The Key Elements of PPE Small Businesses should be aware of

The likelihood is that most of you reading this blog will be here for the right reasons, but for those of you expecting a discussion of the popular interdisciplinary degree course of philosophy, politics and economics (PPE), we suggest

you leave now. This blog may be called Thought Reach, but we’re going to limit the reach of those thoughts to the world of small business health and safety for now!

What is Personal Protective Equipment?

In the field of health and safety, the term PPE stands for Personal Protective Equipment, which is equipment designed to protect employees against health and safety risks at work. This includes everything from protective gloves and goggles, to harnesses, helmets, safety shoes and boots and a whole lot more.

As an employer, it is your duty to provide personal protective equipment for use at work. Failure to do so can lead to up to three months in prison and/or a fine of up to £5000.  You will also leave yourself open to potentially costly employee compensation claims.

What obligations must be met?

The Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992, require PPE to be supplied by employers wherever there are health and safety risks that cannot be controlled in other ways. The equipment employers provide must be:

  • Properly assessed before use to make sure it is fit for purpose;
  • Properly maintained and stored;
  • Provided with instructions and training on how it should be used safely;
  • Used consistently and correctly by employees.

Who is responsible for what?

The employer must instruct and train employees on how, why and when PPE should be used. They must also make sure the PPE continues to be worn and used in accordance with the guidelines they have given.

Employees have an obligation to keep themselves safe. If an employee refuses to wear a necessary item of PPE, they are in breach of the regulations and are putting themselves at risk. Employees must also make sure the equipment is returned to the correct place. They are not permitted to carry out any maintenance on the equipment unless they are trained and authorised to do so.

How do you know which PPE to use?

Without being a health and safety expert, one of the biggest challenges for employers is knowing what type of protective equipment needs to be used. If you’re not sure what items of PPE are required, or if PPE is needed at all, ask yourself:

  • What are the risks?
  • Who is exposed to the risks?
  • How long are they exposed to the risks for?

Once you have identified the risks, pages 3 and 4 of this Health and Safety Executive guide (pdf) will help you determine the most appropriate equipment to use.

You can also pay external companies to carry our risk assessments at your premises if you are unsure where to start.

The importance of CE markings

Although it might be tempting to pick up the equipment you need at the lowest possible price, you must choose products that are CE marked. That ensures they meet the minimum safety requirements of the PPE regulations.

Maintenance and storage of PPE

The maintenance and storage of PPE is the final element of the regulations employers need to be aware of. In this case the requirements are relatively straightforward to meet.

In terms of maintaining PPE, employers must ensure the equipment is maintained to such a degree that it continues to provide the intended level of protection. To that end, the manufacturer’s maintenance schedule must be followed and equipment should be cleaned, examined, repaired, replaced and tested as appropriate. If repairs are required, they should only be carried out by someone who is qualified to do so.

Adequate storage facilities must also be provided for all equipment to protect it from loss, damage, contamination, damp or sunlight when it is not in use. This can be as simple as providing a peg for safety helmets and waterproof clothing, or a protective case for safety goggles.

And that’s just about everything you need to know. For more details, the best source of up to date information is the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

About Nate Goodman

Nathan Goodman is the bestselling author of The Special Agent Jana Baker Spy-Thriller Series. "A terrorist on the loose, a country in panic, and time is running out..." For a free copy visit the author's website. He's also a freelance writer and entrepreneur.