Personal Protective Equipment - The Employer and You

Personal Protective EquipmentEvery employer and employee should be committed to providing safe systems of work, and this extends to the provision and use of personal protective equipment and clothing. Responsibility for risk management rests on each individual manager.

Where practicable, risks shall be managed by altering working arrangements and installing fixed and permanent controls which protect everyone in each work area. Where permanent fixed controls and changes in working arrangements cannot wholly eliminate hazards, or where such measures may be impractical because of the short duration of the work or for some other reason, personal protective equipment (PPE) may be required. Where PPE is required it shall be selected by the responsible Manager for suitability and user acceptability in consultation with the local Safety Advisor based upon the general risk assessment for the work and/or work area concerned. PPE shall be supplied to the relevant staff at the organisation's expense.

A purchasing policy will determine that only CE marked and certified PPE are purchased. Where PPE is not disposable but designed for re-use, it shall be subject to periodic inspection to confirm its continued suitability, and where appropriate subject to routine maintenance. Such items of PPE will be uniquely identifiable and records kept of such inspections and maintenance. This will be managed by the General Manager responsible for the issue of all PPE.

Staffs issued with PPE are reminded that they have an obligation to use it as instructed, to maintain it in a state of good repair, ensure it is kept clean and hygienic and to report any defects or other problems promptly. To maintain good hygienic practice, each employee will be assigned their own items of PPE and all pooled equipment to be used as spares are cleaned thoroughly prior to being returned to the pool.

Records shall be kept of the selection process for each item of PPE and the associated risk assessment. While the above is a general Policy statement relating to PPE, for specific risks mentioned in the Safety Statement, details of the appropriate PPE will be required further backed up by the selection process.

Current legislation covering PPE is the General Safety and Health Regulations 2007. Part 2 Chapter 3 covering Personal Protective Equipment. (SI No. 299/2007).

The main legislative requirements relating to PPE are:

(a) Have a documented policy on PPE;
(b) Where a risk assessment reveals that the only means left of reducing a risk to an acceptable level is through the use of PPE, such PPE must be selected in consultation with the employees/safety representatives and be suitable for its intended purpose;
(c) To achieve the latter requirement such PPE must be CE marked, and will also comply with some defined IS or IS/EN standard;
(d) The employer must bear the cost of the PPE (where used exclusively for the employer's work);
(e) The employer must train the users of the PPE in how to use the PPE effectively and in the hazards that it protects against;
(f) The employer must ensure that staff wears the PPE as required;
(g) The employer must arrange for proper maintenance of the PPE where required and keep record of same. To achieve this, the PPE must be uniquely identifiable.

Chemical SuitHazards for which PPE may be required

When staffs are engaged in tasks which include their exposure to hazards, it is not always possible to remove the hazards at source or fully to control the risks arising by modifying the working arrangements. In such circumstances personal protective equipment (PPE) may be required in order to provide protection for each individual worker from the hazards concerned and so adequately control the risks.

The European Communities (Personal Protection Equipment) Regulations 2007 require that any PPE placed on the market conforms to minimum standards that ensure they do indeed achieve a level of protection. Such conforming equipment will bear the CE mark and be certified as such.

General Application Regulations 2007

Regulation 62 of 2007 - Duties of Employer.
Where a risk cannot be reduced by any other means besides the use of personal protective equipment, the employer must provide such equipment. The employer is obliged to take into account the contents of the Second Schedule of 2007 Regs when providing PPE.

Regulation 63 of 2007 Assessment of PPE.
Prior to selecting an item of PPE the employer must carry out an assessment in writing to demonstrate that the selected item is appropriate for its intended use and risk. This assessment must be reviewed periodically.

Regulation 64 of 2007 Conditions of Use & Compatibility.
When PPE is to be used, the employer must determine under what conditions the PPE is to be worn and in particular for how long. All items of PPE worn by an employee should be compatible.

Regulation 66 of 2007 Maintenance and Replacement.
The employer must ensure that all PPE is well maintained and kept in a hygienic condition.

Regulation 65 of 2007 Personal Use.
An item of PPE should have only one user. If it is used by others the employer must ensure that this does not present a health problem and is returned to a safe storage area after use.

Regulation 67 of 2007 Information, Training and Instruction.
Every employee expected to make use of PPE should be advised of the risks against which the PPE has been selected, instructed as to when the PPE should be used, and trained to check it and use it correctly.