PPE – Personal Protective Equipment Training Resource

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Risk at Work

Employers and employees have duties concerning the provision and use of personal protective equipment (PPE) at work. PPE is equipment that will protect the user against health or safety risks at work. It can include items such as safety helmets, gloves, eye protection, high-visibility clothing, safety footwear and safety harnesses. It also includes respiratory protective equipment (RPE).

Why is PPE important?

Making the workplace safe includes providing instructions, procedures, training and supervision to encourage safe and responsible working. However even with these in place, some hazards might remain.

These include possible risks to:

  • The lungs, e.g. from breathing in contaminated air
  • The head and feet, e.g. from falling materials
  • The eyes, e.g. from flying particles or splashes of corrosive liquids
  • The skin, e.g. from contact with corrosive materials
  • The body, e.g. from extremes of heat or cold
  • The ears, e.g. from extreme and prolonged noises

PPE is needed in these cases to reduce the risk.

Selection and Use

  • PPE should only be used as a last resort
  • If PPE is still required after implementing other controls, this should be provided by the employer free of charge
  • The correct people requiring PPE should be identified
  • Products chosen should be CE marked in accordance with the Personal Protective Equipment Regulations 2002
  • Consult with suppliers on what PPE is appropriate – explain the job to them
  • Equipment should be chosen to suit the user – consider the size, fit and weight of the PPE. If the user helps to choose it, they will be more likely to use it
  • If more than one item of PPE is worn at the same time, make sure they are compatible, e.g. wearing safety glasses may disturb the seal of a respirator causing air leaks
  • Appropriate instruction or training should be provided on how to use it, e.g. how to remove gloves without contaminating skin, explain why it is needed, when to use it and what its limitations are etc
  • Individuals using PPE should ensure they know how to detect and report any faults in the equipment
  • Always wear PPE when required. Never allow exemptions for those jobs that ‘only take a few minutes’
  • If in doubt, seek further advice from a specialist adviser


PPE must be properly looked after and appropriately stored when not in use. If it is reusable it must be cleaned and kept in good condition. Other important points include:

  • Using the correct replacement parts to match the original, e.g. respirator filters
  • Keeping replacement PPE available in stock
  • Identifying who is responsible for maintenance and how it is to be done
  • Having a supply of appropriate disposable suits for visitors who need protective clothing
  • Taking note of any changes in equipment, materials and methods – you may need to update what you provide

Employees must make proper use of PPE and report its loss, destruction or any fault in it.

Types of PPE You Can Use

Hazards:Chemical or metal splash, dust, projectiles, gas and vapour, radiation
Options:Safety spectacles, goggles, face screens, face shields, visors
Note:Make sure the eye protection chosen has the right combination of impact/dust/splash/molten metal eye protection for the task and fits the user properly
Area:Head and neck
Hazards:Impact from falling or flying objects, risk of head bumping, hair getting tangled in machinery, chemical drips or splash, climate or temperature
Options:Industrial safety helmets, bump caps, hairnets and firefighters’ helmets
Note:•Some safety helmets incorporate or can be fitted with specially-designed eye or hearing protection
•Don’t forget neck protection, e.g. scarves for use during welding
•Replace head protection if it is damaged
Hazards:Noise – a combination of sound level and duration of exposure, very high-level sounds are a hazard even with short duration
Options:Earplugs, earmuffs, semi-insert/canal caps
Note:•Provide the right hearing protectors for the type of work, and make sure workers know how to fit them
•Choose protectors that reduce noise to an acceptable level, while allowing for safety and communication
Area:Hands and arms
Hazards:Abrasion, temperature extremes, cuts & punctures, impact, chemicals, electric shock, radiation, vibration, biological agents & prolonged immersion in water
Options:Gloves, gloves with a cuff, gauntlets and sleeving that covers part or all the arm
Note:•Avoid gloves when operating machines such as bench drills where the gloves might get caught
•Some materials are quickly penetrated by chemicals – take care in selection
•Barrier creams are unreliable and are no substitute for proper PPE
•Wearing gloves for long periods can make the skin hot and sweaty, leading to skin problems, using separate cotton inner gloves can help prevent this
AreaFeet and legs
Hazards:Wet, hot and cold conditions, electrostatic build-up, slipping, cuts and punctures, falling objects, heavy loads, metal and chemical splash, vehicles
Options:Safety boots and shoes with protective toecaps and penetration-resistant, mid-sole wellington boots and specific footwear, e.g. foundry boots and chainsaw boots
Note:•Footwear can have a variety of sole patterns and materials to help prevent slips in different conditions, including oil – or chemical-resistant soles. It can also be anti-static, electrically conductive or thermally insulating
•Appropriate footwear should be selected for the risks identified
Hazards:Oxygen-deficient atmospheres, dusts, gases and vapours
Options:•Some respirators rely on filtering contaminants from workplace air. These include simple filtering facepieces and respirators and power-assisted respirators
•Make sure it fits properly, e.g. for tight-fitting respirators (filtering facepieces, half and full masks)
•There are also types of breathing apparatus which give an independent supply of breathable air, e.g. fresh-air hose, compressed airline and self-contained breathing apparatus
Note:•The right type of respirator filter must be used as each is effective for only a limited range of substances •Filters have only a limited life. Where there is a shortage of oxygen or any danger of losing consciousness due to exposure to high levels of harmful fumes, only use breathing apparatus – never use a filtering cartridge
•You will need to use breathing apparatus in a confined space or if there is a chance of an oxygen deficiency in the work area
AreaWhole body
Hazards:Heat, chemical or metal splash, spray from pressure leaks or spray guns, contaminated dust, impact or penetration, excessive wear or entanglement of own clothing
Options:Conventional or disposable overalls, boiler suits, aprons, chemical suits
Note:•The choice of materials includes flame-retardant, anti-static, chain mail, chemically impermeable, and high-visibility
•Don’t forget other protection such as safety harnesses or life jackets

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