- Getting Started
- What Is PPE?
- The Business Benefits of PPE
- PPE Facts
- Legal Requirements for PPE
- The New PPE Regulations 2016
- CE Markings
- Employer & Employee Responsibilities
- Assessing Suitable PPE
- Types of PPE
- Training, Information & Toolbox Talks
- PPE Maintenance
- Overview: Key Actions To Take
Work environments thrive when employees know their organisation cares about their safety and wellbeing. In fact, the best businesses in the world have one thing in common: they all look after their staff. And what better way to care for employees than by ensuring their safety at work?
As a Health and Safety Manager, or a Procurement Specialist, one of your jobs is to ensure employees get this feeling of care and wellbeing in spades.
To do this, there’s a make-or-break aspect you’ve got to get right: Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).
(Psst, too busy to read everything now? You can download a free PDF version of this guide.)
Here’s a scenario for you…
Imagine you arrive on-site to carry out some delicate engineering work, but the safety gloves you’re supplied with are too cumbersome to complete the work properly. Either you leave the work unfinished, try to bodge the job or remove your gloves to carry out the final touches. None of these options are satisfactory – and actually greatly increase the chance of injuries.
However, if you’d been supplied with safety gloves which gave adequate protection and were dextrous and comfortable, the work could’ve been completed safely without a hitch.
What we’re trying to demonstrate here is from head to toe, PPE is vital to get right. Choosing the best type of PPE for the job will empower your workers to be as safe and efficient as they can, leading to reduced accident rates, boosted team morale and higher levels of productivity.
But, as SHEQ and Procurement departments know, it’s tricky to get your head around everything you need to know to achieve this.
In short, you need to procure PPE smarter.
In this epic guide, you’ll:
- Get to know what PPE is (and isn’t)
- Find out the benefits of PPE
- Understand the legal requirements for PPE
- Learn how to assess suitable PPE and the different types there are
- See how training and Toolbox Talks maximise the benefits of PPE
- Understand the importance of PPE maintenance and how to carry out checks
- Get a completely free Risk Assessment template
You can read along now or download a completely free PDF version of this guide to read later!
Ready to get started?
What Is PPE?
Workplaces can be dangerous, with 137 fatal injuries and 0.6 million non-fatal injuries to workers in 2016/17 alone. To help protect workers from becoming another statistic, employers must provide Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). This is the term given to gear that helps protect the wearer against health or safety risks.
PPE includes products such as:
Safety gloves, gauntlets, mittens etc.
Safety helmets, bump caps, etc.
Safety spectacles and goggles
Safety boots, shoes and trainers
Polo shirts, jackets, trousers, etc.
Flame Retardant Clothing
Coveralls and overalls
Ear plugs and defenders
Respiratory Protective Equipment
Half masks, full masks, etc.
Fall Arrest Equipment
Harnesses, lanyards etc.
Overalls and overshoes
Weather Protective Clothing
Garments that protect against the weather
What it isn’t…
While PPE covers a pretty broad range of products, it’s good to keep in mind what it doesn’t include:
- Ordinary workwear
- Clothing for food hygiene purposes
- Motorcycle or bicycle helmets
- Portable devices which detect risks, such as personal gas detectors
- Equipment used for competitive sport (however, protective equipment used by sports instructors would be included, such as life jackets)
- Weapons used for self-defence or as a deterrent, such as truncheons
On its own, PPE can’t guarantee employee safety
PPE is a last line of defence against harm, and should always be used alongside other precautionary measures against hazards which can’t be totally removed or controlled.
This is because…
- PPE only protects the person using it, meaning others may be at risk
- The maximum levels of PPE protection are difficult to achieve, due to issues of poor fit, maintenance or failure to consider the appropriate use of PPE
- PPE can restrict the wearer by limiting visibility or mobility
- PPE use can occasionally lead to employees believing they are completely protected against hazards, resulting in lowered attention to other health and safety measures
But does this make PPE any less important than other methods of risk control?
Not at all!
Why is PPE Important?
