Last reviewed 27 November 2020

In the context of supply problems with respiratory protective equipment (RPE), the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has published advice explaining alternative ways of working so workers may not necessarily need RPE for working with power tools.

The guidance focuses on the control measures employers should consider when dealing with RPE supply problems during the pandemic.

The new information on power tools outlines various control measures, including using alternative ways of working, to reduce the risk of exposure to hazardous substances. There is advice on working with tools such as:

  • power or masonry drills

  • cut-off saws

  • handheld pneumatic breakers or jackhammers

  • core drills

  • angle grinders.

The HSE says that putting in place improved control measures may mean that workers no longer need to use RPE or can use RPE with a lower assigned protection factor (APF).

As an example, the HSE notes that when drilling infrequent “one-off” holes into brick or concrete as part of maintenance or installation work, this may simply require starting with a lower speed/power setting and the use of a passive dust collector.

However, the HSE notes that these approaches must only be justified based on reduced risk, not the availability of RPE.

For some tasks, there may be no workable alternatives. For example, the HSE says tasks involving asbestos or respirable crystalline silica will still require a respirator with an APF of at least 20 even when using other controls such as water suppression or on-tool extraction.

Further information, including with regard to supply issues can be accessed via the HSE website.