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An employer must provide a certain level of protection to their employees. In this article, we will discuss the type of protective equipment that an employer has the duty to provide.

What is PPE?

PPE is short for Personal Protective Equipment. This is a name given to a range of products that are designed to protect the user from health and safety hazards such as falling objects, airborne particles and other hazardous scenarios. PPE can be designed to protect the whole body or a specific part, such as the head. Specially designed PPE is run through extensive testing to ensure it is fit for purpose.

To learn more about the history of PPE visit: A HISTORICAL LOOK INTO PPE

What is an employer required to provide?

An employer is required to provide any equipment that reduces the risk of the given environment. For example, an environment with sharp objects and glass on the floor would require steel toe boots. Or if you are working in a dusty environment you will need to be provided with a disposable dust mask. An employee has the right to challenge their employer if they feel they are not safe in the given environment. An employer has a duty to ensure their employees are protected to the highest level in a given environment.

So what does the law say on PPE?

The core principles of PPE regulation have not changed by a significant amount over the space of ten years. Below are some core regulations regarding PPE and the protection of workers.

Regulation 4 of the Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992 states:

“Every employer shall ensure that suitable personal protective equipment is provided to his employees who may be exposed to a risk to their health or safety while at work except where and to the extent that such risk has been adequately controlled by other means which are equally or more effective.”

Not only do employers have to provide appropriate personal protective equipment, they also are required to train employees on how to maintain and use PPE correctly. PPE must be readily available with documentation to refer to. It is worth noting that an employee does not need to pay for his or her own safety equipment, as this is the responsibility of the employer. This is shown in section 9 of the health and safety at work act.

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”

Do you have to provide PPE for agency/temporary workers?

The popular misconception of not providing PPE to agency workers comes from how they are employed. An agency worker is a paid via the agency, however, once the worker steps foot into the workplace of the employer they are classed as an employee. Meaning in short, even if they only work for 1 day, you need to provide PPE.

This also applies to temporary workers, temporary employees, agency workers, trial employees and any example where an individual is completing work directly for an employer.

What if you are self employed?

A self employed worker as the name suggests is employed by themselves, therefore, they do not have a direct employer. This means that you would need to provide your own equipment of which must meet the standards and policies of the workplace you are entering.

There is, however, one way a self employed worker does not need to provide their own PPE. In the case where a self employed worker is solely working for a single employer full time, the worker would then be classed as an employee.

My employer is trying to make me pay for my PPE?

As referenced above in Section 9 of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974, your employer is not allowed to charge you for the use of PPE whether temporary or indefinitely. If your employer is trying to charge you for your PPE, they may be doing so illegally. If you are self employed you may find that your employer does not need to provide your PPE, please check the above section.

You can find the Health and safety at work Act 1974 here:

What’s included in PPE?

Now you have worked out whether your employer should be providing your PPE for you, you need to know what’s included.

There is a broad range of items which are included within the category of PPE, these items include :

  • Eye protection such as safety glasses and eye shields.
  • Ear protection such as ear plugs and ear protectors.
  • Head protection such as hard hats and bump caps.
  • Hand protection such as safety gloves.
  • RPE such as valued and unvalued respirators.
  • Hi Vis such as hi vis trousers and hi vis vests.
  • And many more…

Can my employer give me a budget?

Yes, your employer can specify a budget of how much he is willing to spend. Providing the correct safety items fit into this budget. For instance, your employer may give you a budget of £40 to get a pair of safety boots, this allows you to purchase a variety of boots, however, you will not be able to get an expensive pair above this budget.

However, does your work uniform count?

If your uniform is not under the safety category(PPE) then you may find that it will not be included. However, you may be entitled to a tax return as a flat rate expense, this would be covered in the section under “Other”.

See Income Manual & List of Expense.

The amount of income you could earn before being taxed would effectively be increased by £60 per year if you were to pay for your own work uniform. However, this only includes items you could only wear at work, i.e work clothes with the company logo.

Have you seen our article about whether sunglasses are also included, Are sunglasses PPE?

Can my employer make me share PPE?

Sharing PPE is fine as long as the employer meets certain requirements. The first is that every employer who is at risk is provided PPE whilst working. Secondly, the shared items must be washed, cleaned and disinfected where necessary. And thirdly the items must be suitable to protect against the hazard, this includes both protective properties and the fit.

An example of this would be providing Hi-Vis clothing that matches the size of the individual wearing it, your employer would not be able to provide you with inappropriately sized clothing.

My employer has asked me to return my PPE?

Firstly, the PPE that has been provided by your employer for use specifically in the workplace. These items should not be used outside of the workplace. If your employer has asked you to return items given to you, they are well within their rights to do so. As the PPE is still their property, they are allowed to ask you to return those back to them.

If the items are damaged and you would like to dispose of them, you will need to ask for permission from the employer before doing so.

Can an employer make me clean or wash my uniform or PPE?

Yes, an employer can ask you to wash your PPE or uniform. But, it may not be in the best interest of the employer for legal reasons. It’s an employer’s responsibility to ensure PPE is maintained well, this includes cleaning. If the employer leaves the cleaning to employees and it is not maintained correctly they would be liable.


When buying PPE, it is important you know the rules and regulations.

A risk assessment is a common way to determine which PPE is suited to the given environment. A professional must carry out a risk assessment.

Remember to keep protect and most importantly, stay safe.

Please note:
This content is provided as general information and should not be taken as legal advice. Please ensure you seek advice from a union member, HSE, solicitor or an individual who is qualified to do so.

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