Despite being at the bottom of the risk control hierarchy, PPE plays a vital role. Without it, employees would be left entirely defenceless in situations where other measures and safe systems of work are insufficient. Examples of such injuries could be to:
- The head and feet, from falling tools, objects and materials
- The eyes, from splashes of corrosive liquids or flying particles and debris
- The lungs, from breathing in contaminated air (such as silica dust)
- The skin, from coming into contact with hazardous substances or materials
- The body, from extremes of heat or cold
As such, PPE plays a major role in preventing and reducing workplace fatalities, injuries and illnesses across the world.
The Business Benefits of PPE
Great PPE = A Safer, More Productive Workforce
The above statement might seem like a big claim, but forward-thinking employers are quickly recognising the many benefits PPE brings to the table.
Fewer Injuries and Related Costs
Equipping workers with appropriate PPE will inevitably result in fewer injuries. This means less man hours lost to absence, so you can keep maintaining productivity levels and meeting deadlines. Not only this, but a reduced accident rate will have a positive impact on your bank balance as you won’t be subject to as many fines or claims.
Boosted Morale, Leading to Lower Staff Turnover
This shocking statistic shows an urgent need for organisations to adopt a new approach which makes employee safety and wellbeing a priority.
By doing so, you'll benefit from healthy, valued employees who are more motivated to work hard and produce great results. With companies who support worker wellbeing in such short supply and high demand, staff turnover will also reduce.
Enhanced Brand Reputation
When workers feel looked after, they’re far more likely to spread the positive word about your company to customers and any potential job candidates. This makes winning business and recruitment a far easier job, ultimately leading to increased overall revenue.
In this way, investing in the right PPE can create a ‘virtuous circle’ between organisations and their workers, resulting in high levels of protection for the workforce and a boosted bottom line for the business.
of employees who sustain a head injury aren’t wearing head protection
of all workplace eye injuries are preventable with the use of proper safety eyewear
of all workplace accidents involve hands and fingers
Legal Requirements for PPE
Ok, so now you know what PPE is - but maybe you’re unsure of the legal requirements surrounding it. Before we begin, it’s important to note the below isn’t an exhaustive list of legislation related to PPE; but they are the main players!
The Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974
The Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 (HSWA), is the main piece of legislation covering occupational health and safety in Great Britain.
What’s The Aim?
HSWA places a general duty of care on employers to ensure the health, safety and welfare of their employees and other (visitors, members of the public, etc.) at work.
The Act also requires, among other duties:
- Safe operation and maintenance of the workplace, plant and systems
- Safe use, handling and storage of dangerous substances
- Adequate training of staff to ensure health and safety
- Adequate welfare provisions for staff at work
Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999
The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 (MHSWR) were introduced to reinforce and support HSWA.
What’s The Aim?
MHSWR places a responsibility on employers, and those who are self-employed, to assess and manage the workplace risks to their staff and others by carrying out a risk assessment. This is to help decide what measures are necessary for safety.
Among other provisions, these regulations require:
- Emergency arrangements
- Information and training for employees
- Health surveillance where appropriate
Under MHSWR, employees also have duties to:
- Report shortcomings in health and safety arrangements
- Report dangerous/hazardous situations
- Use equipment in accordance with training and instruction
- Take care of their own health and safety and others who may be affected by their acts or omissions
The Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992
The Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992 are a set of regulations created under the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974.
These regulations shouldn’t be confused with The Personal Protective Equipment Regulations 2002, which outline conditions around placing PPE on the market and the basic safety requirements they must satisfy to ensure the protection of the user. We’ll be talking about this particular set of regulations a bit later on!
What’s The Aim?
The Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992 put an obligation on all employers to provide suitable PPE to employees who may be exposed to a health and safety risk – that can’t be eliminated or controlled in other ways - while at work.
The regulations also require that PPE is:
- Properly assessed before use to ensure it’s fit for purpose
- Maintained and stored properly
- Provided free of charge to employees with instruction on how to use it safely
- Used correctly by employees
In addition to this, PPE is not regarded as suitable until it satisfies the following requirements:
- It’s appropriate for the risks and conditions in the workplace
- It takes into consideration the ergonomic needs and state of health of the person wearing it
- It’s capable of fitting the wearer correctly
- It’s compatible with other items of PPE where it’s necessary to wear/use more than one item simultaneously
- It complies with community directives applicable to the item (e.g. CE marked)
The regulations don’t apply where other legislation is already mandatory for the provision and use of PPE in relation to particular hazards:
The New PPE Regulations 2016
Over 20 years ago, the European Council adopted the Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) Directive (89/686/EEC). This legislation refers to workplace safety across Europe and was implemented into UK law as The Personal Protective Equipment (EC Directive) Regulations 1992, and then later as The Personal Protective Equipment Regulations 2002.
