PPE has been around for a long while and is probably not a new term for you, however there are still a majority of people who do not understand what PPE is or does. There is a very large proportion of employees who has to wear PPE at some point in their working life, whether it was safety boots, high visibility jackets or something as simple as work trousers.

PPE for those who don’t know stands for Personal protective Equipment, this covers a whole range of protective equipment such as safety helmets, gloves, eye protection, high-visibility clothing, safety footwear and safety harnesses. It also includes respiratory protective equipment (RPE). PPE is designed to protect the lungs, head, feet, eyes, skin and body and anything that protects those areas is covered under the PPE banner. – HSE - http://www.hse.gov.uk/toolbox/ppe.htm

 

Why would I wear PPE?

Wearing PPE is not only compulsory in the UK, it is designed to protect you from injury. PPE should only be used as a last resort as you should try to reduce the risk from potential hazards before entering the area. However if you must wear protective equipment then choose carefully as you may believe you are being protected but you may have the incorrect type of protection. Safety gloves is the best example, there are hundreds of safety gloves out there and everyone does a different job, some are designed to protect against burns and some are designed to protect against chemicals amongst lots of other types.

To choose the correct equipment you must first determine the hazard, once you have determined the hazard you must think of the possible injuries you could receive from it. Then you can wear the correct protection, remember to always follow that process, if in doubt ask an expert.

 

Types of PPE.

Eyes

There are a bunch of hazards that could potentially cause harm to your eyes such as: Radiation, projectiles, metal splash, chemical, gas and vapour.

Luckily there is a whole host of options to protect you against those hazards such as: Visors, face shields, face screens, goggles and safety spectacles.

 

Head and neck

Your head is usually one of the first place to get hit in the construction environment due to falling objects, there is other hazards such as risk of head bumping, hair getting tangled in machinery, climate or temperature and chemical drips or splashes.

The types of protection you can wear to protect the head and neck are safety helmets, bump caps, hairnets and fire fighters helmets.

 

Ears

Excluding lacerations which would be covered under head and neck, there is only one hazard for the ears, sound. Sound in very high or very low frequencies and varying time exposures can cause significant damage to your hearing, to protect against this you will need to wear earplugs, earmuffs or semi-insert/canal caps.

 

Hands and arms

Abrasion, temperature extremes, vibrations, radiation, electric shock, cuts and punctures, biological agents, impact, chemical and prolonged immersion in water are all examples of potential hand and arm hazards. However their is a range of protection for each of these hazards all involved around gloves, gloves with cuffs, gauntlets, sleeving that covers part of all of the arm.

 

Feet and legs

The feet are usually the first thing to touch the ground which means that you can receive a lot of injuries around that area. The potential hazards are things like wet, hot and cold conditions, electrostatic build-up, slipping, cuts and punctures, falling objects, heavy loads, metal and chemical splashes.

These are usually reduced by wearing items like trousers and safety boots, these can have added protection like protective toecap and penetration resistance. There also safety boots designed for specific use in certain environments.

 

Lungs

The lungs are a fundamental part of the human body and without them we would not be alive, this is why keeping them safe is very important. There is two types of hazards, oxygen deficiency from low oxygen environments and inhaling dusts, gases or vapours. These both can be helped with the use of a respirator, this will reduce the particles from getting inside the mask and you inhaling them. With oxygen deficiency you may need to get a specially designed mask which has a dedicated airline to feed you a constant stream of air.

 

Whole body

There are many hazards that could affect the whole of your body here are a few examples, Impact or penetration, spray from pressure leaks, chemical or metal splashes, heat, contaminated dust, excessive wear or entanglement of own clothing. The types of protection available for this is overalls, boiler suits, aprons and chemical suits as well as wearing tops and trousers.

 

The law behind PPE.

There are many laws that govern the working environment, a few of these are designed specifically for PPE. One of these is the Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992 a regulation designed to ensure the safety of employee. According to regulation 4 every employer must ensure that suitable personal protective equipment is provided to its employee to reduce the risk of injury in the workplace. It also states that an employer should provide this equipment for their employees wherever there is a risk that cannot be controlled by other means.

Employers must do more than simply have the equipment on site, they must make sure it is readily available and have clear instruction on where they can obtain it.

Employers may try to charge its employee’s for use of their equipment under the term uniform but in section 9 of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974, it clearly states that there should be no charge to a worker for the provision of PPE which is used only at work. Meaning as long as you are only using this equipment at work there cannot be a charge made upon you for this equipment.

Section 9 of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 states: "No employer shall levy or permit to be levied on any employee of his any charge in respect of anything done or provided in pursuance of any specific requirement of the relevant statutory provisions". – HSE - http://www.hse.gov.uk/contact/faqs/ppe.htm

Before the employer provides you with new protective equipment you must be trained on how to use it, this covers, how to put it on, how to adjust it, how to wear and remove it. If you have any confusion about the item you have been asked to use, please contact your employer or supervisor before attempting you wear the PPE. Incorrect use of PPE can cause harm and can mean that the equipment becomes defective.

 

You can read more about what employers are required to provide here.