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Industry Spotlight: Charities: Does health and safety law apply to a Charity?

We’ve worked with charities, volunteers and not for profit organisations since day one. In March this year, we won the tender for Action on Hearing Loss (the trading name of the RNID) to provide a range of courses including manual handling, food safety, infection control, risk assessment, first aid and medication. Also, in both of our kitchens here at Acorn you will find sweet boxes where the proceeds go to Kidney Research UK. Just last weekend our Director, Danny, took part in RideLondon, a 100-mile ride through the streets of London to Surrey and back again, raising money for the Motor Neurone Disease Association (MND) which provides support for sufferers of MND and their families.

This month we are answering the single most asked question on how health and safety legislation affects those working, or volunteering, within charities, voluntary and not for profit organisations – “We are a Charity. Does health and safety law apply to us as we use volunteers?”

Such organisations are major employers in the UK with an estimated 2.3 million people employed as paid staff. This is equivalent to 7% of the total UK workforce in 2014 – more than the workforce of the NHS, the UK’s single largest employer (1.5 million employees), and same as for the construction industry (2.2 million)*

*(Source: NCVO/ UK Civil Society Almanac 2017).

However, charities are often not viewed as businesses as they are not profit-making concerns and they often rely on unpaid volunteers.

The average age of volunteers is older than the general working population, often employing retired people whose fitness and mobility may be declining.

In addition, many charities exist in run-down accommodation e.g. old shops, converted churches etc. They may not have been properly surveyed and works may be carried out by well-meaning individuals who may not have the necessary knowledge, skill or equipment to carry out works safely.

Health and safety legislation doesn’t generally apply to someone who is not an employer, self-employed or an employee, in other words an individual or group of volunteers.

However, as in any other sector, the Health and Safety at Work etc. act 1974, and the regulations made under it, apply if any organisation (including a voluntary organisation) has at least one employee.

And of course, voluntary organisations have a duty of care and responsibility to ensure the safety and wellbeing of employees, volunteers and anyone else they may come into contact with during the course of their activities.

Therefore, whilst in some instances, the law may not be applicable, it would make good sense to use the law as a guide to good practice when considering the activities of the organisation, especially those Regulations termed the ‘six-pack’.

The ‘six-pack’ is the core set of health and safety rules which charities (and businesses) have to be aware of and comprise of:

  1. The Management of Health & Safety at Work Regulations
  2. Manual Handling Operations Regulations
  3. Display Screen Equipment (DSE) Regulations
  4. Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations
  5. Provision and use of Work Equipment Regulations
  6. Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) Regulations

We can provide advice and training in the following areas, all of which are relevant to the charity / voluntary / not for profit sectors:

We are a leading provider of health and safety consultancy in the South West. Whether you require support with a one-off assessment or a complete health and safety management system we can help

Our pragmatic advice, flexibility and experience in this sector help keep organisations safe and allow informed decisions to be made relating to health and safety expenditure.

If you’re unsure what to do, pick up the phone or drop us an e-mail, we are always happy to talk and offer an initial 1 hour of consultancy free of charge and without obligation.  If you live in or near Bristol we’ll likely invite ourselves around for a tea or coffee!

Nigel Braybrooke


More Information on the “six-pack” health and safety regulations:

  1. The Management of Health & Safety at Work Regulations What health and safety law requires
    The basis of British health and safety law is the Health and Safety at Work etc
    Act 1974.

The Act sets out the general duties which employers have towards employees and
members of the public, and employees have to themselves and to each other.
These duties are qualified in the Act by the principle of ‘so far as is reasonably
practicable’. In other words, an employer does not have to take measures to avoid
or reduce the risk if they are technically impossible or if the time, trouble or cost of
the measures would be grossly disproportionate to the risk.

What the law requires here is what good management and common sense would
lead employers to do anyway: that is, to look at what the risks are and take
sensible measures to tackle them.

The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 (the
Management Regulations) generally make more explicit what employers are
required to do to manage health and safety under the Health and Safety at Work
Act. Like the Act, they apply to every work activity.

