As an employer, you are responsible for providing your employees with adequate personal protective equipment (PPE), and training them to use and maintain it properly. This article explains your responsibilities for providing your staff with PPE in line with the UK government’s official PPE regulations (Personal Protective Equipment At Work Regulations 1992).
What is PPE?
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is equipment that protects the user against health or safety risks at work. You can find examples of PPE in the ‘types of PPE’ section below.
Why is PPE legislation necessary?
Failing to provide adequate PPE – as well as appropriate instructions, procedures, and training – could result in your employees or members of the public contracting illnesses or sustaining injuries. Therefore, the PPE regulations are in place to ensure your workplace is safe for your staff and visitors. However, on occasion, some hazards will remain despite the implementation of engineering controls and secure work systems. These workplace hazards can cause injuries to:
- - Lungs – from breathing in contaminated air
- - Head and feet – from falling materials
- - Eyes – from flying particles or splashes of corrosive liquids
- - Skin – from contact with corrosive materials
- - Body – from extreme temperatures
- - Such cases call for PPE as the last line of defence to reduce the risk of illness or injury
- - The next section briefly outlines each type of PPE and provides scenarios where your employees might use it.
Types of PPE
There are several types of PPE, all of which serve a different purpose. The types of PPE listed below protect different parts of the body:
As an employer, you must understand your responsibilities and take steps to keep your workers and members of the public safe. Primarily, you’ll need to know what kind of PPE to provide and supplement it with practical training to ensure your employees use it correctly. At the same time, employees need to understand their responsibilities for using, storing, and maintaining their PPE.
The Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992 ensures that where other measures cannot control risks, PPE should be identified and used. While it’s the employer’s responsibility to provide, maintain, and replace PPE where necessary, the regulations place duties on employees to take reasonable steps to ensure their PPE is used and maintained correctly. The PPE legislation states:
- - Employees must wear PPE per its instructions
- - PPE must be thoroughly examined before use
- - PE should be returned to the correct storage facility after use unless employees take them home (e.g., footwear, clothing).
- - Employees must report any losses or defects to management as soon as they are detected
- - Employees must take reasonable care of their PPE and carry out maintenance only if they are trained and authorised to do so.
Due to the ongoing pandemic, you may need to provide extra PPE to keep your staff and members of the public safe. Even outside of health and social care settings, several workplaces will require additional PPE to protect against COVID-19. Conducting a thorough risk assessment will indicate what steps to take to stop the spread of COVID-19.
Preventing the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace
COVID-19 can live up to 72 hours on surfaces (including on PPE), so it’s crucial you know how to dispose of it correctly. Consider the following steps to stop the transmission of COVID-19 in your workplace:
Workspace and speciality areas
Start by ensuring your floor plans and seating arrangements meet your local government’s social distancing guidelines, before using appropriate signage throughout the building to communicate new COVID-secure workplace protocols and etiquette.
Next, plan how to address the impact on non-work areas like post rooms and gyms – one way is designing a one-way system that limits the number of people using these areas at a given time. Where applicable, set straightforward policies for entry into other company buildings.
Manage potential evacuations by assigning floor wardens and ensure your evacuation procedures comply with social distancing guidelines. For multi-storey buildings, confirm elevator protocol and occupancy levels with your landlord. To safeguard against a failed reopening or a further virus outbreak, devise phased and emergency closing procedures.
Establish occupancy and employee tracking for the building and any potential infection zones. Remember, room reservation technology and any equipment provided should adhere to social distancing measures – and be sure to distribute disinfectants and hand sanitiser within easy reach of each piece of equipment.
Ensure essential employees are acquainted with entry and exit protocols and confirm building shutdown policies in the case of further emergency closures.
Assign an employee to announce workplace closures and decide who needs to approve reopening plans (e.g., HR, external crisis management team, risk audit team, or a legal team).
Good hand hygiene is essential to help stop the spread of COVID-19. Consider the following steps to facilitate handwashing in your workplace:
The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 require employers to provide adequate and appropriate welfare facilities for their staff while they are at work. Welfare facilities are those that are essential for employee wellbeing, such as washing, toilet, rest, and changing facilities.
Commercial handwashing law states that washbasins must have hot and cold running water and materials for cleaning hands such as liquid soap and hand sanitiser, as well as paper towels for drying. In most cases, these materials are the most effective for cleaning and drying hands. At Protec Direct, we stock a vast range of workplace hygiene products from industry-leading brands, including TORK, PRISTINE, SC Johnson, and Kimberly-Clark. Keeping these products on hand at all times will improve the safety of your staff, customers, and clients.
Providing adequate information on handwashing techniques in the form of a sign near the basin can also help remind employees to wash their hands and show them how to do so thoroughly. Moreover, in organisations where employees work with food or vulnerable people, implementing routine reminders and regular training can remind employees to wash their hands and ensure it happens regularly.