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Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

PPE is equipment that will protect the user against health or safety risks at work


This section explains your obligations for providing personal protective equipment (PPE) to employees and different types of PPE available.

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is equipment that will protect the user against health or safety risks at work, this can include items such as

  • safety helmets
  • ear protection
  • high visibility clothing
  • safety footwear and safety harnesses
  • thermal, weather and waterproof clothing
  • respiratory protective equipment (RPE).

As an employer, it is important that you understand your responsibilities and take steps to keep your workers and members of the public safe. 

You will need to know what PPE you need to provide and what training you need to provide to employees to ensure that they use it correctly.

As an employee, you will need to understand your responsibilities for the use, storage and maintenance of your own PPE.

  1. PPE legislation
  2. When do I need to provide PPE
  3. Training, maintenance and storage of PPE
  4. Types of PPE
  5. PPE and coronavirus (COVID-19)

1. PPE legislation

The Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992 seeks to ensure that where risks cannot be controlled by other means PPE should be correctly identified and put into use.

Under the requirements of The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 (external site), employees will not be charged with or contribute to the provision and maintenance of PPE. If there is a need for PPE items they must be provided free of charge by the employer.

The regulations do not apply where requirements are detailed in other regulations such as respirators in The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 (COSHH)Many other regulations have specific requirements for the provision, maintenance and the use of PPE.  

Such as the regulations dealing with asbestos, noise or ionising radiation. This ensures that specific hazards and their controls are dealt with by specific regulations.

Duties of employees regarding PPE

The Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992 place duties on employees to take reasonable steps to ensure that the PPE provided is properly used.

The Regulations also place the following duties on employees.

  • PPE must be worn and used in accordance with the instructions provided to them
  • Employees must make sure that PPE is returned to the provided accommodation after use (unless the employee takes the PPE away from the workplace e.g. footwear or clothing).
  • PPE should be returned to the appropriate storage unit (if applicable) after use, unless the employee takes their PPE home, for example footwear or clothing.
  • PPE must be visually examined before use.
  • Any loss or obvious defect must be immediately reported to their line manager.
  • Employees must take reasonable care of any PPE provided to them and not carry out any maintenance unless trained and authorized.
Find out when to provide PPE