PPE regulations – an employer’s guide

Following health and safety regulations is one of the many responsibilities of being a business owner. And while it isn’t glamorous, it’s extremely important to stay on top of regulations to make sure your work environment is as safe as possible.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) estimated that 561,000 workers sustained non-fatal injuries at work in the UK in 2022/23. One of the simplest ways to look after your employees is to provide personal protective equipment (PPE).

But what is considered PPE? And when do you have to use it? Keep reading to find out what an employer’s responsibilities are, and how to follow all the regulations.

What is PPE?

PPE is used to protect people from hazards in the workplace. The kind of PPE you’ll use will vary depending on your industry and what risks your employees are exposed to.

Builders on a worksite, for example, will need equipment like helmets and steel-toed boots to protect themselves from falling objects. While cleaners handling chemicals will need gloves and masks to protect themselves from burns and fumes.

This is why employers need to do a health and safety risk assessment to understand the risks faced by your business, and how to protect your employees from them.

If you’re unsure what might be considered PPE, they’ll usually fall into one of these forms of protection:

  • eye
  • hand
  • foot
  • head
  • respiratory
  • body
  • hearing

Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992

This piece of legislation brought in guidelines for employers around their responsibilities with PPE.

The legislation states “every employer shall ensure that suitable personal protective equipment is provided to their employees… [except where] such risk has been adequately controlled by other means which are equally or more effective.”

Put simply, it’s an employer’s responsibility to make sure their employees are safe in the workplace and PPE is one of the tools to help you do it. And you can’t make your employees buy their own PPE – it must be provided by you.

You must also train your staff on how to use and maintain PPE correctly.

How to train your employees on PPE

Employers need to have an approach to training staff on how to use PPE safely. The more risks there are in your workplace, the more detailed your policy should be.

But regardless of your industry, these are all things to consider:

  • inspecting PPE before every use
  • PPE reminders and safety signs
  • where you’ll store PPE
  • your process for repairing or replacing PPE
  • how you’ll check PPE is being used correctly

During a health and safety inspection, you may be asked to provide or explain your policy around staff PPE training, so it’s important to have a process planned out.

Do you have to provide PPE for contractors?

Anyone that works directly for your business needs to be provided with appropriate PPE including contractors.

This used to be a grey area when it came to the employer’s responsibility but since the legislation was amended in April 2022, all limb (b) workers must be given the same protections as permanent employees.

A limb (b) worker is someone that does work for your business that isn’t employed by an agency and isn’t self-employed either. They’re sometimes referred to as ‘gig-workers’.

The only time you don’t need to provide PPE is with the self-employed – they’ll need to provide it themselves.

Why is PPE important?

Following PPE regulations is good for your business for multiple reasons:

  • employee safety – some accidents are unavoidable in the workplace and PPE is there to minimise the impact of them when all other precautions fail
  • employee retention – if your employees feel unsafe at work and that their employer isn’t taking enough precaution – they might consider working elsewhere. Showing your employees that their safety is a priority can be a good way to keep your people happy
  • protecting your business – an injured employee could claim compensation if they believe you were negligent. While your employers’ liability insurance would usually cover compensation for staff injury, failing to provide the correct PPE could affect your claim
  • protecting your reputation – disregarding employee safety could make your workplace undesirable for your current and potential employees. And it could even put off clients from working with you

Health and safety regulations can be complex, so it’s important to speak to a professional expert or get legal advice if you’re unsure of anything.

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Zach Hayward-Jones

Zach Hayward-Jones is a Copywriter at Simply Business, with seven years of writing experience across entertainment, insurance, and financial services. With a keen interest in issues affecting the hospitality and construction sector, Zach focuses on news relevant to small business owners. Covering industry updates, regulatory changes, and practical guides.

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