Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

PPE stands for personal protective equipment. Personal Protective equipment has been a useful and effective control measure against personal injury for 100s of years, from blacksmiths wearing an apron to protect against hot metal, to soldiers wearing gas masks to protect them from toxic gases.

Today PPE is commonplace in most workplaces, and more recently commonplace on the street to protect the wearers against transmission/infection of coronavirus. The Personal Protective Equipment at Work Act of 1992 states that:

Employers have duties concerning the provision and use of personal protective equipment (PPE) at work’

This means that employers have a duty to provide employees with and PPE that the HSE or the risk assessment has determined as necessary. PPE is exactly what it says it is, personal, this means that PPE should be designated to one individual user and not shared between staff. Employers should be sure to check that all PPE is in good working order, and within its lifespan.

Different types of PPE come with different standards, dependant on the task it is designated for or the country/industry it is designed to be used in. Below are a few of the most common types of PPE, with information on the standards used to determine the effectiveness of each item

1. Safety Footwear – The standard EN ISO 20345 defines both the basic and additional requirements for safety shoes for commercial use. Footwear in accordance with EN ISO 20345 is intended to protect the wearer from bumps, crushing, falling or rolling objects, from walking into sharp or pointed objects, heat or cold, and hot substances. There are many other standards of safety shoes to combat against specific risk.

2. Hard Hats – Hard hats used on UK construction sites must be manufactured to BS EN 397, which includes rigorous tests for impact resistance and flame retardance, among others. Foreign hats may not conform to this British Standard, or offer the level of protection required.

3. Safety Gloves – Due to the large amount of different gloves offering different levels of protection for different hazards, there are numerous standards for safety gloves in the UK. Below are some of the most common types

·   EN420 – General requirements for protective gloves, General hand damage risks

·   EN374 – Gloves that provide protection from chemicals and micro-organisms risks

·   EN388 – Gloves giving protection from mechanical Risks

·   EN407 – Gloves that give protection from thermal hazards and risks

·   EN511 – Gloves that protect from cold hazards and risks

·   EN421 – Gloves giving protection from radioactive contamination and other radiation risks

4. Hi Visibility Clothing – When it comes to Hi-Vis clothing standards, there are three different british standards. The most commonly used standard (for most event and building site work) is class one. This is normally a hi-visability vest.

·   Class 1 provides the lowest recognized coverage and good visibility.

·   Class 2 provides moderate body coverage and superior visibility.

·   Class 3 provides the greatest body coverage and visibility under poor light conditions and at great distance.

5. Hearing Protection – According to The Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005, the exposure level at which employers need to provide hearing protection is a daily or weekly personal noise exposure of 85 dB (decibels). Those who are working in noise levels between 80 dB (lower action level) and 85 dB must be provided with suitable hearing protection on request. Where noise levels reach or exceed 85 dB (upper action level), suitable hearing protection must be supplied and worn.

Personal protective equipment is not limited to the items above, and there are many tool/industry specific PPE items to protect people against more specific risk.

For information and advice on personal protective equipment for your staff, it is always best to consult a qualified and experienced health and safety contractor. Get in touch!