The main requirement on employers is to carry out a risk assessment. Employers
with five or more employees need to record the significant findings of the risk

Risk assessment should be straightforward in a simple workplace such as a typical
office. It should only be complicated if it deals with serious hazards such as those
on a nuclear power station, a chemical plant, laboratory or an oil rig.

The HSE leaflet Five steps to risk assessment will give you more information.
Besides carrying out a risk assessment, employers also need to:
❋ make arrangements for implementing the health and safety measures identified
as necessary by the risk assessment;
❋ appoint competent people (often themselves or company colleagues) to help
them to implement the arrangements;
❋ set up emergency procedures;
❋ provide clear information and training to employees;
❋ work together with other employers sharing the same workplace.

Other regulations require action in response to particular hazards, or in industries
where hazards are particularly high. A list of the main regulations which apply
generally is in Appendix 1. Many are not qualified by ‘reasonable practicability’.
European law
In recent years much of Britain’s health and safety law has originated in Europe.
Proposals from the European Commission may be agreed by Member States, who
are then responsible for making them part of their domestic law.

Modern health and safety law in this country, including much of that from Europe,
is based on the principle of risk assessment described above.
Action on health and safety: Options

The Health and Safety Commission and its operating arm, the Executive (HSC/E),
have spent over twenty years modernising the structure of health and safety law.
Their aims are to protect the health, safety and welfare of employees, and to
safeguard others, principally the public, who may be exposed to risks from work

HSC/E consult fully with people affected by their legislative proposals, and adopt
various approaches based on assessing and controlling risk (see ‘What health and
safety law requires’).

Among the things that can prompt action from HSC/E are:
❋ changes in technologies, industries or risks;
❋ evidence of accidents and ill health, plus public concern;
❋ European Directives.
Where HSC/E consider action is necessary to supplement existing arrangements,
their three main options are:
❋ guidance;
❋ Approved Codes of Practice; and
❋ regulations.

HSC/E try to take whichever option, or options, allows employers most flexibility
and costs them least, while providing proper safeguards for employees and the

HSE publishes guidance on a range of subjects (please see the end of this guide).
Guidance can be specific to the health and safety problems of an industry or of a
particular process used in a number of industries.

The main purposes of guidance are:
❋ to interpret ­ helping people to understand what the law says ­ including for
example how requirements based on EC Directives fit with those under the
Health and Safety at Work Act;

❋ to help people comply with the law;
❋ to give technical advice.

Following guidance is not compulsory and employers are free to take other action.
But if they do follow guidance they will normally be doing enough to comply with
the law. (Please also see the sections below on Approved Codes of Practice and
regulations, which explain other ways in which employers are helped to know
whether they are doing what the law requires.)

HSC/E aim to keep guidance up­to­date because as technologies change, risks
and the measures needed to address them change too.

Approved Codes of Practice

Approved Codes of Practice offer practical examples of good practice.
They give advice on how to comply with the law by, for example, providing a guide
to what is ‘reasonably practicable’. For example, if regulations use words like
‘suitable and sufficient’, an Approved Code of Practice can illustrate what this
requires in particular circumstances.

Approved Codes of Practice have a special legal status. If employers are
prosecuted for a breach of health and safety law, and it is proved that they have
not followed the relevant provisions of the Approved Code of Practice, a court can
find them at fault unless they can show that they have complied with the law in
some other way.

HSC consulted in 1995 on the role of Approved Codes of Practice in the health
and safety system and concluded that they could still be used in support of legal
duties in specific circumstances.


Regulations are law, approved by Parliament. These are usually made under the
Health and Safety at Work Act, following proposals from HSC. This applies to
regulations based on EC Directives as well as ‘home­grown’ ones.