Due to innovation and new technologies which are now utilised to bring PPE to market, an updated version of these regulations has been approved by the European Commission and Parliament.
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- Increased duties on the entire supply chain, including manufactures, importers and distributors
- Five-year validity/expiry date for new EU certificates
- EC Declaration of Conformity to be provided (or via web link) with each product
- Change of categorisation from product related to risk related
- Change of classification for some product categories: Hearing Protection, now categorised as ‘Harmful Noise’ (risk), is moving from category II to III
What’s the Timeframe?
To allow Member States and Notified Bodies to prepare for the new Regulation, a two-year transition period began on 21st April 2016. This meant the new (EU) 2016/425 PPE Regulation applied from 21st April 2018.
Organisations can continue to CE mark products to the old 89/686/EEC PPE Directive until April 2019.
What’s the Benefit?
The main benefit the updated Regulations bring is improved levels of clarity, consistency and safety of PPE on the market. Products will be approved to the latest versions of standards, rather than previous or withdrawn versions.
And Keep in Mind…
The current PPE legislation is a Directive, which is a legislative act setting out objectives for EU countries to meet in their own way, by a specific date.
The new (EU) 2016/425 PPE Regulation is reclassified as a Regulation, which is a binding legislative act that must be implemented across the EU by each Member State.
A factor to keep in mind when procuring PPE is whether or not the product is CE marked. You should always buy PPE which is CE marked, as this proves it complies with the requirements of the Personal Protective Equipment Regulations 2002. As such, the product will satisfy basic safety standards and, in some cases, will have been tested and certified by an independent body.
However, the CE mark is not a quality mark, or a guarantee that the product meets every requirement of relevant EU product safety law. Since this is the case, suppliers and end users should make reasonable quality checks of any new products. Be on the lookout for signs of wear, damage or deterioration.
Suppliers must also include User Instructions and warning decals in English if the product is intended for the UK market. Additionally, as outlined by HSE, ‘where the instructions are not in English, the supplier must provide a translation into English and supply this together with the original instructions.’ A Declaration of Conformity should also be supplied to the end user.
Employer & Employee Responsibilities
If you work in an industry which requires staff wear PPE, it can be very confusing as to who has what responsibilities to ensure employee safety. So what’s down to the employer and what’s down to the employee?
As we’ve covered above, if you employ workers in an environment where there could be a risk to their health and safety, you’re legally required to provide PPE to help keep them safe. To properly identify which type of PPE is needed, it’s best to carry out a thorough risk assessment to ensure all bases are covered.
Provide PPE with your workers in mind
In addition to complying with legislation, we recommend organisations involve their staff in the PPE selection process. Frontline workers know the demands of their job better than anyone, and the type of PPE which is best suited to their work.
Keeping a Good Fit
PPE also needs to be adjustable to ensure good fit. This is particularly true of respiratory protective equipment (RPE), which will require specific employee face fit testing.
An employee can refuse to use ill-fitting PPE if they think it’ll compromise their safety, or become harmful to wear due to a medical condition. Please note that Sikhs who wear a turban are exempt from wearing head protection in the workplace.
PPE is frequently described by workers as a hindrance, but this feeling can be overcome when it fits them well, is of good quality, is comfortable and does not prevent them from seeing clearly or moving freely. Such PPE can make people more productive, as well as safer.Nigel Day, PPE Persuasion (www.healthandsafetyatwork.com/content/ppe-persuasion)
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Information is Half the Battle
Organisations are also responsible for providing training and information to employees on the best use of PPE. This should include:
- The risks the PPE will eliminate or limit
- The way in which the PPE must be used
- How to maintain the PPE properly, and keep it in a good hygienic condition
Training must be comprehensible to everyone who receives it, meaning you’ll need to take language barriers and levels of literacy into account. By the end of training, everyone should understand how to use PPE and why it’s important they do so properly.
