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A Guide to Personal Protective Equipment and Clothing

Photo shows a worker wearing Personal Protective EquipmentPersonal Protective Equipment, often referred to as PPE, describes the equipment that is used in order to protect workers against any risks to their health and safety. PPE covers a wide range of equipment throughout many different industries, with some of the most common items of equipment being helmets, safety gloves, protective glasses, safety boots and shoes, safety harnesses and high-vis clothing.

Equipment and clothing not covered under PPE includes food hygiene clothing, standard work clothing and uniform, travel protection equipment, equipment for competitive sports, devices designed to detect risks and weapons used for self-defence.

Legal Requirements relating to PPE

Employers have a responsibility and a duty of care to ensure the safety of employees, under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, with such a provision in place meaning that no charges should be made for anything that relates to the compliance of PPE. As well as this, the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 stipulates that employers or self-employed workers must conduct a risk assessment for their work.

By conducting the risk assessment, employers and self-employed workers are able to determine the measures that they need to put into place to ensure safety. Individuals that are to carry out risk assessments must highlight any measures to protect workers from harm. PPE is one such response to risks to safety, although it should only be implemented when other measures aren’t likely to have a sufficient impact. Regulation 4 of the Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992 states that employers are required to provide sufficient PPE catering to health and safety issues that employees may face.

PPE - Duties of Employers

Employers are required to provide employees with PPE as a result of highlighted health and safety risks, where the risks cannot be sufficiently dealt with by alternative measures. Where PPE must be provided to work against the risks, the PPE must:

  • Be supplied for free where related to health and safety matters at work.
  • Mitigate the risks posed to the worker without causing greater risks.
  • Be correctly stored and maintained.
  • Be specifically appropriate for the environment and the potential risks.
  • Comply with legislations relating to the design and manufacture of the equipment.
  • Be suited to the worker and their needs.
  • Be compatible with other PPE items that are to be used.

With PPE and the risks that it is being used to reduce, training and instructions must be provided in order to ensure that the PPE is effective. The details below should be included:

  • Highlights of the risks associated with the need for the specific PPE.
  • How the employee must make use of the PPE to use it effectively.
  • Justifications of the selected PPE.

PPE Types

There are many different types of PPE that you and your employees can make use of in the workplace, dependant on the type of work that you do and the associated risks with your particular work activities. It is said that those that are likely to use the PPE should be involved in the choosing of it, so that they are both confident in the PPE and aware of how and why to effectively make use of it. The different types of PPE include:

Body Protection – Excluding standard work clothing or uniform, body protection as part of PPE may be supplied to protect against weather conditions or for high visibility whilst working in environments containing both pedestrians and vehicles. Body protection may also be required for chemical or metal splash, extreme temperatures, impact or penetration, excessive wear and more.

Eye Protection – Such protection is needed to reduce risks against dangers to your eyes, such as splashes, sprays, mists, cuts and impact. Eye protection should be cleaned on a regular basis, particularly as dirty or damaged eye protection would minimise vision.

Foot and Leg Protection – This form of PPE is needed to ensure the safety against risks that may lead to slipping, piercing, crushing, cutting or chopping, as well as risks associated with temperatures, chemicals and electricity. Although it depends solely on the potential risks, PPE can be in place for safety boots, safety shoes, toe caps, protective midsoles, leggings and more.

Hand and Arm Protection – Hands and arms are used in almost every working activity, and so it is important that you have the right protective equipment. Such protection is used to prevent risks such as burns, cuts, irritation, contamination and more. The protective equipment must be suitable to wear and to be used as part of the work, in order for the worker to have full use of their hands and arms to work to their maximum ability regardless of the situation.

Head and Scalp Protection – Head protection is a big requirement, protecting against risks associated to such a sensitive and potentially damaging area of the body. Head protection should be used for things such as hitting the head after falling, thermal protection, falling objects and more. Head protection should be comfortable and comprehensive.

Hearing Protection – Excessive noise can be very damaging to the ears, and that is a problem that can stay with the individual for the rest of their life. Suitable measures should be taken to protect the ears, especially in loud working environments or when working with loud machinery, as these are the times that will cause the most damage to workers’ hearing.

Height and Access Protection – This form of protective equipment is very targeted to specific lines of work, with harnesses, energy absorbers, fall-arrest systems and more being the main items of equipment. Such equipment is often needed in dangerous situations, so you are sure to need the best quality and you will have to conduct constant inspections of the equipment to ensure that it is still in good working order.

Respiratory Protection – With a distinct focus on positive pressure powered respirators and also breathing apparatus, this form of PPE is very important. Constant checks of the equipment are necessary, whilst sufficient training is also needed to ensure that workers are aware of how to effectively use it.

Author Bio
Peter Scully is a marketing consultant for Image To Suit You, an online retailer of PPE equipment, hi-vis work clothing and protective safety boots.

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