The Health and Safety at Work Act, and general duties in the Management
Regulations, are goal­setting (see ‘What form do they take?’) and leave employers
freedom to decide how to control risks which they identify. Guidance and Approved
Codes of Practice give advice. But some risks are so great, or the proper control
measures so costly, that it would not be appropriate to leave employers discretion
in deciding what to do about them. Regulations identify these risks and set out
specific action that must be taken. Often these requirements are absolute ­ to do
something without qualification by whether it is reasonably practicable.

How regulations apply

Some regulations apply across all companies, such as the Manual Handling
Regulations which apply wherever things are moved by hand or bodily force, and
the Display Screen Equipment Regulations which apply wherever VDUs are used.
Other regulations apply to hazards unique to specific industries, such as mining or

What form do they take?

HSC will where appropriate propose regulations in a goal­setting form: that is, setting
out what must be achieved, but not how it must be done.

Sometimes it is necessary to be prescriptive, that is spelling out in detail what
should be done. Some standards are absolute. For example, all mines should have
two exits; contacts with live electrical conductors should be avoided. Sometimes
European law requires prescription.

Some activities or substances are so inherently hazardous that they require
licensing, for example explosives and asbestos removal. Certain big and complex
installations or operations require ‘safety cases’, which are large­scale risk
assessments subject to scrutiny by the regulator. For example, railway companies
are required to produce safety cases for their operations.

The relationship between the regulator and industry
As mentioned above, HSC consults widely with those affected by its proposals.
HSC/E work through:
❋ HSC’s Industry and Subject Advisory Committees,which have members drawn
from the areas of work they cover, and focus on health and safety issues in
particular industries (such as the textile industry, construction and education or
areas such as toxic substances and genetic modification);
❋ intermediaries, such as small firms organisations;
❋ providing information and advice to employers and others with responsibilities
under the Health and Safety at Work Act;
❋ guidance to enforcers, both HSE inspectors and those of local authorities;
❋ the day­to­day contact which inspectors have with people at work.
HSC directly canvasses the views of small businesses. It also seeks views in detail
from representatives of small businesses about the impact on them of proposed

What next?
The Review of Regulation concluded that the present system of health and safety
regulation generally works well, though it identified several areas where
improvements can be made.

Although the Review has ended, our work in support of Better Regulation
continues. The Review programme has formed an important basis for long­lasting
successes in improving workplace health and safety. Policies and initiatives flowing
from it continue to support our priority aims and objectives, and will be refined in
the coming years, adapting and evolving to take account of changes in technology,
workplace trends and the needs of those involved.

Appendix 1: Some important pieces of health and safety

Besides the Health and Safety at Work Act itself, the following apply across
the full range of workplaces:
1 Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999: require
employers to carry out risk assessments, make arrangements to implement
necessary measures, appoint competent people and arrange for appropriate
information and training.
2 Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992: cover a wide range
of basic health, safety and welfare issues such as ventilation, heating, lighting,
workstations, seating and welfare facilities.
3 Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations 1992: set out
requirements for work with Visual Display Units (VDUs).
4 Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992: require employers to
provide appropriate protective clothing and equipment for their employees.
5 Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998: require that
equipment provided for use at work, including machinery, is safe.
6 Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992: cover the moving of objects by
hand or bodily force.
7 Health and Safety (First Aid) Regulations 1981: cover requirements for
first aid.
8 The Health and Safety Information for Employees Regulations 1989: require
employers to display a poster telling employees what they need to know about
health and safety.
9 Employers’ Liability (Compulsory Insurance) Act 1969: require employers
to take out insurance against accidents and ill health to their employees.
10 Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 1995
(RIDDOR): require employers to notify certain occupational injuries, diseases
and dangerous events.
11 Noise at Work Regulations 1989: require employers to take action to protect
employees from hearing damage.
12 Electricity at Work Regulations 1989: require people in control of electrical
systems to ensure they are safe to use and maintained in a safe condition.
13 Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 (COSHH):
require employers to assess the risks from hazardous substances and take
appropriate precautions.

2. Manual Handling Operations Regulations – The Regulations define manual handling as:

…any transporting or supporting of a load (including the lifting, putting down, pushing, pulling, carrying or moving thereof) by hand or bodily force“.

