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Health and Safety

Personal Protective Equipment

If the hazard affecting people in the workplace cannot be eliminated, then personal protective equipment must be provided for the worker to wear. It should only be provided as a last resort to protect the worker when all other control methods i.e. substitution of the material have proven to be unsuitable. Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) covers all equipment designed to be worn or held to protect against risk to health and safety.

PPE includes items such as boots, goggles, hard hats, gloves, high visibility clothing, overalls, etc., and must be suitable for the person and the task in hand.

The following checklist will help you in determining adequacy of PPE:

  • Does the PPE effectively protect the wearer?
  • Have staff been consulted on the choice of PPE to ensure comfort and acceptance of the equipment?
  • Is the PPE appropriate for the risk and working conditions?

    If in doubt, consult your suppliers, specialist consultants or your local Environmental Health Department

  • All PPE should be CE marked which is the sign that the product is produced to an approved standard.
  • New PPE should be compatible with existing equipment being used.

Employers must also:

  • ensure PPE is maintained and cleaned
  • remove any defective equipment from use until it has been repaired
  • provide adequate storage for the equipment whilst not in use
  • ensure the equipment is used in a proper manner
  • give adequate training, information and instruction for the proper use of the equipment by employees

Types of PPE most commonly used in the workplace

Safety visors and goggles

Goggles, visors and even safety spectacles made to a prescription, are available. The choice depends on the materials from which the eyes are being protected. Visors are useful to protect the full face from chemical splashes, close fitted goggles may be necessary to avoid dust vapours and gases getting into the eyes.

Respiratory Protection

A range of respiratory products is available from simple dust masks filtering gross solids to specialist equipment for working in unbreathable atmospheres. Appropriate filtering materials must be chosen according to the materials to be filtered from the air. Some respiratory protection covers the whole head and feeds air at positive pressure to the user to overcome any leakage, other equipment may just cover the nose and mouth and rely on correct adjustment of securing straps to ensure a tight seal. The latter type of equipment may be inappropriate to workers with beards and/or moustaches as they can prevent a tight seal.

Ear plugs and muffs

Hearing protection equipment can now be purchased which will filter out the bulk of residual noise whilst allowing reasonable hearing of speech. Obviously, this represents a fairly sophisticated means of protecting against noise, disposable rubber, foam or down ear plugs may be cheaper, more hygienic and more comfortable. Again it is necessary to be aware of the type and amount of noise filtered by each of these types of ear defenders etc., before a choice is made.


An extensive range of gloves can be supplied; chain mail gloves when working with sharp knives, "rubber" gloves for chemicals and micro organisms, leather or cloth gloves against abrasion, heat resistant gloves for handling hot materials. Occasionally wristlets, mitts, gauntlets, cuffs, etc., are more appropriate than gloves. When trying to protect against dermatitis a barrier cream may be a more comfortable, convenient and hygienic alternative.


Workers may be very particular on their choice of footwear and manufacturers have responded with styles for men and women, many of which have no outward appearance of being safety equipment orientated, e.g. training shoes. As well as protecting the toes from knocks and heavy objects, properly designed shoes or boots can provide non-slip properties, resistance to penetration by sharp objects, protection from splashes of hot, toxic or corrosive materials, protection from cold or from ingress of moisture. The number of foot injuries within warehouses in particular indicates the need for such footwear.

Safety helmets, etc

Where there is a risk of falling objects or the head could contact other injurious objects, safety helmets may be appropriate. Some helmets have attachment points for ear defenders, visors, etc. Other, soft, headwear may be necessary for hygiene, to protect from splashes of chemical etc., or to prevent hair entanglement in machinery.


Over-clothing obviously may be necessary to give water or cold protection. Less obvious uses are to give high visibility, to protect or enclose personal clothes, to protect the user from splashes of hot, toxic or corrosive materials, or for purposes of hygiene.

Specialist over-clothing is even available to resist injury to users of chain saws. Aprons, disposable or re-useable, are also a type of over-clothing.

The Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations lays down all the requirements for employers with regard to the provision, use and maintenance of personal protective equipment (PPE) in the workplace. The guidance also contains some advice on the selection of PPE in the workplace and considers the different types available and situations where protection is required.

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