Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

Information on when you are required to provide personal protective equipment (PPE)

When do I need to provide PPE

PPE should always be your last resort to manage workplace risks. This is a legal requirement.

While risk assessing work activities, you need to think of different control measures before moving to ask employees to wear PPE. When deciding what precaution that you are going to introduce in the workplace, you can work through the ‘hierarchy of controls’. It aims to minimise or prevent workplace hazards.

Hierarchy of controls

The controls in the hierarchy are in order of decreasing effectiveness, you should always follow this order.

  1. Elimination – Physically remove the hazard, for example use a mechanical aid instead of manual handling.
  2. Substitution – Replace the hazard with something less dangerous, for example by using a less hazardous chemical.
  3. Engineering Controls – Isolate the employees from the hazard, such as noise zones or barriers.
  4. Administrative Controls – Change or train the way people work, for example by reducing the exposure to vibration by rotating employees.
  5. PPE – Protect the worker with personal protective equipment.

These are some of the reasons why PPE must be considered as a last resort.

  • PPE only protects the person wearing it, whereas measures controlling the risk at source protects everyone in the workplace.
  • It is hard to assess the level of protection provided by PPE because it depends on how it fits the individual, and if it is maintained and used correctly.
  • PPE may restrict the user to some extent by limiting mobility or visibility, or by requiring additional weight to be carried, thus creating additional hazards.

Assessing and choosing PPE

The need for PPE must be identified through risk assessment – it should not be a 'one size fits all' approach. The protective equipment should be personal to the individual user and be suitable and fit for purpose.

All personal protective equipment must be 'CE marked' (external site). The CE mark signifies that the PPE satisfies certain basic/minimum safety requirements.

To establish if your employees need to wear PPE, you can carry out a risk assessment. During the assessment, you will identify workplace hazards, evaluate and estimate risks to decide if you are doing enough to manage risks in the workplace. You will also decide what PPE needs to be used.