To aid training, we recommend organising Toolbox Talks. These engaging workshops demonstrate how to use PPE and can be arranged regularly to provide refresher training.
PPE must be maintained in working order and good repair, as per manufacturer’s instructions. Organisations will need to rely on employees to do their part in this regard, but a process of monitoring, maintenance and replacement should be created to help. This could include records of tests and examinations.
You should also keep a record of:
- PPE items issued
- Who the items were issued to
- The date of issue
- The date of any required replacements or maintenance
- Any missing or lost items of PPE
Additionally, stock of CE-marked spare parts should be accessible to replace defective/damaged parts of PPE – although bear in mind such repairs should only be carried out by those competent enough to do so! Any PPE which is awaiting repair or maintenance should be kept separate from ready-to-wear PPE, and be clearly identifiable as such.
That’s right; it’s not only employers who have duties when it comes to PPE!
As an employee, you have a responsibility to:
- Keep a high standard of safety awareness in the workplace
- Fully engage yourself with any training provided
- Correctly use any PPE as directed and in accordance with any training or information received
- Return PPE to its safe storage after use, unless otherwise agreed
- Take care of PPE to the best of your ability, including regular examinations before use
- Carry out PPE maintenance, but only if fully trained and authorised
- Report any defects or loss of equipment as soon as you become aware of them
- Never wear loose fitting clothing or leave jewellery or hair exposed around any machinery
There’s always responsibility on both sides when it comes to PPE.
By working together and understanding where exactly these responsibilities lie, you’re setting up your organisation for safety success!
Assessing Suitable PPE
So now you know the main pieces of legislation covering PPE, and who’s responsible for what. But how do you make sure the right type of PPE is chosen for the job?
Always consider the type and nature of different hazards in the workplace. From this, you should be able to identify what PPE will provide protection against them. Remember this may be different for each job!
To help you assess suitable PPE, keep the following questions in mind:
- Does the PPE protect the wearer from the hazards? Take into account the environmental conditions where the job will take place. For example, safety footwear designed to provide protection against falling objects may not necessarily also offer adequate slip-resistance which may be required to do the job safely.
- Does using PPE increase the overall level of risk or add new risks? For example, certain types of RPE may make communication more difficult.
- Can the PPE be adjusted to fit the wearer correctly?
- What demands does the job place on the wearer? For example, how long will the user need to wear the PPE? What are the requirements for communication and visibility?
- Is the PPE compatible with other types of PPE? For example, do particular types of RPE make it impossible to wear eye protection properly?
We also recommend you ask your supplier for advice on the varieties of PPE available and their suitability for certain tasks. In tricky cases, you can also seek advice from PPE manufacturers or specialist organisations.
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Keep an Eye on the Weather
People working in uncomfortably hot or cold environments are more likely to behave unsafely because their ability to make decisions and/or perform manual tasks deteriorates.HSE, www.hse.gov.uk/temperature/thermal/index.htm
When assessing whether PPE is suitable, it’s also worth having a think about whether your employees will work outdoors. If so, you should consider the effects of the weather on their health if the risks aren’t properly managed.
- Apply sun cream with a factor of at least 15-30 every 2-3 hours
- If wearing a hard hat, make sure to cover your neck with loose UV resistant cloth. Otherwise, wear a wide brimmed cap or hat to keep your face covered from the sun
- Wear light clothes made of cool, close-knit, UV protected fabrics that have sweat wicking properties
- Make sure you wear sunglasses, or safety eyewear with tinted lenses
- Wear hoods where possible to keep the head dry and warm and protect the face and eyes against the cold
- Workwear should have several layers to reduce heat loss: wicking layer, light insulating layer, heavy insulating layer and a windproof/waterproof layer
- Safety gloves should be waterproof and make use of a thermal liner
- Make use of waterproof footwear
- Wear high visibility clothing with reflective tapes and materials to ensure maximum visibility in poor conditions
Keep Outdoor Workers Protected
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Types of PPE
To assess what PPE is suitable for the task, you need to know the different types.
Generally, PPE can be categorised as below. Categories are based on the type of protection provided by the equipment.
