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    PPE Essentials - Part 1: What is PPE?

    Posted by Gordon on

    Blaklader - Hi-vis PPE

    Choosing the right PPE (personal protective equipment) can be a complicated and time consuming task. With so many different products to choose from and frequently updated regulations, it can be a daunting task picking the right equipment for yourself or your employees.

    In this series of weekly articles I will be exploring the key areas of PPE selection, the regulations surrounding them, and correct usage to ensure you are kept informed and most importantly kept safe.

    What is PPE?

    "PPE is equipment that will protect the user against health or safety risks at work. It can include items such as safety helmets and hard hats, gloves, eye protection, high-visibility clothing, safety footwear and safety harnesses." - Health & Safety Executive (HSE)

    The key areas covered by the Personal Protection at Work Regulations 1992 are:

    • Head Protection
    • Eye Protection
    • Hand Protection
    • Foot Protection
    • Hi-Vis Workwear
    • Working at Height

    Respiratory and Hearing protection have their own regulation which we will look into later on in the series.

    What do the regulations require?

    The Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992 require PPE to be supplied when a health and safety risk presents itself that cannot be adequately controlled in other ways. The Regulations also require that PPE is:

    • Fit for purpose and properly assessed before use
    • Stored correctly and regularly maintained
    • Instructions on safe use must be provided
    • Correct usage by employees

    Choosing suitable PPE

    By identifying the different hazards in the workplace we can choose the correct protection against them, which may differ from job to job.

    When assessing suitability:

    • Does the PPE protect the wearer from the risks and take account of the environmental conditions where the task is taking place? For example eye protection designed to protect against agricultural pesticides may not offer adequate protection when using an angle grinder to cut steel or stone.
    • Does using PPE increase the overall level of risk or add new risks, eg by making communication more difficult?
    • Can it be adjusted to fit the wearer correctly?
    • What are the needs of the job and the demands it places on the wearer? For example, the length of time the PPE needs to be worn, the physical effort required to do the job or the requirements for visibility and communication.
    • If someone wears more than one item of PPE, are they compatible? For example does using a respirator make it difficult to fit eye protection properly?

    When selecting PPE:

    • Choose good quality products which are CE marked in accordance with the Personal Protective Equipment Regulations 2002 – suppliers can advise you
    • Choose equipment that suits the wearer – consider the size, fit and weight; you may need to consider the health of the wearer, eg if equipment is very heavy, or wearers have pre-existing health issues, standard PPE may not be suitable
    • Let users help choose it, they will be more likely to use it.

    Using and distributing PPE to your employers:

    • Instruct and train people how to use it
    • Tell them why it is needed, when to use it and what its limitations are
    • Never allow exemptions for those jobs that ‘only take a few minutes’
    • If something changes on the job, check the PPE is still appropriate – speak with your supplier, explaining the job to them
    • If in doubt, seek further advice from a specialist adviser.

    That wraps up this article and hopefully shed some light on what PPE is and some of the regulations surrounding it. Next week we will be looking into Head Protection, what risks to identify and what to look for when choosing your products to keep you or your employees safe at work.

    This article contains public sector information published by the Health and Safety Executive and licensed under the Open Government Licence. The information in this article is for guidance only and by following it you do so at your own risk. For further information on safety at work and the topics covered in this article please visit

    Image courtesy of Blaklader Workwear