Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

All employers have a duty to provide PPE under the requirements of the Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992.

The definition of PPE is ‘all equipment (including clothing affording protection against the weather) which is intended to be worn or held by a person at work and which protects them against one or more risks to their health and safety’. This includes safety helmets, gloves, eye protection, high visibility clothing, safety footwear, and safety harnesses.

Other regulations cover hearing and respiratory protection, but these need to be compatible with any other PPE provided, so that they do not have a negative impact on each other.

Under the regulations not only does the employer have to supply these items but also has a duty to ensure that they are used correctly and at all times where there are risks to health and safety.

The employer has to assess the equipment provided to ensure that it is suitable for the task and that it is maintained and stored properly.

It is also their duty to ensure that the users are supplied with instructions for use and that these instructions are correctly carried out by the user. Make sure that all users are aware of why it is needed, when it has to be used, the need for keeping it in good repair and that they understand it has to be used at all times where there are risks.

This does not only apply to employees but also to visitors to the site, for example eye protection, safety helmets and high visibility clothing are mandatory for visitors where the work area demands this protection.

This provision of PPE can incur a considerable cost to a company, but the employees cannot be charged for this. If an employee leaves the company and does not return the equipment then to reclaim the cost from the employee it has to be written into the Contract of Employment that this deduction will be made from any wages owed by the company.

Make sure that replacement PPE is readily available, either in stock or you have a supplier that can deliver replacements speedily. If the equipment is lost or damaged then the employee cannot continue to work in that area.

Assessment of suitability

Careful consideration has to be made of the particular hazards in the workplace and the types of PPE that will be required for each one to enable the worker to do the job safely.
It is often useful to ask the supplier which is the best for the particular situation. In some cases it may be that you will need to contact specialists.

Granite Workwear Ltd. has a comprehensive range of suitable PPE on the web site and can always offer advice when needed as to the appropriate equipment for your needs.

There are a number of factors to be taken into account during this assessment:

• Is it appropriate for risks and conditions that could possibly occur? Eye protection that is suitable to eliminate risk of dust getting in the eye will be unlikely to protect against metal or stone fragments and eye protection that is suitable for may not be adequate for use by welders to protect from flash.
• Does the item cause other issues that affect negatively on the overall levels of risk? For example does the PPE cause a negative effect on the build up of heat in the user’s body (heat stress)? If this is the case extended breaks may be required to allow recovery time.
• Can the item be adjusted to fit each individual user without affecting the protection?
• Are there any health issues with the wearer that may affect the use of the equipment?
• Does the use of the equipment required work well in combination? For example does the helmet allow for proper use of ear defenders or does a respirator allow the proper fitting of eye protection?

Hazards and equipment to be assessed

Hazards; chemical splash, dust, chippings, metal fragments or splash, gas or vapour, radiation
Equipment; Safety spectacles, goggles, face shields, visors.

Hazards: vapours, gasses, dust.
Equipment; disposable filtering masks, respirators (half and full face), breathing apparatus.

Hazards; impact from flying or falling objects, head bumping, hair entanglement
Equipment; Helmets, hairnets

Hazards; high or low temperature, weather, chemicals, cuts, impact or penetration, dust, entanglement, static discharge
Equipment; disposable overalls, boiler suits or bib and brace, chainsaw protective clothing, chain mail aprons, waterproofs, thermal garments, flame retardant clothing, anti-static.

Hands and Arms:
Hazards; cuts, abrasion, high and low temperature, vibration, impact, chemicals, electric shock, infection
Equipment; gloves, gauntlets, arm guards, wrist guards, mittens.

Feet and Legs:
Hazards; liquids, temperature, slipping, cuts and punctures, falling objects, chemical and metal splash, abrasion, static discharge
Equipment; Safety boots and shoes with toe and midsole protection, rubber boots, gaiters, leggings, spats

Ensure that any PPE you buy is marked with the ‘CE’ symbol and that it complies with appropriate EN Standards for the use it is intended.

A company must by law have the proper PPE for their employees, but it is not just a case of complying with the legal obligations. The disruption to business caused by absenteeism because of accidents is incalculable, as is the loss of productivity if employees are unhappy with their working conditions. Involve them in PPE selection, make sure they have an input and there will be few problems making them use it. Use the right quality and the employees will feel valued.

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