- Impact from falling tools, flying objects or debris
- Impact against fixed objects e.g. head bumping
- Hair entanglement/scalping
- Head laceration
- Bump Caps
- Hair Nets
- EN 397 – General EU standard for the specification of safety helmets
- EN 14052 – Specification of high performance industrial safety helmets with side impact protection
- EN 50365 – Safety helmets tested for electrical insulation for use on low voltage installations
- EN 812:A1 – Specification of bump caps
- Head protection must be correctly fitted and have adjustable headbands, napes and chin straps where necessary
- Some helmets can also be incorporated or fitted with eye or hearing PPE
- Neck protection can also prove useful, for example some specialist scarves can provide protection during welding
- Don’t use head protection if it’s damaged – always replace it!
- Chemical or metal splash
- Gas and vapour
- Safety spectacles
- EN 166 – Specification for all eye protection against various hazards
- EN 169 – Welding filters
- EN 170 – UV filters
- EN 171 – Infra-red filters
- EN 172 – Solar protection filter (for industrial use)
- EN 1731 – Mesh, eye and face protection
- Eye protection must be regularly cleaned as dirty lenses/visors lead to impaired vision
- Replace any eyewear where the lenses have become scratched, cracked or pitted
- Workers who also wear prescription glasses should be accommodated for. Protective over-glasses can be worn or, where appropriate, PPE should be fitted with lenses that fit the wearer’s prescription requirements
- Eye protection must fit correctly and have the right combination of impact/dust/splash/molten metal protection for the task
- Oxygen-deficient environments
- Disposable filtering face-piece or respirator
- Half or full-face respirators
- Air-fed helmets
- Breathing apparatus
- EN 149 – Filtering face piece respirators to protect against particles
- EN 136 – Full face pieces
- EN 137 – Self-contained open circuit compressed air apparatus
- EN 140 – Half mask face pieces
- EN 14387 – Filters for gas or gas combined
- EN 270 – Compressed air units with hood
- EN 371 – Gas and combined filters for use against low boiling point organic compounds
- EN 402 – Escape apparatus, self-contained breathing apparatus with full face mask or mouth piece assembly
- EN 405 – Valve filtering half mask respirators (maintenance free) for gases and/or particulates
- EN 1146 – Compressed air escape apparatus with hood
- EN 1835 – Light duty supplied air
- EN 12941 – Powered respirators with hood or helmet requiring low flow indicator
- EN 12942 – Powered respirators full face masks
- Always use the right type of respirator filter, as each are only effective for a limited amount of substances
- Where there’s a shortage of oxygen – or there’s a danger of losing consciousness due to high level of harmful fumes – don’t use filtering cartridges. For example, in confined spaces the only suitable form of RPE is breathing apparatus
- Filters have a limited life. When replacing them, check the manufacturer’s advice to ensure the correct replacement part is used
- Face fit testing is required for all close-fitting respirators
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- High noise levels
- Ear defenders
- Ear plugs
- Semi-inserts (canal-caps)
- EN 352.1 – Ear defenders
- EN 352.2 – Ear plugs
- EN 352.3 – Helmet mounted ear defenders
- EN 352.4 – Level dependent ear defenders
- EN 352.5 – Active noise reduction ear defenders
- EN 352.6 – Ear defenders with electrical audio input
- EN 352.7 – Level dependent ear plugs
- EN 352.8 – Entertainment audio ear defenders
- Select protectors which are comfortable, hygienic and suitable for the working environment
- Ensure hearing protection is compatible if used with other PPE
- Theoretical attenuation is rarely achieved, so you should over-specify the level of protection required
- Workers shouldn’t use music headphones or buds when wearing hearing protection
- For workplaces with very high noise, you may need to specify both defenders and plugs
Hand and Arm Protection
- Cuts and punctures
- Extremes of temperature
- Electric shock
- Skin irritation, infection, disease or contamination
- EN 388 – Mechanical Risk
- EN 374 – Biological Contamination
- EN 511 – Risks due to Cold
- EN 407 – Heat and Fire
- EN 374 – Chemical Risk
- EN 374 2003 – Low Chemical Risk
- EN 60903 – Insulating when working with Electricity
- EN 455 – Medical Gloves for single use
- For Food Use – Any glove suitable for use with food will have the phrase ‘for food use’ or the recognised corresponding symbol
- Don’t use gloves when operating machinery (such as bench drills) where the gloves could get caught and entangled
- When wearing gloves for a long time, skin can become hot and sweaty. This can lead to skin problems, so we recommend using separate cotton inner gloves/liners to help reduce this.
