As an employer, the steps you take to make the workplace safe are of vital importance.
Providing instructions, procedures, training and supervision to encourage people to work safely and responsibly are paramount to a safe work environment. But even where engineering controls and safe systems of work have been applied, some hazards might remain. And this is where our old friend PPE steps in.
What is PPE?
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is traditionally used to reduce the risk of possible injuries to:
- the lungs, eg from breathing in contaminated air
- the head and feet, eg from falling materials
- the eyes, eg from flying particles or splashes of corrosive liquids
- the skin, eg from contact with corrosive materials
- the body, eg from extremes of heat or cold
So as employers, what specifically do you have to do regarding PPE?
Well there are 3 simple rules:
- Only use PPE as a last resort
- If PPE is still needed after implementing other strategies, you must provide this for your employees free of charge
- You must choose the equipment carefully and ensure employees are trained to use it properly, and know how to detect and report any faults
And when it comes to selection, ask yourself the following questions:
- Who is exposed and to what?
- How long are they exposed for?
- How much are they exposed to?
PPE: Best Practice
It is important to choose products which are CE marked in accordance with the Personal Protective Equipment Regulations 2002.
You should also think about equipment that suits the user – consider the size, fit and weight of the PPE. Get the user involved - if they help choose it, they will be more likely to use it.
Also think carefully if more than one item of PPE is worn at the same time. Make sure they can be used together and don’t compromise each other’s effectivity. And don’t forget, it isn’t enough just to provide PPE, users must have instruction and training on how to use it.
Make sure there is an understanding as to why the PPE is needed and what its limitations are.
Never allow exemptions from wearing PPE for those jobs that ‘only take a few minutes’. - Serious injuries only take seconds.
Suppliers of PPE are a great source of information, so check with your supplier on what PPE is appropriate and explain the job to them. Get advice on use, maintenance, storage, reusability, replacement parts etc.
The safest workplaces thrive on a good health and safety culture amongst employees and this is vital when it comes to PPE. Employees must make proper use of PPE and report its loss or destruction or any fault in it.
As the employer it is your responsibility to check and monitor PPE and its use. Check regularly that PPE is actually used. If it isn’t, find out why not.
Safety signs can be a useful reminder that PPE should be worn and take note of any changes in equipment, materials and methods – you may need to update what you provide.
Find out more details on PPE via the HSE.