Frequently asked PPE questions and answers for all employers

Frequently asked PPE questions and answers for all employers

PPE guidance for all industries

As an employer in the UK, you are required by law to maintain a healthy and safe environment for your employees. Where risks exist, you should conduct a risk assessment and then eliminate them –  if possible. Where it isn’t possible to eliminate risk, you may need to provide personal protective equipment (PPE).

Since we published our article “The last resort – when to use PPE in the workplace”, we’ve received several questions about PPE use in the workplace. This article answers these questions, and should help you to develop a PPE policy that is understood by all in your workplace and helps to keep all your people safe and healthy at work.

1.      When must PPE be used?

PPE should only be used as a last resort, after all other safeguarding measures have been exhausted. You should remember that PPE does not eliminate risk, but instead protects against it, in a similar way to how a rear bumper doesn’t eliminate the risk of a car crashing into you on the motorway but does help to protect you from the effects of the accident.

2.      Why doesn’t PPE eliminate risk?

There are a number of reasons why PPE doesn’t eliminate risk. These include that:

  • It only protects the wearer
  • It may not work as expected, because of damage or poor fit
  • The wearing of PPE restricts the wearer – this may be on movement, line of sight, breathing, etc.
  • The wearer may feel more protected than they are in reality, and therefore take greater risks than they would otherwise

3.      Before buying PPE, what should you do?

Before buying PPE you should have:

  • Carried out a risk assessment to identify what PPE you should provide (considering PPE performance and levels of protection provided)
  • Considered how the wearing of PPE may offer protection against identified risks. It should be user friendly and fit correctly
  • Considered the individual who will be wearing PPE. Allergies and medical conditions should be taken into account when sourcing PPE, for example, as some respiratory equipment may be unsuitable for those who suffer from asthma or bronchitis
  • Ensured that the PPE you will be investing in has passed regulatory requirements and safety tests

4.      Who pays for PPE?

As it is your duty to ensure your employees’ safety at work, it is your duty to pay for PPE. You cannot pass this cost onto employees, either, unless they are self-employed contractors. Neither may you ask for a returnable deposit, for example to cover damage to the PPE.

If the employee wants to benefit from more expensive PPE than that which he or she is offered, you can make an arrangement between you whereby the employee pays the difference between the cost of the PPE item offered and that which he or she wishes to buy. However, you must ensure that it provides at least the same level of protection.

The rules for payment for PPE are covered in the Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992.

5.      What if I have an employer who keeps losing their PPE?

Unfortunately, there is always the employee who loses their PPE on a regular basis. To combat the cost of continual replacement, you should develop an easy-to-understand PPE policy that includes:

  • New for old exchange for disposable items such as gloves and boots
  • A signing in and out procedure for specialist PPE
  • A points system to encourage workers to treat PPE as if it were their own – this may include disciplinary procedures for misuse
  • A record keeping system to track and maintain PPE, including damage

6.      Do employers have to provide PPE training?

The short answer is “yes”. The detail is that you must:

  • Tell employees what risks are being protected against by the wearing of PPE
  • Provide instruction and training in the use, care, and maintenance of PPE. This includes how it must be worn and its limitations
  • Provide training to all who may need to wear PPE, and their managers, supervisors, and team leaders

The training you provide should be tailored to the level of risk being protected against, and consider the complexity and performance of the PPE provided. You should also ensure that suitable refresher courses are provided, and that new employees receive all necessary training before starting in their role, irrespective of previous experience. Many employers hire external health and safety consultants to provide up-to-date training in PPE as well as carrying out necessary risk assessments in line with current regulations.

7.      How do employers ensure their employees wear PPE?

While you must provide PPE, the employee has a duty to wear and use it. You should make this clear in your PPE policies, employee manual, and PPE training. If the employee has any reason why he or she might not wear PPE (e.g. medical grounds) it is their responsibility to inform you.

As extra encouragement to employees to wear PPE, you should include non-wearing of PPE when required as a disciplinary procedure in your HR and Health and Safety policies.

Whatever your questions, we have the answers you need. Contact Sentry today and discover the online intelligent system that will help your business remain Health and Safety compliant with minimum effort.

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