The last resort – When to use PPE in the workplace

The last resort – When to use PPE in the workplace

PPE tips for all employers

In a previous article, we answered the question “How do you know if your employees need personal protective equipment (PPE)?”. In this article, you’ll learn when to use PPE in the workplace, and why you should avoid using it if possible.

Health & safety rule number one: Eliminate risk where possible

The first rule of health and safety is to eliminate risk if it is possible to do so. For example, if you have a piece of equipment which operates 30 feet above ground, the risk of working at height on it (should it break down) is eliminated if you bring the equipment to ground level.

As you seek to reduce risk associated with a task, you should consider other health and safety measures. These may include restricting access to unauthorised people, signage that warns of dangers, emergency exits, first aid facilities, and so on.

Only when all other measures to reduce risks have been exhausted should you explore what PPE could reduce the risk further, and then insist that it is used.

Why PPE is a last resort for health and safety

Wearing PPE naturally restricts movement, and so in this way it could be said to increase the risk of an accident occurring. However, because the risk is there already, wearing PPE reduces the risk causing injury. This said, PPE does have its limitations, and will never eliminate risk. In addition to restricting movement, the limitations of PPE are that it:

  • Only protects the wearer
  • Does not offer proper protection if it does not fit properly
  • Could make the wearer more relaxed when working because they feel completely protected

What PPE might be needed in your workplace?

To identify what PPE might be needed, you must carry out a risk assessment on the task and area under consideration. PPE requirements will depend on the risk identified and other measures that may reduce the risk. For example, you may need to insist on the wearing of hard hats – as would be the case on construction sites. Other forms of PPE include:

  • Ear defenders
  • Goggles
  • Respiratory equipment and face masks
  • Safety footwear
  • Fire retardant clothing
  • Chemical protection suits
  • Gloves
  • Aprons
  • Etc.

Tips when using PPE in the workplace

When you have carried out a risk assessment, reduced risk to a minimum, and decided that PPE must be used to add a final layer of protection, it is good practice to train your employees in the use of PPE and their responsibilities toward it. The individual employee is responsible to ensure that the PPE they must wear fits correctly, and that it is replaced when needed.

In addition, the following measures will help ensure that PPE does what you expect it to:

  • Ensure PPE is used in addition to other health and safety measures when needed
  • Place signage to remind employees of the obligation to wear PPE
  • Ensure that appropriate PPE is provided according to recommendations made on hazardous chemicals’ labels or safety data sheets
  • Provide suitable PPE for visitors

As an employer, while it is an individual’s responsibility to check that their PPE remains in good working order, it is your responsibility to discourage sharing of PPE and to supply appropriate PPE to your employees.

Finally, make your PPE policies as simple as possible. There is no need to complicate matters further. For example:

  • All PPE must be checked every day and a log signed to say that it has been checked and is in good working order
  • When an employee requests a new item of PPE, replace on a ‘new for old’ basis
  • Special equipment must be signed in an out
  • Be explicit about the risks for which the PPE is needed
  • Train employees in the use of appropriate PPE

This is not an exhaustive list of PPE policies and procedures, but a good foundation on which to build. For more information about when to use PPE in the workplace, and ensure your PPE policies and procedures are fit for purpose, contact Sentry today. The comprehensive list of features offered by Sentry will help you remain compliant with the least hassle and in the minimum time.

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