This toolkit advises on your duties as an employer when using, selecting, issuing and maintaining personal protective equipment for your employees.
What is personal protective equipment?
Personal protective equipment (PPE) includes any equipment or clothing intended to be held or worn by people at work to offer protection against identified risks. It should only be used, however, as a “last resort” control measure, where risks cannot be controlled by other means.
Protective clothing includes aprons, gloves, safety footwear, safety helmets, adverse-weather clothing, high-visibility clothing and clothing designed to protect against temperature extremes. Protective equipment includes eye protectors, safety harnesses, respirators and life jackets.
The law on PPE
Wherever there are risks to health and safety that cannot be adequately controlled in other ways, the Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992 require PPE to be supplied.
However, where the following regulations require PPE to be provided, they take precedence (see Where the PPE Regulations 1992 do not apply):
By law, employers cannot charge employees for PPE.
Turban-wearing Sikhs are exempted from any legal requirement to wear head protection in any workplace including on construction sites.
There is no requirement under any of these regulations to provide PPE for non-employees, although it may need to be considered in order to fulfil the duty to non-employees under s.3 of the Health and Safety at Work, etc Act 1974 (HSWA).
PPE must accord with certain EU requirements and standards which confirm it meets specified safety and various test criteria. Generally PPE which carries the CE mark will meet these criteria. The relevant legislation here is the EU’s Personal Protective Equipment Regulation, Regulation (EU) 2016/425.
What do you need to do as an employer?
1. Undertake a risk assessment
Employers must initially consider engineering controls and safe systems of work to reduce the risks. See Using the most effective means of controlling risks.
Where these are deemed not reasonably practicable in reducing the risk sufficiently, employers must then consider the use of personal protective equipment to provide additional protection from the residual risk.
The PPE Risk Survey Table can help to identify parts of the body that may require some form of personal protective equipment.
2. Determine the suitability of the PPE being considered
Questions to ask include the following.
Does the PPE mitigate the remaining hazards and associated risks?
Does the PPE adequately control the risks without creating any additional risks, eg compromising mobility or vision?
Is the PPE suitable for the type of work activities undertaken, the level of physical effort, the length of time the PPE may have to be worn, requirements for visibility and communication, etc?
Is the PPE suitable for all environmental conditions such as temperature, noise, ventilation, etc?
Can the PPE be adjusted to fit wearers correctly and be comfortable?
Is the PPE compatible with other PPE required to be used at the same time?
Does the PPE selected suit the ergonomic requirements and the state of the health of the people who have to wear it?
3. Select the PPE
Before purchasing PPE:
consult with employees on the suitability and fit of the PPE being considered
try various types of PPE that meet the suitability criteria
ensure products are CE marked.
4. Establish storage and maintenance procedures for the PPE
Employers have duties to ensure that PPE is kept clean and in good repair, taking account of the manufacturer’s recommendations.
Records of maintenance can be kept using the PPE Maintenance Record.
Adequate and appropriate storage is required for PPE to:
prevent damage from chemicals, sunlight, high humidity, heat and accidental knocks
prevent contamination from dirt and harmful substances
reduce the possibility of losing the PPE
enable the sufficient drying of PPE.
5. Provide instruction and training on PPE issued
PPE should be used only after adequate training and instructions have been given to users.
This should cover:
why the PPE is being issued: the hazards and risks it is protecting them from
where and when employees need to wear it, and if there are any exemptions
how the PPE should be worn or used correctly (perhaps warn them that supervisors will be instigating spot checks)
how the PPE should be checked before use and kept in good condition
their legal responsibilities in terms of PPE
the penalties for not wearing the PPE when and as instructed
the arrangements in place for cleaning, maintenance and replacement of PPE.
A record can be kept of the training provided using the PPE Training Employee Record.
It is advisable to keep a record of what PPE has been issued to which employee using the PPE Issue Record.
6. Create your PPE policy
It is worth noting all your arrangements and the responsibilities of the employer, supervisors and employees regarding PPE in a personal protective equipment policy. Use our template to get started.
Your policy should also set a schedule for reviewing the use, maintenance and choice of PPE.
PPE for first aiders Do we have to provide PPE for staff providing workplace first aid in the pandemic?
PPE for agency workers Should the employment agency be providing the PPE for temporary workers or should we?
How to identify genuine PPE We are a small business and need to purchase some PPE for our essential workers. Does CE marking mean it is genuine?
Encouraging correct use of PPE How can I change employees’ behaviour to ensure they wear PPE?
PPE and the bellows effect My manager asked me to source some new gloves, but specifically told me to be aware of the bellows effect; what is this?
High visibility clothing for construction Do I need to wear a high-visibility vest for all construction work?
Wearing hard hats on site — any exemptions? One of my workers claims that he does not need to wear a hard hat due to being a member of a religious group. Is that true?
Using PPE effectively against coronavirus. How can PPE prevent the spread of coronavirus at work? A summary of Government guidance on when and where PPE should be used.
PPE: one size does not fit all. The problems employees, particularly women, have with ill-fitting personal protective equipment at work, ranging from discomfort to risk of injury.
Personal protective equipment: a key case. Analysis of a case where an employee claimed compensation from his employer for a breach of the Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992.
Personal protection: the evolution of PPE. Protective clothing has been slowly evolving as the hazards faced by workers on construction sites have themselves expanded.
Pay attention to the “p”s in PPE. Employers and others issuing PPE must understand the legal requirements and also how PPE works in practice.
Health and safety information, instruction and training. Employers and/or duty holders must, to ensure the health and safety of employees and others, provide adequate information, instruction and training to relevant stakeholders.
Last reviewed 5 July 2021