A Guide to PPE for employers
We try to avoid too much technical nitty gritty of UK safety “lore” in this blog but having recently been asked to clarify the responsibilities of employers with regard to the provision of Protective Equipment to employees I include a brief outline of the basics below.

Firstly employers have statutory obligations concerning the provision and use of Personal Protective Equipment under the Personal Protective Equipment Regulations 1992 (and amendments).

Regulation 4 of the PPE Regulations requires employers to ensure that suitable personal protective equipment is provided to employees who may be exposed to a risk to their health or safety while at work. Most employers will provide safety helmets, safety footwear, high viz clothing, gloves and the like as appropriate, all of which you can find on this website. What is not so widely appreciated is that the regulations include when necessary providing clothing giving protection against the weather or extremes of temperature within the workplace in addition to activity related PPE.

This requirement to provide clothing arises in part from another provision under The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 that requires that the temperature inside the workplace should be “reasonable” which translates to no less than 16 deg C in workrooms with a lower 13 deg C acceptable where the work involves heavy manual labour.

Maintaining this temperature is not always possible to achieve particularly in warehouses where constant traffic opens the space to the elements. The arctic conditions of the past couple of months presented an unprecedented challenge to meet these HSE guidelines so issuing staff most affected with insulated fleece jackets and outdoor wear is the only solution.

The buzz words for employers are “risk assessment”. Identify the risks and provided PPE equipment appropriate to the risk. Your responsibilities don’t end there. Staff training should be provided (and documented) in the correct use of all PPE equipment.

In order to provide PPE for their employees, employers must do more than simply have the equipment, including clothing on the premises. The employees must also ensure the equipment is properly maintained and readily available, with employees having clear instructions on where they can obtain it. PPE equipment is best stored in a purpose made PPE cupboard or locker, traditionally finished in blue with a distinct PPE identification label. 

Another obligation to note is that by virtue of Section 9 of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974, no charge can be made to the worker for the provision of essential PPE which is used only at work.