Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992

1.  Introduction

The Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992 cover equipment intended to be used by a person at work that affords protection against health and safety risks.  This includes protective clothing (e.g. overalls, weatherproof clothing, gloves, safety footwear) as well as equipment such as protective eyewear and safety harnesses.  The Regulations do not apply where the provision and use of personal protective equipment (PPE) is already governed by other regulations (e.g. the lead, asbestos, ionising radiations, noise, construction head protection and COSHH regulations) and therefore, in practice will not apply to ear protectors or respiratory protective equipment.  However, the principles of assessment, selection, maintenance, and training are common to all regulations that refer to PPE.

The Regulations apply only to employees: there is no formal requirement to provide PPE to students, for instance.  However, the University has duties to non-employees under the Health and Safety at Work Act (Section 3), and PPE may need to be provided in order to comply.  Therefore departments that have identified a need for PPE for their staff should provide an equivalent standard of protection for their students and visiting workers.

The Regulations do not apply to PPE worn by employees on the public highway (e.g. cycle or motor cycle helmets or protective clothing); PPE used during competitive sports (e.g. shin guards or head protection); personal gas detectors, or radiation dosimeters.

2.  Action required

(a)  Risk assessment

Where PPE is required it should be identified in a risk assessment and the basic principles of risk assessment should already be familiar (see University Policy Statement S5/08).  The use of PPE must be considered as a last resort for the control of risks, to be used only after all other practicable measures have been taken.  Remember that PPE only protects the wearer and no one else in the workplace; and that PPE gives maximum protection only if correctly chosen, fitted and used.  For high-risk situations, or complex PPE, the assessment should be in writing and should be reviewed if the work situation changes significantly.

Some or all of the following may need to be taken into account:

(i)  the risks in the workplace;

(ii)  the parts of the body which may be affected;

(iii)  the nature of the task;

(iv)  the degree of physical effort involved;

(v)  methods of work;

(vi)  how long PPE must be worn;

(vii)  any special requirements, e.g. ease of use with prescription spectacles, or with other PPE.

(b)  Selection of suitable PPE

Departments must choose PPE that gives:

(i)  adequate control of any risks identified, without in itself adding to the risk (e.g. the use of powdered latex gloves may present a risk to the wearer or to others in the vicinity);

(ii)  compatibility with other items of PPE (e.g. ear defenders worn with a safety helmet must still provide the necessary degree of attenuation);

(iii)  minimum discomfort to the wearer.

It is usually necessary to have more than one type or size of PPE available, so as to maximise the chances of obtaining good fit and comfort.  Uncomfortable or unsuitable PPE is unlikely to be worn and involvement of the user in the selection or specification is often useful in ensuring the best results.

Departments must provide PPE free of charge to employees when risks to health and safety cannot be adequately controlled by other means.  No charge may be made for its cleaning or maintenance.

Should individuals feel that, on medical grounds, they have difficulty in using the PPE provided, they should be referred without delay to the University Occupational Health Service for an early assessment of the problem.  Persons who are unable to wear appropriate PPE cannot work in areas where the University requires its use.

(c)  Standard of PPE provided

All PPE selected must conform to an appropriate British (BS) or European (EN) Standard and some of the current standards are listed in the appendix.  Separate legislation governs the manufacturers and suppliers of PPE and only that conforming to relevant standards may be marketed.  It must be "CE" marked and comprehensive user information must be provided.  The purchase of PPE from a reputable supplier should ensure that suitably certified equipment is being provided (though the onus is on the purchaser to check that the equipment is suitable for its intended use).

(d)  Maintenance of PPE

Departments must devise written procedures for any necessary maintenance of PPE (this includes, where appropriate, cleaning, disinfection, examination, repair, replacement and testing).  Procedures should describe the extent and frequency of maintenance and the names of individuals responsible; manufacturers' maintenance instructions and schedules must be followed.  The wearer can usually carry out simple maintenance, but properly trained persons should carry out more complex maintenance (and this may involve returning equipment to suppliers or manufacturers).

It is often preferable to use disposable PPE, which avoids having to devise and carry out these procedures.  In this case it is important that information provided by the manufacturer is passed to the users, so they can recognise when to discard and replace the equipment.

(e)  Storage of PPE

Departments must provide some means for PPE to be stored when not in use, so as to protect it from contamination, loss, or damage.  In most cases this will be very simple, e.g. pegs or lockers for clothing.  Contaminated PPE must be stored separately from clean PPE or ordinary clothing.

(f)  Information, instruction and training

Users must be provided with sufficient information, instruction and training to use PPE effectively (this will usually be provided by the supervisor or departmental safety officer).  It should include both theoretical and practical aspects (why the PPE is being used; how to fit, wear or store it) and will vary with the complexity of the equipment.  For example, with simple equipment such as safety helmets, only very basic user instructions are required, but the use of laser eye protection, or anti-static or conductive footwear also requires an understanding of the theoretical principles involved.  Training records should be kept wherever more than very simple instruction is required.

(g)  Users' duties

Users should take reasonable care of PPE and use it according to instructions.  Any loss or defect should be reported to the person responsible for the department's PPE maintenance programme.

3.  Further Guidance

More detailed advice on specific types of PPE may be found in the appendix.


March 2002