The load can be an object, person or animal.

The MHOR 1992 set out a clear ranking of measures for dealing with risks from manual handling, these are:

  • first : avoid hazardous manual handling operations so far as is reasonably practicable;
  • second : assess any hazardous manual handling operations that cannot be avoided; and
  • third: reduce the risk of injury so far as is reasonably practicable.

3. Display Screen Equipment (DSE) Regulations

  1. As an employer, you must protect your workers from the health risks of working with display screen equipment (DSE), such as PCs, laptops, tablets and smartphones.The Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations 1992 apply to workers who use DSE daily, for an hour or more at a time. We describe these workers as ‘DSE users’. The regulations don’t apply to workers who use DSE infrequently or only use it for a short time.

    How to protect workers’ health

    The law applies if users are, for example:

    • at a fixed workstation
    • mobile workers
    • home workers
    • hot-desking (workers should carry out a basic risk assessment if they change desks regularly)

    Employers must:

    • do a DSE workstation assessment
    • reduce risks, including making sure workers take breaks from DSE workor do something different
    • provide an eye test if a worker asks for one
    • provide training and information for workers

    Incorrect use of DSE or poorly designed workstations or work environments can lead to pain in necks, shoulders, backs, arms, wrists and hands as well as fatigue and eye strain. The causes may not always be obvious.

    More DSE guidance

    HSE’s leaflet Working with display screen equipment gives more information about how to comply with the Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations 1992.

    4. Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations – HSE has been aware for some time of concerns around access to welfare facilities for visiting delivery drivers. We have reviewed our approach including guidance to duty holders and re-examined the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992, in particular Regulations 20 and 21. We will begin to update our guidance to say that drivers must have access to welfare facilities in the premises they visit as part of their work. As this is likely to take some time, key stakeholders are being informed now.The welfare of all workers is a priority and we have consistently said that drivers should have this sort of access. We also recognise that the majority of duty holders do already provide reasonable access to toilets.

5. Provision and use of Work Equipment Regulations

These Regulations, often abbreviated to PUWER, place duties on people and companies who own, operate or have control over work equipment. PUWER also places responsibilities on businesses and organisations whose employees use work equipment, whether owned by them or not.

PUWER requires that equipment provided for use at work is:

  • suitable for the intended use
  • safe for use, maintained in a safe condition and inspected to ensure it is correctly installed and does not subsequently deteriorate
  • used only by people who have received adequate information, instruction and training
  • accompanied by suitable health and safety measures, such as protective devices and controls. These will normally include emergency stop devices, adequate means of isolation from sources of energy, clearly visible markings and warning devices
  • used in accordance with specific requirements, for mobile work equipment and power presses

Some work equipment is subject to other health and safety legislation in addition to PUWER. For example, lifting equipment must also meet the requirements of LOLERpressure equipment must meet the Pressure Systems Safety Regulations and personal protective equipment must meet the PPE Regulations PDF.

What is work equipment?

Work equipment is any machinery, appliance, apparatus, tool or installation for use at work (whether exclusively or not). This includes equipment which employees provide for their own use at work. The scope of work equipment is therefore extremely wide. The use of work equipment is also very widely interpreted and ‘…means any activity involving work equipment and includes starting, stopping, programming, setting, transporting, repairing, modifying, maintaining, servicing and cleaning’.

