The following Q&A session is intended to provide answers to some of your issues. If you need further assistance, please contact us to discuss how we can help you. If the answer that you are looking for is not on this page, why not contact us for more information?
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- As an employer, is it my duty to provide PPE, free of charge?
- How is the need for PPE determined in the work environment?
- Is it the duty of the employee to wear the PPE that has been provided?
- How far must I go, as an employer, to ensure that an employee is using PPE as appropriate?
- Can I avoid my responsibilities by getting the employee to sign a disclaimer?
- I have heard that PPE must be compatible. What does this mean?
- Is there a duty to provide PPE for use by non-employees?
- Having initially provided PPE to employees is there are requirement to provide replacement PPE?
Q1 – I have been informed that as the employer I have a duty to provide PPE free of charge to all of my employees. Is this really the case?It is the duty of the employer to provide appropriate personal protective equipment to their employees free of charge. This duty is stated in Section 9 of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, which prohibits employers from charging for PPE that is required to be provided under any health and safety legislation.
Q2 – How is the need for PPE determined in the work environment?
The purpose of personal protective equipment is to offer the employee protection against identified risks. It follows, then, that the need for PPE should be identified during the risk assessment process, which is now a central principle of nearly all modern health and safety legislation. In all workplaces, a risk assessment is required by Regulation 3 of the Management of Health and Safety Regulations 1999. Risk assessments carried out under other sets of regulations (such as those relating to COSHH, manual handling, noise, vibration, etc.) may also identify the need for PPE. PPE should be viewed as a last resort when considering control measures for reducing risks, as it only works for the individual wearing the PPE and it is only effective when being worn.
Q3 – Must the employee wear the PPE provided?
Employees are under a duty to ensure their own health and safety and, as a result, must make appropriate use of all PPE provided, as indeed they must of all control measures identified in the risk assessment. Section 7 of the Health and Safety at Work Act places a duty on employees to insure their own health and safety whilst at work; failure to wear personal protective equipment (as appropriate) is clearly a breach of this duty. Further to this, employees have a duty under Regulation 10 of the Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992 to use personal protective equipment appropriately. Employees who persist in not wearing personal protective equipment may (in certain circumstances) find themselves at risk of prosecution from enforcing authorities as well as also at risk of disciplinary action from their employer.
Q4 – How far must I go, as an employer, to ensure that an employee is using PPE as appropriate?
While it is the employee’s duty to wear the PPE provided as appropriate to the circumstances, it is the employer’s responsibility to ensure that personal protective equipment provided by the employer is worn as and when appropriate. This duty is clearly stated in Regulation 10 of the Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992, which states that employers must take all reasonable steps to ensure that personal protective equipment provided is used, as appropriate to the circumstances.
- providing the PPE (free of charge),
- instructing the employee in the appropriate use of the PPE provided,
- taking all reasonable steps to enforce the appropriate use of PPE within the workplace
- challenging employees who do not make appropriate use of the PPE provided (this may involve taking disciplinary action when training and reminding is not effective),
- providing suitable storage facilities for the PPE issued to workers.
Q5 – Can I avoid my responsibilities by getting the employee to sign a disclaimer?
Short answer: No.
Under section 2 of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 the employer has a duty to ensure the health, safety and welfare of employees so far as is reasonably practicable. Getting an employee to sign any form of disclaimer to absolve the employer of this duty will not stand up in court. Failure to manage the health, safety and welfare of employees, to ensure the appropriate use of control measures and adherence to policies and procedures is an infringement of Regulation 5 of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999. This regulation requires employers to have effective arrangements for the management of health and safety at work. Effective arrangements, in this context, means working and not merely notional or written.
Q6 – I have heard that PPE must be compatible. What does this mean?
When more than one item of PPE is required to be used once (such as hearing protection and a safety helmet), the individual items of equipment must be compatible with each other and must not reduce the level of protection offered by each item individually. When more than one piece of personal protective equipment must be worn at any one time consideration of compatibility should be made at an early stage and appropriate, compatible equipment should be provided.
Q7 – Is there a duty to provide personal protective equipment for use by non-employees?
There is no specific requirement to provide personal protective equipment for non-employees. In certain circumstances however the need to provide personal protective equipment for non-employees may arise from the employers duties under section 3 of the Health and Safety at Work Act (duty to ensure the health and safety of non-employees).
Typical examples may include:
- the provision of high visibility jackets for use in yard areas or
- the provision of safety helmets for use in areas where construction activities are being carried out.
Q8 – Having initially provided PPE to employees is there are requirement to provide replacement PPE?
It is a duty of the employer to ensure that any personal protective equipment provided to employees is maintained:
- in an efficient state
- in an efficient working order and
- in good repair
Regulation 11 of the Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992 requires employees to notify employers in the event of the loss of any personal protective equipment or if there is any obvious defect with that equipment. One simple practical method by which employers can reduce the rate of loss and damage to personal protective equipment is by the provision of suitable accommodation for that equipment when it is not in use, as required by Regulation 8 of the Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992. This may involve the provision of suitable lockers, pegs or even of wall mounted boxes, as is appropriate to the workplace and to the equipment provided.