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The role of PPE in creating a safe working environment

Personal protective equipment (PPE) plays a critical role in ensuring employee safety.

Mitigating risk often comes down to thorough staff training and effective health and safety processes implemented on-site. However, the use of personal protective equipment is perhaps most responsible for keeping employees safer. We’ve discussed the importance of PPE in the workplace in the following guide.

The importance of personal protective equipment

PPE protects workers from physical hazards and safety risks. Its name describes its primary purpose, but ‘protection’ naturally extends beyond physical bodily harm. Legally, companies must provide it in line with the Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992.

Here are just a few more reasons why using PPE is so important in the workplace:

  • Prevention of avoidable physical injuries
  • Protection against chemical exposure
  • Fighting the spread of infectious diseases
  • Promoting compliance with industry and trade body regulations
  • Increase employee productivity and everyday efficiency

What are the different types of PPE?

Personal protective equipment is available to protect employees against various hazards, with different gear for different scenarios at work. The most common types include:

  • Eye protection including goggles, glasses, shields and visors. Necessary for employees working around projectile objects, hazardous chemical splashes, radiant or radioactive energy sources.
  • Head protection like hard hats, bump caps, safety helmets. Required for any worker performing tasks that could cause an object falling on the head or sudden force.
  • Hand protection: Gloves. Either disposable or rubber moulded to protect against chemicals, toxic materials, or sharp objects.
  • Hearing protection including earplugs, ear defenders, helmet-mounted equipment. For workers exposed to loud or excessive noise for some or part of their shift.
  • Foot protection including reinforced toe caps, knee-high boots, impenetrable soles. Necessary for tasks that could cause injury from falling objects, electrical hazards, or hot surfaces and substances.
  • Body protection: Hi-vis clothing, overalls, and hazmat suits keep skin safe against extreme heat, harsh chemicals, biological risks, or other unstable environments.
  • Respiratory protection: Respirators and masks protect against chemicals, dangerous gases, or air that’s contaminated with bacteria or viruses.

Providing high-quality and industry-appropriate PPE is crucial. That’s why businesses should source high-quality equipment from trusted PPE suppliers with high standards proven by rigorous testing and compliance.

Why should all employers take PPE seriously?

Between 2022 and 2023, there were at least 60,000 reported injuries to employees in the UK.

From being struck by moving vehicles to encountering hazardous materials, accidents and injuries are an inherent risk. For those working in construction or on industrial sites demanding intense manual labour, injury is even more likely.

Respecting the law on PPE

Legal implications matter immensely.

If a risk assessment shows that personal protective equipment is needed, then an employer must provide appropriate PPE free of charge to their employees. Where PPE is required, businesses need to make sure that their team understands how to use and wear the right kit for their role.

The Health and Safety Executive covers detailed guidance on PPE regulations, but it’s ultimately up to an employer to understand their own duties and responsibilities – along with those of their staff.

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