What you must do

If your business or organisation uses work equipment or is involved in providing work equipment for others to use (eg for hire), you must manage the risks from that equipment. This means you must:

  • ensure the equipment is constructed or adapted to be suitable for the purpose it is used or provided for
  • take account of the working conditions and health and safety risks in the workplace when selecting work equipment
  • ensure work equipment is only used for suitable purposes
  • ensure work equipment is maintained in an efficient state, in efficient working order and in good repair
  • where a machine has a maintenance log, keep this up to date
  • where the safety of work equipment depends on the manner of installation, it must be inspected after installation and before being put into use
  • where work equipment is exposed to deteriorating conditions liable to result in dangerous situations, it must be inspected to ensure faults are detected in good time so the risk to health and safety is managed
  • ensure that all people using, supervising or managing the use of work equipment are provided with adequate, clear health and safety information. This will include, where necessary, written instructions on its use and suitable equipment markings and warnings
  • ensure that all people who use, supervise or manage the use of work equipment have received adequate training, which should include the correct use of the equipment, the risks that may arise from its use and the precautions to take
  • where the use of work equipment is likely to involve a specific risk to health and safety (eg woodworking machinery), ensure that the use of the equipment is restricted to those people trained and appointed to use it
  • take effective measures to prevent access to dangerous parts of machinery. This will normally be by fixed guarding but where routine access is needed, interlocked guards (sometimes with guard locking) may be needed to stop the movement of dangerous parts before a person can reach the danger zone. Where this is not possible – such as with the blade of a circular saw – it must be protected as far as possible and a safe system of work used. These protective measures should follow the hierarchy laid down in PUWER regulation 11(2) and the PUWER Approved Code of Practice and guidance or, for woodworking machinery, the Safe use of woodworking machinery: Approved Code of Practice and guidance
  • take measures to prevent or control the risks to people from parts and substances falling or being ejected from work equipment or the rupture or disintegration of work equipment
  • ensure that the risks from very hot or cold temperatures from the work equipment or the material being processed or used are managed to prevent injury
  • ensure that work equipment is provided with appropriately identified controls for starting, stopping and controlling it, and that these control systems are safe
  • where appropriate, provide suitable means of isolating work equipment from all power sources (including electric, hydraulic, pneumatic and gravitational energy)
  • ensure work equipment is stabilised by clamping or otherwise to avoid injury
  • take appropriate measures to ensure maintenance operations on work equipment can be carried out safely while the equipment is shut down, without exposing people undertaking maintenance operations to risks to their health and safety

When providing new work equipment for use at work, you must ensure it conforms with the essential requirements of European Community law (for new machinery this means the Machinery Directive). You must check it:

  • is CE marked
  • comes with a Declaration of Conformity
  • is provided with instructions in English
  • is free from obvious defects – and that it remains so during its working life

When providing mobile work equipment, you must ensure that:

  • where employees are carried, the equipment is suitable for that purpose
  • the risks from rolling over are minimised, and any person being carried is protected in the event of fall or rollover. This should include protection against crushing, through the provision of a suitable restraint and a rollover protection system
  • self-propelled equipment can be controlled safely with braking devices, adequate driver vision and, where necessary, lighting
  • measures are taken to prevent any risks from drive shafts that power accessories attached to mobile work equipment, by using adequate guards

When providing power presses for working on cold metal, you must thoroughly examine them and their safeguards before first putting them into use, and periodically afterwards. This means you must ensure that the inspection and testing of guards and protection devices is carried out by a competent person at frequent intervals, and that records of these examinations, inspections and tests are kept.

What you should know

The Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 replaced the original PUWER regulations first introduced in 1992. The main change was in the coverage of mobile work equipment, woodworking equipment and power presses allowing the repeal of the 1965 Power Press Regulations and a number of other older regulations, including those on woodworking machinery.

The Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 link to external website, as amended by the Health and Safety (Miscellaneous Amendment) Regulations 2002 link to external website, are supported by an Approved Code of Practice (ACOP) and additional free guidance which are readily available from HSE. Other ACOPs that support PUWER are also available, covering woodworking machinery and power presses for working on cold metal. Where work equipment is also lifting equipment, there is another ACOP supporting LOLER and PUWER.

While the ACOPs are not law, they were made under section 16 of the Health and Safety at Work Act link to external website (HSW Act) and so have a special status, as outlined in the introduction to the PUWER ACOP:

‘Following the guidance is not compulsory and you are free to take other action. But if you do follow the guidance you will normally be doing enough to comply with the law. Health and safety inspectors seek to secure compliance with the law and may refer to this guidance as illustrating good practice.’

