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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)

2. 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 'C E' Marked (external site). The C E 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. 

Use our risk assessment form