Part 1 PPE - The basic facts

Part 1 PPE
The basic facts

Every employer has a duty concerning the provision and use of personal protective equipment (PPE) in the workplace, and should provide appropriate PPE (and training in its usage) to employees wherever there is a risk to health and safety.

Key Points:

Consider whether there are ways other than using PPE to adequately control the risk.  If not, ensure the following points are taken into account:
   • suitable PPE is provided
   • PPE offers adequate protection for intended use
   • those using PPE are adequately trained in its safe use
   • PPE is properly maintained and any defects are reported
   • PPE is returned to its proper storage after use

A suitable assessment of the risks from exposure to the hazards within the workplace, and any need for PPE, must be identified through risk assessment carried out by a person competent to do so and with the necessary knowledge and experience of the methods of work. 

Construction site PPE information sign

In identifying risks it must be remembered that PPE should be worn as a last resort and ONLY when there are risks to health and safety that cannot be adequately controlled by other ways. Where engineering controls and safe systems of work have been applied, some hazards might remain. These include injuries to:

  • the lungs, eg from breathing in contaminated air
  • the head and feet, eg from falling materials
  • the eyes, eg from flying particles or splashes of corrosive liquids
  • the skin, eg from contact with corrosive materials
  • the body, eg from extremes of heat or cold

PPE is needed in these cases to reduce the risk.

In addition to identifying the need for PPE, it is essential that the right type of PPE is specified and provided, and carries the CE mark showing that the PPE satisfies certain basic, minimum safety requirements.

PPE includes items such as
   • safety helmets
   • ear protection
   • high visibility clothing
   • safety footwear and safety harnesses
   • thermal, weather and waterproof clothing
   • respiratory protective equipment (RPE)

With the relevant PPE requirements identified, employers must ensure all employees using PPE are made aware as to why it is needed, when to use it, how it can be replaced, and who to report it to if the PPE is damaged. 

Employees, including managers and supervisors, should receive adequate training and instruction on how to use PPE properly and regularly check to make sure they are doing this.  Safety signs are a useful reminder that PPE is required.  Employees need training to understand these signs, what they mean, and where they can get PPE if required for visitors and contractors.

It is important that users wear PPE all the time they are exposed to the risk, without exemption, including those jobs which take just a few minutes.

With the correct PPE available employees have a duty to look after their PPE and should keep it clean and in good repair. Simple maintenance can be carried out by the trained wearer, but more detailed repairs need to be done by pecialists and replacement parts should match the original - follow the manufacturer’s maintenance schedule, including recommended replacement periods and shelf life.

Employers should provide appropriate storage facilities when it is not in use, for example a clean, dry storeroom r cupboard, and suitable replacement PPE must always be readily available to cover any losses or damage.

As an employer, it is important to understand your responsibilities and take steps to keep your workers and members of the public safe, protecting them against health or safety risks in the workplace.

Common hazardous substances can include
   • biological agents - such as fungi, bacteria, viruses
   • natural substances - such as grain, flour or enzyme dusts
   • substances generated by work - such as soldering or welding fumes, or wood dust
   • chemical products used or produced at work - such as adhesives or cleaning agents

These can be present in your workplace from a variety of sources, including
   • gas - such as chlorine or carbon monoxide
   • liquid - such as degreasing solvent or cleaning chemicals
   • spray or mist - such as paint and epoxy sprays and acid mists
   • fumes - such as welding, hot rubber, soldering, galvanising fumes
   • vapour - such as solvent vapour released from adhesives, paints or inks
   • dust, powder or paste - such as wood, cement, metal, flour, grain, rubber or stone dust

Some hazardous substances may have an effect when they come into contact with the human body. Many of these substances will carry Workplace Exposure Limits (WELs). Exposure to substances can occur through
   • ingestion
   • contact with the skin
   • breathing in substance
   • injection through a puncture in the skin

Exposure to hazardous substances will depend on the employee’s work activity. Examples are provided below.
   • Hairdressers - some hairdressing products can damage skin and lungs
   • Healthcare, animal care and agricultural staff - exposure to biological agents
   • Cleaners - some cleaning materials cause localised burns and skin complaints
   • Bakery workers - flour dust can cause irritation of eyes and nose, skin problems and asthma
   • Welders, garage and engineering workers - paints, solvents, oils and grease, exhausts and other fumes
   • Construction trades workers - exposed to fumes and dusts and specific hazards such as lead and asbestos

The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations (COSHH) place duties on you to take measures to prevent or control the exposure. There are also specific regulations relating to lead and asbestos.

Monitor and review
   • Check regularly that PPE is used, and if it isn’t, find out why not
   • Safety signs are a useful reminder when and where PPE should be worn
   • Monitor any changes in equipment, materials and methods as there may be a need to update the PPE provided
   • For advice and supply of PPE contact the Lamberts Team on 03300 535598 or visit our website


The following HSE webpage and publications provide more information on PPE:
   • Do employers have to provide personal protective equipment (PPE)?- HSE (GB) 
   • Personal protective equipment (PPE) at work - a brief guide (INDG 174 - HSE (GB)

The information contained herein is by no means complete and exhaustive but is meant as a guide to help in the considerations to be made.  For full; information on PPE in the workplace see the Government website and information sheet.