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What PPE Should You Be Providing Your Employees By Law

As an employer, you’ll understand that you have a legal duty to care for and look after your employees whilst they are in the workplace. This can extend to making sure you provide them with any necessary safety wear and equipment, otherwise known as PPE – personal protective equipment. If you are providing PPE to your employees, then it’s also up to you to ensure they receive the necessary training on how to wear or use any safety equipment, to ensure it performs it’s job correctly and keeps the user safe.

But what PPE is required by law?

Health and safety in the workplace can sometimes feel a bit of a minefield. There’s a lot to think about and consider, and as employers – especially of smaller businesses – we can often be worried about getting it wrong or overlooking something important.

When it comes to PPE though, unfortunately the rules aren’t necessarily black and white. The Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations act from 1992 states that an employer must provide PPE when risks cannot be controlled by any other means. This will usually become apparent during your health and safety risk assessment, and you can then begin to ascertain exactly which safety items will be required.

When considering the hazards in your workplace, the best way to work out how to eliminate them and create a safer working environment is to go step by step through the ‘hierarchy of controls’. This is a 5 step plan you can follow to minimise any hazards, these steps must be followed in their numerical order:

  1. Elimination
    Physically remove the hazard.
  2. Substitution
    If you cannot remove the hazard, then replace the hazard with a less dangerous alternative.
  3. Engineering Controls
    If you cannot remove or substitute the hazard, then isolate the hazard from the employees by use of barriers or zones.
  4. Administrative Controls
    If you cannot remove, substitute or isolate the hazard, then change the way people work in order to reduce exposure to the hazard.
  5. PPE
    If you have tried all of the above, but still feel there is a hazard present, then you must protect your employees with personal protective equipment.

It is also stipulated, under the 1974 Health and Safety at Work Act, that this PPE must be provided and paid for by the employer.

How do I decide which PPE to provide?

Once you’ve identified all the hazards in your workplace, it’s then time to consider which PPE you can provide to protect your workers from them. Some of the most common hazards you might find in your business are:

  • Adverse weather
  • Biological agents
  • Electricity
  • Hazardous substances
  • Lone working
  • Machinery
  • Manual handling
  • Slips, trips and falls
  • Stress
  • Vehicles and transport
  • Violence and aggression
  • Working at heights
  • Working in confined spaces

Protecting employees from these hazards could include providing one, or a combination, of the below items of personal protective equipment:

  • Bump cap
  • Dust mask
  • Ear plugs or ear defenders
  • Face mask
  • Hard hat
  • Hi vis clothing
  • Knee pads
  • Respirator
  • Safety glasses or goggles
  • Steel toe boots or shoes

Are there any employees duties regarding PPE?

While a lot of the emphasis surrounding the use of PPE in the workplace is understandably placed with the employer, there are also legal requirements for employees using PPE too. The Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992 states the following:

  • PPE must be worn and used according to the instructions and guidance provided by the employer
  • PPE must be safely returned to it’s designated storage after use
  • Employees should visually inspect PPE before use to ensure it’s safe for use
  • Any defects, loss or damage to PPE must be reported immediately
  • Employees must take care of any PPE provided to them

To sum up

As you can see, when it comes to the law surrounding personal protective equipment in the workplace, it is important to follow the right procedures to first establish whether or not your employees need PPE in the first place. Only once you have established this, and taken any other steps you can to reduce hazards, are you then ready to start considering personal protective equipment. It’s then essential to provide training on how to correctly use, store and put on/remove PPE to ensure it is used most effectively.

At Pronto Direct, we stock a wide range of personal protective equipment. We are incredibly passionate about safety, and you’ll find that all of our PPE conforms to the strictest European Safety Standards, so that you can carry on with your working day while assured that you’re in safe hands. Click here to discover the full range.

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