- Some people are allergic to the materials used in safety gloves, such as latex.
- Certain glove materials are easily penetrated by chemicals, so be careful when making your selection.
- If chemical exposure is a hazard in the workplace, and could contact/splash onto the arms, gauntlets should be used instead of gloves
- Barrier creams aren’t a substitute for PPE as they provide negligible protection against skin irritations, infections and diseases (such as dermatitis)
Foot and Leg Protection
- Cuts and punctures
- Falling tools, objects and debris
- Metal and chemical splash
- Electrostatic build-up
- Safety boots and shoes
- EN ISO 20345:2011 – Specifies basic and addition (optional) requirements for safety footwear used for general purpose
- EN 13287:2012 – A method of test for the slip resistance of PPE footwear
- Safety boots and shoes come in a variety of different protective toe caps and penetration-resistant mid-soles. Check carefully before making your choice
- Footwear can have different sole patterns and materials to help reduce the risk of slipping in different conditions. Examples include oil, chemical-resistant, anti-static, electrically conductive or thermally insulating properties
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- Extremes of temperature
- Chemical or metal splash
- Impact or penetration
- Contaminated dust
- Excessive wear or entanglement of clothing
- Spray from pressure leaks or spray guns
- Overalls (disposable or conventional)
- Boiler suits
- Specialist PPE such as high visibility clothing or chainmail aprons
- EN 471:2003 – EU standard for high visibility clothing
- EN ISO 20471:2013 – Revised international version of EN471:2003, which specifies and increases the performance levels (Class 1, 2 and 3)
- RIS-3279-TOM – approved high visibility garments for rail workers
- EN 343 – EU standard that applies to garments that protect against rain, snow, fog and ground humidity
- EN 14058 – Determines the requirements for garments worn at temperatures from and above -5oC
- EN 13356 – Specifies the optimal performance requirements and surface area requirements for accessories intended for non-professional use
- EN 510 – Protective clothing for use where there’s a risk of entanglement with moving parts
- EN 342 – Garments which provide the wearer with protection against cold environments
- EN 340 – EU standard specifying general requirements for protective clothing
- ISO 13688 – International standard specifying general requirements for protective clothing
- EN 11611 – Protection against droplets of molten metal, short contact with flame, and radiant heat from arc (Class 1 and 2)
- EN 11612 – Performance requirements for garments that protect the body from heat and flame (excluding hands)
- EN 14116 – Protection against brief contact with small flames
- EN 61482-2:2009 – Protection in areas which contain a risk of an electric arc or blast
- EN 1149 – Protective garments with anti-static properties
- EN 14605 (Type 3 & 4) – Protective clothing against liquid chemicals
- EN ISO 13982 (Type 5) – Chemical protective clothing resistant to penetration by airborne solid particles
- EN 13034 (Type 6) – Protection against liquid chemicals, light spraying, vapour or lower pressure, low quantity spraying
- EN 1073 – Non-ventilated protective clothing against particulate radioactive contamination
- EN 14126 – Requirements for garments to protect against infective agents
- PPE which protects the body can come in various materials with different properties. These include flame-retardant, anti-static, chainmail, chemically impermeable or high visibility clothing.
- Keep in mind other compatible protection, such as life jackets or fall arrest equipment
- Ordinary workwear or uniforms which provide no specific protection for the wearer are not classed as PPE
Height and Access Protection
- Falls from height
- Falling tools, objects or debris
- Fall arrest systems
- Body harnesses
- Rescue lifting and lowering harnesses
- Energy absorbers
- EN 353-1 – Guided type fall arrest (rigid anchorage line and rails)
- EN 353-2 – Guided type fall arrest (flexible anchorage line)
- EN 354 – Lanyards
- EN 355 – Shock absorbers
- EN 358 – Work positioning system
- EN 360 – Retractable type fall arresters
- EN 361 – Full body harness
- EN 362 – Connectors
- EN 363 – Fall arrest systems
- EN 696 – Ropes for general use
- EN 795 – Anchorage devices
- Height and Access PPE covers specialist gear which will require training in correct use and user checks
- Fall arrest equipment should only be used when no other means are practicable
- Anchorage points will need regular testing
Training, Information & Toolbox Talks
Now we’ve covered the different types of PPE, it’s time to ensure your workers know how to use it through awesome training.
