Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is used to protect workers from health or safety risks at work. There is a wide range of PPE and protective clothing you may need to provide for your workers, including safety helmets, gloves, hi-vis clothing, safety footwear, sensory protection and respiratory equipment. Your industry and the type of work your employees undertake will determine what PPE you are required to provide to be compliant with the Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992.
If your business is in the food, chemical, construction or medical industry for example, you will likely need to consider PPE. This is not an exhaustive list and if you’re not sure whether you need PPE, ask yourself if there are any unavoidable hazards in your workplace which cannot be prevented by other means. If the answer is “yes”, you must provide PPE. But why is PPE so important?
Protect Your Employees
Many workplaces will have hazards that cannot be eliminated, no matter how many safety procedures, controls or training sessions are implemented. PPE protects the body from various hazards:
Eyes — Safety glasses, goggles and face shields will protect the eyes from chemical or metal splash, dust, gas, projectiles and radiation.
Head and Neck — Safety helmets, bump caps and hair nets prevent workers being injured by falling objects, hair getting caught in machinery, chemical splashes and extreme temperatures.
Ears — Earplugs, earmuffs and semi-insert ear canal caps should be used by workers exposed to noise at high levels and/or for long durations.
Hands and Arms — Gloves, gauntlets and sleeves will protect workers from the risk of abrasion, temperature extremes, cuts, chemicals, radiation, electric shock and other injuries.
Feet and Legs — Safety boots and shoes provide protection from falling objects, electrostatic build-up, water penetration, slipping, cuts, sharp objects, impact, molten metal and chemical splashes, and cold weather conditions.
Lungs — Respiratory Protective Equipment (RPE) prevents workers from being harmed by oxygen-deficient atmospheres or inhaling dust, gases and vapours.
The Whole Body — Conventional or disposable overalls, boiler suits, aprons and chemical suits may be used to protect against heat, chemical/metal splash, spray from pressure leaks and dust, etc.
Ensuring that your workers are safe in the workplace will improve morale and reduce staff absences and sick leave. This will save you money, help you maintain productivity levels and reduce the time involved in redistributing work.
Better Productivity and Profits
In the short term, providing PPE and protective workwear for your workforce can be a significant expense. It is not a one-off cost, as PPE must be replaced if it becomes worn or damaged and no longer provides adequate protection. However, in the long term, a safe business is a more productive and profitable one. Good health and safety measures, including the provision of PPE, enables your staff to complete their tasks easily and safely. This promotes a positive working environment where staff are motivated.
Maintaining a good standard of health and safety in your workplace reduces other costs, such as insurance premiums, and will reduce the cost of accidents that are not covered by your policy, such as production delays or repairs to equipment. Ensuring your workers are provided with the correct PPE and safety clothing may cost you today, but in the long term, you will avoid costs that would otherwise eat into your profit.
Improve Your Business’ Reputation
By providing the required PPE and clothing free to your staff, you are sending a clear message that you value your workforce and run a responsible business. Employee wellbeing and satisfaction are key aspects of any successful business that ensure your brand is perceived well by staff, clients and those who may connect with your business in the future.
By treating your workers well, you are more likely to retain staff and recruit quality new team members. This will also save you money, as you will not be spending time and money training staff only to lose them to competitors. Equally, attracting skilled and experienced staff will reduce the initial induction and training period, ensuring you have a highly productive employee from day one.
Stay Compliant with Regulations
To comply with the PPE at Work Regulations 1992, you must provide suitable PPE to your workers free of charge. PPE must be stored correctly and be replaced if its functionality becomes impaired through wear or damage. You must also train your workers in the correct use of PPE and provide all the information they need to understand what is expected of them.
Failure to do the above could leave you open to personal injury claims. If an accident has taken place and the injured employee states that they were not provided suitable PPE or been told how to use it, you could receive a hefty fine. The long-term ramifications on your business could be particularly damaging, affecting your ability to recruit talented employees or even close sales.
PPE is an important consideration for business owners. Make sure you are aware of your obligations and source quality equipment that is fit for purpose. Train your staff on how to use the equipment and introduce procedures for reporting damaged or defective equipment. PPE is not a cure-all for every workplace hazard. It should be used alongside appropriate safety procedures and training. Where a hazard cannot be eliminated, PPE should be used to reduce risk.