These ACOPs support PUWER and the general provisions of section 2 of the HSW Act, as well as other regulations, including the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations and the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations.

Other more specific legislation may also apply (for example LOLER, when lifting equipment is used at work). In some cases, equipment used at work is more appropriately covered by other, more specific legislation (eg the Personal Protective Equipment Regulations PDF and the Electricity at Work Regulations). You may therefore have to ensure that the requirements of other legislation are met alongside those of PUWER; for example, the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations, in relation to the workplace risks to pedestriansarising from mobile work equipment.

HSE has developed Open learning guidance to assist those who wish to learn more about PUWER, or see also: Using work equipment safely.

Although PUWER has a wide application, there is a general exclusion covering the use of ship’s work equipment in most situations because there are other provisions for the safety of this equipment under merchant shipping legislation.

Most new work equipment that is machinery will also fall within the scope of the Machinery Directive, as implemented by the Supply of Machinery (Safety) Regulations. Machinery, and certain other work equipment within scope of the Directive, must undergo conformity assessment and be appropriately CE marked before being placed on the market or brought into use. This includes:

  • machinery which needs to be installed on / with other equipment or in a structure before it can be used
  • safety components placed independently on the market
  • lifting equipment / accessories
  • partly completed machinery (machinery which cannot itself perform a function) also comes within scope of the Machinery Directive

6. Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) Regulations

Employers have duties concerning the provision and use of personal protective equipment (PPE) at work.

PPE is equipment that will protect the user against health or safety risks at work. It can include items such as safety helmets, gloves, eye protection, high-visibility clothing, safety footwear and safety harnesses. It also includes respiratory protective equipment (RPE).

Why is PPE important?

Making the workplace safe includes providing instructions, procedures, training and supervision to encourage people to work safely and responsibly.

Even where engineering controls and safe systems of work have been applied, some hazards might remain. These include injuries to:

  • the lungs, eg from breathing in contaminated air
  • the head and feet, eg from falling materials
  • the eyes, eg from flying particles or splashes of corrosive liquids
  • the skin, eg from contact with corrosive materials
  • the body, eg from extremes of heat or cold

PPE is needed in these cases to reduce the risk.

What do I have to do?

  • Only use PPE as a last resort
  • If PPE is still needed after implementing other controls (and there will be circumstances when it is, eg head protection on most construction sites), you must provide this for your employees free of charge
  • You must choose the equipment carefully (see selection details below) and ensure employees are trained to use it properly, and know how to detect and report any faults

Selection and use

You should ask yourself the following questions:

  • Who is exposed and to what?
  • How long are they exposed for?
  • How much are they exposed to?

When selecting and using PPE:

  • Choose products which are CE marked in accordance with the Personal Protective Equipment Regulations 2002 – suppliers can advise you
  • Choose equipment that suits the user – consider the size, fit and weight of the PPE. If the users help choose it, they will be more likely to use it
  • If more than one item of PPE is worn at the same time, make sure they can be used together, eg wearing safety glasses may disturb the seal of a respirator, causing air leaks
  • Instruct and train people how to use it, eg train people to remove gloves without contaminating their skin. Tell them why it is needed, when to use it and what its limitations are

Other advice on PPE

  • Never allow exemptions from wearing PPE for those jobs that ‘only take a few minutes’
  • Check with your supplier on what PPE is appropriate – explain the job to them
  • If in doubt, seek further advice from a specialist adviser


PPE must be properly looked after and stored when not in use, eg in a dry, clean cupboard. If it is reusable it must be cleaned and kept in good condition.

Think about:

  • using the right replacement parts which match the original, eg respirator filters
  • keeping replacement PPE available
  • who is responsible for maintenance and how it is to be done
  • having a supply of appropriate disposable suits which are useful for dirty jobs where laundry costs are high, eg for visitors who need protective clothing

Employees must make proper use of PPE and report its loss or destruction or any fault in it.