A common problem you may encounter from workers when doing so is the thought process of “I don’t need training because I already have experience in PPE and/or my job”. However, safety doesn’t happen so easily!
You’re Never Too Good for PPE Training
As set out in the regulations we covered earlier, employees must be provided with thorough information and training on PPE if they’re required to use it. This is to ensure proper usage and maintenance, which will reduce the likelihood of injuries.
Employees should have PPE training when they join the company, if new PPE is introduced, or if their job changes in a significant way. Don’t forget contractors or self-employed people who may be working for you.
Young employees are also particularly vulnerable to accidents, so we recommend paying close attention to their training needs.
The extent of training required will depend on the complexity of the PPE. For example, a full breathing apparatus kit will need more in-depth training than instruction on how to use safety gloves properly.
In addition to initial training, regular refresher training is also recommended.
Cover All Bases
Sufficient training should include:
- The workplace risks and why PPE is needed
- The operation (including demonstration), performance and limitations of the PPE
- How to put on, adjust and remove PPE
- Where and how to safely store the equipment
- If the PPE has testing requirements before use
- PPE maintenance that can be carried out by the user (e.g. cleaning)
- What can affect the performance of the PPE (defects, damage, working conditions, personal factors)
- How to check for and recognise defects/damage, and the processes in place for reporting them
- How to obtain replacement PPE
- Explanations of any workplace safety signs which relate to PPE
Lead from the Top
Organisations should include managers and supervisors in any training provided. While they might not need to use PPE themselves, they should have sufficient knowledge to ensure their staff are using it correctly.
Those in supervisory roles should also make regular checks that employees are using PPE as instructed. It’s vital that workers wear PPE whenever they are exposed to the risk, and no exemptions to the rule should be allowed – even on jobs that take just a few minutes! Any incidents where PPE is not being used properly should be reported and investigated.
Safety isn’t static, and neither is training
Workplaces are dynamic environments, and businesses should reflect this in the training they offer to workers. To do this, safety managers must stay on the hunt for new or improved safety training methods and gather input from employees. By using a team approach, you’ll ensure training is the best it can be.
What About Toolbox Talks?
A Toolbox Talk is a short, informal presentation given to the workforce. These engage workers in conversations around safety topics, such as:
- Workplace hazards
- Best use and maintenance of PPE
- Safe work practices
- Current and new PPE legislation
- New PPE technologies
Toolbox Talks are generally conducted onsite and help promote your organisation’s safety culture by encouraging questions, discussions and the exchanging of information. These talks are an incredibly effective way of refreshing workers’ safety awareness and knowledge, helping to keep accident rates down.
Toolbox Talks are also sometimes referred to as safety briefings or tailgate meetings.
So, we’ve explained how vital it is to select the right type of PPE and provide employees with thorough training. However, it’s important to take your organisation one step further in its approach to protective equipment.
Care and maintenance often slip through the cracks…
While most training will cover PPE maintenance, it isn’t a given. Even less certain is how dedicated your employees will be to this subject, as care of PPE is often viewed as an unnecessary chore. Yet this couldn’t be further from the truth!
We’ve all heard the remarks about health and safety going mad, but the regular inspection and maintenance of PPE is key to keeping workers safe from harm.
Why Maintenance Matters
To keep it simple:
- PPE is sometimes the last defence between workers and hazards which can injure or even kill them
- When PPE isn’t properly maintained it’s likely to become worn, defective or damaged
- PPE that isn’t in good condition won’t be able to function as intended and protect employees from hazards
In General, Our Top Tips for PPE Maintenance Are…
- Keep PPE safely stored in a dry, clean place e.g. a locker or case
- Follow the manufacturer’s maintenance schedule (including replacement periods)
- Ensure any replacement parts match the original e.g. respirator filters
- Let specialists carry out any complex repairs
We also recommend having replacement PPE readily accessible for workers in the event they find a defect with their equipment. This will reduce downtime and let workers carry on with their day uninterrupted!
