Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) must be provided by an employer ‘free of charge’ and supplied where there are risks which cannot be controlled by other means.
PPE can help to 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 can also include more specialist equipment such as Respiratory Protective Equipment (RPE).
Many employers will provide PPE on the basis of cost, and are then surprised that employees are reluctant to use the equipment as required. This can cause conflicts or dissatisfaction within the workforce, with health and safety performance suffering as a result.
One of the most effective ways of ensuring that suitable PPE is provided is to involve workers in the evaluation and selection process. Workers will be aware of the physical demands of the job and will understand the requirement for PPE to be comfortable to wear, they are also best placed to appreciate the nature of the tasks which they are required to undertake.
Employees will feel more valued and appreciated if they are involved in the PPE selection process; indeed many employers report better health and safety compliance, fewer accidents, and improved employee engagement as a direct result.
Whilst PPE is widely used to help safeguard workers’ health and safety, it is vital that it is NOT employed as a shortcut to dealing with health & safety problems at work. PPE use really is a ‘last resort’ and all other risk control measures should be implemented before the use of PPE is considered.
Employees exposed to extreme temperature should be provided with appropriate workwear such as thermally protective clothing, gloves and boots for working in freezers, or even long sleeved shirts, wide brimmed hats and cotton outerwear when working outside in summer temperatures. Although not strictly PPE, protective clothing can help to keep workers fit and healthy, as the construction industry demonstrates with waterproof clothing and fleeces which are made of high visibility fabrics.
When selecting and using PPE:
- Choose products which are CE marked in accordance with the Personal Protective Equipment Regulations 2002 – reputable 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, e.g. wearing safety glasses may disturb the seal of a respirator, causing air leaks.
- Instruct and train people how to use ppe, eg train people to remove gloves without contaminating their skin, and how to keep it in good condition. Tell them why the PPE is needed, when to use it and what its limitations are
- 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
Here at Acorn, we offer Qualitative face fit testing (QFFT) which provides employers with written evidence that Respiratory Protective Equipment (RPE) including half mask respirators and disposable face masks ‘fit’ employees. Face fit testing allows employers to demonstrate that they are meeting the requirements of a number of statutory duties including those under the Health and Safety at Work Act, COSHH and PPE Regulations. Face fit testing can be provided for both groups on-site and individuals able to visit our premises in Warmley, Bristol. Testing comprises an initial sensitivity test, followed by a number of practical exercises, designed to mimic typical patterns of movement employees may experience whilst wearing RPE.
If in doubt on aspects of PPE, seek further advice from a specialist adviser. We are always happy to help so feel free to contact us.