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PPE Legislation: What You Need to Know

As an employer, you’ll know that ensuring your workers are issued with the appropriate PPE is not only essential for their protection, but is a legal requirement for your business. Ensuring your workers are safe and protected when carrying out their jobs, and that your business is compliant with health and safety legislation, is one of the most important things an employer can do.

However, even the most diligent employers can be caught out and face serious legal repercussions, particularly when the level of control they have over PPE within their business is overestimated. Here, we’re going to look at how you can be sure you’re supplying your workers with the best protection, and some of the ways your best efforts to maintain compliance could fall through.

Identifying your PPE needs

In order to ensure your employees are issued with the best protection for the job, it’s important to be rigorous and detail driven.

Risk Assessment – a thorough risk assessment process will highlight potentially dangerous elements of the various roles within your business, and help you to identify ways of minimising risk to employees. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) stipulates that it’s important to remove danger to workers by modifying processes to eliminate potential risks first, and when this is not reasonably practicable, to then look at issuing PPE as a last resort.

Seek Professional Guidance – what’s not always clear is that many protective items are available in different grades of protection and different materials to suit various situations. Consulting a PPE advisor on exactly which sort of products are best for the roles in your business means that you can be sure that the PPE you’re issuing to your employees is going to provide the best protection and performance.

So, with a thorough risk assessment and with the aid of expert advice, you’ve identified the specific protective items of the exact type and grade that your team will need depending on the tasks they are required to complete and the risks and hazards they are likely to face.

However, regardless of how precise you are in identifying the PPE your team should have, the level of control you have over the PPE that is actually used by your employees is often underestimated.


Ensuring PPE compliance is maintained

One example to illustrate this comes from August 2014, when Hull City Council were fined £185,000 because a worker had injured themselves slipping  on an ice rink without the correct footwear for the job.

In this case, risks assessments and expert advice may well have been sought, but it’s important to follow up beyond the paperwork to ensure that the required PPE has been issued to workers, and is actually being used.

There are a number of reasons why the work you’ve done to ensure compliance and safety may not be having an effect in reality:


  • Stock Shortages – if, for example, an employee needs a new pair of safety gloves, but company stocks of their required size have been depleted, teams can be tempted to head to their nearest high-street workwear store and buy the cheapest pair of gloves they can find in the right size, regardless of the safety grade or the specific requirements you identified in your risk assessment.


  • Lack of awareness – you may have pages full of risk assessment documents that lay out the exact PPE requirements of each role within your business, but it’s unlikely that your employees are going to spend time reading it all when there’s work to be done. Being unaware of the correct grading and type of protection required means that if the equipment they’ve been issued has disappeared or broken and they’re left to source replacements, there’s a good chance they’ll not find equipment that will maintain compliance.


  • Employee-bought equipment – for whatever reason, whether it’s due to personal preference, or because they’ve lost their company-issued equipment, sometimes employees will buy their own PPE without checking the required grading and safety performance of the item.


  • Cost-cutting – Sometimes, due to lack of awareness and an effort to save the company money, your procurement team may opt for cheaper versions of your specified PPE, which may not offer the same level of protections for your employees.

 All of these reasons can lead to your employees facing unnecessary risks to their health and wellbeing, and your business risking serious legal repercussions due to lack of compliance.


Preventing lapses in PPE compliance

In order to ensure compliance is maintained and that the risk areas above are managed, there are a number of things you can do:


  • Order for the individual – automating your PPE ordering systems can allow you to set up profiles for individual employees, and you can order workwear and PPE specifically for each worker in wearer-packs. This allows you to implement boundaries and restrictions on what items your teams can purchase, meaning that short term supply issues can be fulfilled whilst ensuring that only the correct items are purchased.


  • Raise Awareness – ensuring your employees, management and procurement teams are fully aware of the equipment that is legally required, and impressing on them why it’s important that it’s correct, can help to avoid any mistakes created through lack of awareness. Organising training sessions on PPE and putting up signage in the workplace can help you bring your whole team onto the same page.


  • Keep a paper trail – ensuring you can prove that the correct PPE has been issued to individuals, the appropriate risk assessments and PPE surveys have taken place, and employees have received training on how to use their safety equipment correctly, means that not only can you be sure that your employees have all the information and equipment they need to work safely, but also that you can demonstrate compliance clearly and thoroughly, ensuring you’re in control of liability. Industrial Workwear’s online ordering platform allows you to quickly access information on risk assessments and product specifications, and when you order for individuals in wearer-packs, you can easily provide a paper trail to demonstrate that you’ve distributed the correct equipment to the individual employee for whom it was intended.


Maintain PPE Compliance with Industrial Workwear

Industrial Workwear’s workwear and PPE procurement platform gives you everything you need to ensure compliance around PPE, from expert advice to source the right products through to comprehensive reporting and analysis tools. Find out more and request a demo today.