Many businesses require their employees to carry out activities which involve the use of equipment or substances that can be hazardous to health. In these workplaces, employees must be provided with Personal Protective Equipment and there is a set of ppe regulations which govern the scenarios when this equipment should be issued.
PPE regulations was introduced through The Personal Protective Equipment Regulations 1992 and it placed a number of obligations on employers and employees to ensure that they comply with these new regulations.
The guidance issued under the regulations state that personal protective equipment can be anything that offers protection to the employee in relation to their health or safety. This can include the provision of clothing to protect against adverse weather. Typical equipment issued by employers includes visibility jackets, specialist footwear, life jackets, safety harnesses, hard hats and goggles.
Certain employees will spend much of their day outdoors often in a variety of weather conditions and employers may issue protective clothing. However, clothing is only classed as being protective equipment if it is to protect the employee from adverse weather conditions which could directly impact on their general health and safety.
The regulations are in place for a reason and they place certain expectations and legal obligations on employers to ensure that equipment is provided by the employer and used correctly by the employee if risks cannot be effectively controlled through other avenues.
Equipment should only be used when all other strategies to reduce the risk have been explored and as a last resort. As an example, when using particular pieces of machinery, the equipment could be modified to incorporate glass screens or other safeguards before employees are issued with safety glasses.
Employers should use personal protective equipment as a last resort because;
- The equipment will only protect the employee who is using it. Safe working practices and revised systems and processes should be implemented to carefully control risks with certain machinery. These small yet significant steps will safeguard the entire workforce.
- During the use of personal protective equipment it can be difficult to determine the right level of protection. Using the equipment properly means that every piece of equipment must be fitted, used and maintained correctly which places a certain obligation on employees. Additionally, in some instances equipment can affect the employees movement or visibility, creating additional hazards to health and safety.
The Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 place a duty on every employer to carry out risk assessments to address health and safety issues. Risk assessments are key documents which review working practices, identify hazards and then outline steps that employers will take to reduce or where possible eliminate the hazards entirely.
When conducting risk assessments it may be identified that Personal Protective Equipment is required to reduce the risk. If this is the case then the Personal Protective Equipment Regulations need to be implemented.
The use of personal protective equipment will become apparent when completing risk assessments as part of wider health and safety legislation.
As employers go through the process of carrying out risk assessments they will have to identify the personal protective equipment that they need for specific work tasks. When choosing equipment employers should;
- Identify whether the equipment is suitable – full face protection is more suitable than just supplying a set of goggles
- Understand whether the equipment avoids risk. In doing so, employers should decide whether using protective equipment could hinder the work of the employee creating additional hazards.
- Determine whether multiple items of protective equipment are compatible with each other, ensuring that they work together rather than creating additional problems
- Identify whether the equipment is adjustable to neatly fit each employee
All Personal Protective Equipment supplied by employers must be of the required standard and worn for their intended purpose. Employees should regularly check their equipment and report of any defects so they can be addressed or replaced by the management team.
Before wearing any personal protective equipment, employees should be trained in its use. Employees should understand the reasons why it is important they wear or use the equipment, what risks the equipment should reduce and how the equipment should be used. Employees should also be educated to maintain the condition of the equipment and how to recognise any defects.
Personal Protective Equipment should be maintained regularly to ensure that it remains in good working order. It is the responsibility of the employer to ensure that equipment is properly maintained and any defective equipment is either repaired or replaced.
Under the PPE regulations, employers have a duty to ensure that equipment is supplied and replaced when faulty or defective, they should provide suitable facilities for storage of equipment and it should be properly tested before it is issued to the workforce.
While employers have obligations so too do employees. When issued with equipment it is the responsibility of the employee to ensure that it is used correctly and in accordance with any instructions which have been provided.
Furthermore, employees must return personal protective equipment to the storage facility once they no longer need it. Before wearing or using any personal protective equipment an employee must ensure that they fully examine it before use to identify any faults or defects. If equipment is lost, this should be reported to the management team.
Maintenance on personal protective equipment which is faulty should not be carried out by an employee unless they have been suitably trained and authorised by management to carry out the repair work.
PPE Regulations and Self Employed
Even the self employed have a duty under the regulations to adhere to use and obtain personal protective equipment where there may be a risk to health or safety and where the risk cannot be controlled using alternative methods.
The Personal Protective Equipment Regulations 2002
In 2002 the regulations from 1992 were updated to incorporate a legislative framework to specifically apply to the manufacturers of Personal Protective Equipment. These regulations state that a manufacturer or employer cannot market a product unless it has undergone stringent testing and it meets the relevant health and safety requirements. Personal Protective Equipment must be fit for purpose.
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This article was written by a member of the Expert Answers legal advice team. Expert Answers provides online legal advice on all aspects of UK Law to users in the United Kingdom.