Monitor and review

  • Check regularly that PPE is used. If it isn’t, find out why not
  • Safety signs can be a useful reminder that PPE should be worn
  • Take note of any changes in equipment, materials and methods – you may need to update what you provide

Types of PPE you can use


Chemical or metal splash, dust, projectiles, gas and vapour, radiation

Safety spectacles, goggles, face screens, faceshields, visors

Make sure the eye protection chosen has the right combination of impact/dust/splash/molten metal eye protection for the task and fits the user properly

Head and neck

Impact from falling or flying objects, risk of head bumping, hair getting tangled in machinery, chemical drips or splash, climate or temperature

Industrial safety helmets, bump caps, hairnets and firefighters’ helmets


  • Some safety helmets incorporate or can be fitted with specially-designed eye or hearing protection
  • Don’t forget neck protection, eg scarves for use during welding
  • Replace head protection if it is damaged


Noise – a combination of sound level and duration of exposure, very high-level sounds are a hazard even with short duration

Earplugs, earmuffs, semi-insert/canal caps


  • Provide the right hearing protectors for the type of work, and make sure workers know how to fit them
  • Choose protectors that reduce noise to an acceptable level, while allowing for safety and communication

Hands and arms

Abrasion, temperature extremes, cuts and punctures, impact, chemicals, electric shock, radiation, vibration, biological agents and prolonged immersion in water

Gloves, gloves with a cuff, gauntlets and sleeving that covers part or all of the arm


  • Avoid gloves when operating machines such as bench drills where the gloves might get caught
  • Some materials are quickly penetrated by chemicals – take care in selection, see HSE’s skin at work website
  • Barrier creams are unreliable and are no substitute for proper PPE
  • Wearing gloves for long periods can make the skin hot and sweaty, leading to skin problems. Using separate cotton inner gloves can help prevent this

Feet and legs

Wet, hot and cold conditions, electrostatic build-up, slipping, cuts and punctures, falling objects, heavy loads, metal and chemical splash, vehicles

Safety boots and shoes with protective toecaps and penetration-resistant, mid-sole wellington boots and specific footwear, eg foundry boots and chainsaw boots


  • Footwear can have a variety of sole patterns and materials to help prevent slips in different conditions, including oil – or chemical-resistant soles. It can also be anti-static, electrically conductive or thermally insulating
  • Appropriate footwear should be selected for the risks identified



  • Oxygen-deficient atmospheres, dusts, gases and vapours

Options – respiratory protective equipment (RPE)

  • Some respirators rely on filtering contaminants from workplace air. These include simple filtering facepieces and respirators and power-assisted respirators
  • Make sure it fits properly, eg for tight-fitting respirators (filtering facepieces, half and full masks)
  • There are also types of breathing apparatus which give an independent supply of breathable air, eg fresh-air hose, compressed airline and self-contained breathing apparatus


  • The right type of respirator filter must be used as each is effective for only a limited range of substances
  • Filters have only a limited life. Where there is a shortage of oxygen or any danger of losing consciousness due to exposure to high levels of harmful fumes, only use breathing apparatus – never use a filtering cartridge
  • You will need to use breathing apparatus in a confined space or if there is a chance of an oxygen deficiency in the work area
  • If you are using respiratory protective equipment, look at HSE’s publication Respiratory protective equipment at work: A practical guide

Whole body

Heat, chemical or metal splash, spray from pressure leaks or spray guns, contaminated dust, impact or penetration, excessive wear or entanglement of own clothing

Conventional or disposable overalls, boiler suits, aprons, chemical suits


  • The choice of materials includes flame-retardant, anti-static, chain mail, chemically impermeable, and high-visibility
  • Don’t forget other protection, like safety harnesses or life jackets

Emergency equipment

Careful selection, maintenance and regular and realistic operator training is needed for equipment for use in emergencies, like compressed-air escape breathing apparatus, respirators and safety ropes or harnesses.