPE – for example, lab coats and fireman’s jackets/trousers.

If you’re in any doubt as to whether you need to provide PPE for your employees, we recommend engaging the services of a Health and Safety specialist.