Personal protective equipment (PPE)

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is defined as ‘all equipment (including clothing affording protection against the weather) which is intended to be worn or held by a person at work which protects him against one or more risks to his health and safety’.

Protective clothing includes aprons, clothing for adverse weather conditions, gloves, safety footwear, safety helmets, high-visibility waistcoats, and items to protect the body from sharp or dangerous equipment. Protective equipment includes eye protectors, life jackets, respirators, underwater breathing apparatus and safety harnesses.

PPE is the final category in the hierarchy of risk controls and should not be used unless the risks to health and safety cannot be adequately controlled in any other way. Employers must select suitable PPE for the task in question, provide it free of charge, maintain and replace it as necessary, and provide information, instruction and training on the PPE provided to ensure it is worn properly.

There must also be a proper system to allow employees to report defects or loss of PPE.

Employee are obliged to take reasonable care of the PPE provided, and, under the UK’s Health and Safety at Work etc. Act, the employee has a duty to use the PPE.