It’s also a good idea to have a supply of disposable PPE at hand for visitors who may need protective gear.
Now, onto the specifics…
Head Protection Maintenance
- Only clean safety helmets with warm water and a mild, neutral cleaning agent, before leaving to air dry
- Check headbands to ensure they aren’t worn or stretched. Head protection should fit comfortably on the head
- Inspect safety helmets before use. Look for cracks, dents or signs of a heavy blow. If any of these signs are found, the helmet should be replaced immediately
- Store head protection out of the sun and away from extreme temperatures. Storage should also keep the helmet safe from any knocks
- Regularly clean safety goggles and spectacles with water and mild soap
- Wash lenses with water, or blow dust and grit from them, before wiping to prevent scratching
- Store eye protection in a clean, dust-proof place such as the top shelf of a locker. This will reduce the risk of the lenses becoming scratched or damaged
- Replace goggles if the headbands are knotted, worn, twisted or loose.
- Replace safety spectacles if the frames are bent.
- Replace any safety eyewear if the lenses are scratched, pitted or impair vision.
Hearing Protection Maintenance
- Wipe ear defenders with a damp cloth after use and replace the cushions when they lose resilience or become uncomfortable
- Reusable earplugs must be washed every day and replaced if they become too hard or discoloured
- All hearing protection should be stored in a clean, safe space
Respiratory Protection Maintenance
- Always follow manufacturer’s instructions when cleaning and disinfecting RPE
- Inspect RPE for cracks, holes and other deterioration which could reduce its effectiveness
- Store in a safe space away from dust, moisture, chemicals, light and extremes of temperature
- When storing RPE, place the respirator so the plastic and rubber parts are in a normal position so as to hold their shape
Safety Glove Maintenance
- Ensure workers know whether their gloves are reusable or not. If they are reusable, workers should know how long they can safely wear them for before replacement is necessary
- Keep gloves dry and clean as far as possible
- Inspect for cracks, holes, tears or other damage before use
- Replace any damaged gloves immediately
Safety Footwear Maintenance
- Clean wet or dirty footwear with a cloth or paper towel
- Let footwear air out after work
- Check for signs of wear or damage before use
- Ensure damaged shoes are properly repaired or replaced
- Change socks during breaks if necessary to keep feet and footwear dry if feet sweat a lot
Overview: Key Actions To Take
The ins and outs of PPE can be overwhelming. It’s a very broad subject and, after all that, you’re probably asking yourself what your next steps are. Fortunately, we’ve made a handy list below for you.
- Conduct a thorough risk assessment of the workplace and any work activities your organisation is responsible for. You can check out our risk assessment template as a guide
- Using the findings from your risk assessment, make sure to remove or reduce the risk of worker injury from identified hazards
- Supply free of charge PPE to employees and visitors to provide protection against hazards that can’t be eliminated
- Gain input from employees to identify the most suitable types of PPE for use in their day-to-day tasks
- Provide training and information to employees on the use and maintenance of PPE
- Develop and implement a process of monitoring PPE usage, examination and repair. This should also include the reporting of lost/missing items
- Correctly use the PPE supplied, as outlined in any training or information provided to you
- Return PPE to dedicated storage space, unless otherwise agreed with your employer
- Inspect and maintain PPE regularly, in accordance with manufacturer’s instructions
- Immediately report any PPE defects or loss of equipment
Download Your Free Risk Assessment TemplateDownload Now!
Here’s what you need to remember.
A single injury can cost far more than the price of an initial avoided PPE purchase.
The stats back it up:
- £14.9 billion estimated annual cost of injuries and ill health from current working conditions
- 2 million working days lost due to work-related illness and workplace injury
And this doesn’t even begin to cover the emotional and personal costs involved in traumatic accidents or loss of life in the workplace.
But with excellent PPE on your side, it’s time to take what you’ve learned and keep your workers safe while enjoying all the benefits that come with it.
It’s a win-win!
And so is our completely free download of this Ultimate PPE Guide, in an easy-to-digest PDF format - so you can read it again later or share with your colleagues.