The use of protective clothing at work is vital because it protects those wearing it against health and safety risks. Also known as personal protective equipment (PPE), it can protect against accidents and illness. Making sure the right working clothes are worn creates a safer working environment for all, and reduces chances of legal action.
What is PPE and Protective Clothing?
PPE is any equipment or clothing worn at work that protects someone from health and safety risks. Examples of protective clothing and equipment that might be worn at work are:-
- Respiratory aids.
- High-visibility vests.
- Face masks.
- Visors and eye protection.
It can also be specialist clothing that completely covers a worker and protects against any chemical or viral infiltration.
Using the Right PPE
PPE must match the Potential Workplace Hazards. If theres any doubt about suitability, the British Safety Industry Federation can give advice.
To help understand the right PPE and clothing to use in the workplace, the following questions can help.
- Does the PPE control the risks or does it possibly increase them?
- Does it allow for the conditions of the workplace?
- Is it easy to adjust the PPE for whoever is using it?
- Does the PPE provide enough visibility and can the wearer communicate effectively?
- Can a worker wear a number of PPE items at the same time safely and comfortably?
Employers should also consider whether there are ways to control a health and safety risk without using PPE.
What Hazards Does PPE Reduce?
The hazards PPE protects against are anything that may adversely affect all or part of a human body.
The hazards for feet and legs, for example, are dampness; cuts; slips; falling objects; chemical spillages; and abrasive materials. To reduce or prevent the damage posed by such hazards, suitable PPE may be safety boots with steel toe caps; oil and chemical resistant soles on shoes and boots; leggings; and gaiters.
The Regulations for Protective Clothing
The main piece of legislation that covers the use of protective clothing is the Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992. These state that employers must supply PPE at any workplace where risks to health and safety require it. They also make the point that when PPE is available, workers must use it.
Further obligations that the rules place on employers and employees are as follows:
- The PPE must match the type of job.
- Maintenance and storage of PPE must be adequate.
- Safety instructions for PPE must be on hand.
- Workers must use PPE properly.
Other regulations may apply to certain types of hazard:
- The Construction (Head Protection) Regulations 1989.
- The Noise at Work Regulations 1989.
- The Ionising Radiations Regulations 1999.
- The Control of Asbestos at Work Regulations 2002.
- The Control of Lead at Work Regulations 2002.
- The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002.
Such regulations all contain references to the use of protective clothing.
Staff Training & PPE
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) gives advice about PPE training. For example, employers must ensure that workers understand why PPE is necessary, when they must use it, and what the restrictions may be. Employers must also give training on PPE use and check that workers are following any guidelines. To help, the HSE recommends that employers put up safety signs that remind staff about PPE.
Further HSE advice covers PPE maintenance. Both employers and staff have a responsibility to look after PPE and store it correctly in dry cupboards or cases. They must also keep PPE clean and in good condition.
If you have to wash a work uniform, you might be eligible for a tax rebate. Our guide on how to claim a uniform tax rebate yourself looks at eligibility and claiming.
Meeting the Regulations
Finally, all personal protective equipment should have a CE mark. The CE mark confirms that each item of PPE meets the Personal Protective Equipment Regulations 2002.