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What Does PPE Stand for in Health and Safety?

What Does PPE Stand for in Health and Safety?
What Does PPE Stand for in Health and Safety?

PPE stands for personal protective equipment and refers to a broad range of clothing, tools and devices you may require to perform your role safely, effectively and following industry regulations.

Employers and managers issue staff with PPE to adhere to risk assessments and health and safety obligations, normally to minimise risk or eliminate a hazard.

Traditional PPE could include a hard hat, steel-toe-capped boots, anti-cut gloves, protective goggles, and ear defenders. More advanced solutions might comprise lone worker alarms, body worn camera for security and radio communication systems, all of which can be a valuable part of your PPE provision.

Which Workplace Environments Require PPE?

There are countless work settings, sectors and situations that require PPE. An obvious example is a hospital or clinical facility, where colleagues must wear gowns, visors, gloves and masks to protect them from airborne viruses and other infectious diseases.

However, PPE is also a fundamental necessity in many manual-based roles, such as construction, scaffolding, factory work and roadways, where risks could include:

  • Falls from height
  • Slips and trips
  • Debris and dust
  • Traffic collisions

The first step for managers and business owners is to assess the risks present, assign a severity score to establish which are the most critical, and then identify the right PPE to keep workers, visitors and the public safe from harm.

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Why Is PPE Important for Health and Safety Compliance?

Every position or job has at least some risk element. Office workers could be at risk if they need to access heavy archive boxes on high shelves or have trip hazards due to trailing wires crossing over walkways.

The role of PPE is to reduce the potential of an accident or injury and mitigate the possible outcomes if an accident does occur.

Businesses must demonstrate that they have fulfilled their duties according to the Health and Safety at Work Act and could be exposed to liability claims if they have not taken appropriate action to safeguard their teams and service users.

PPE should be allocated where risk assessments show that a risk exists and cannot be removed altogether – it acts as a reasonable control in addition to other procedures and policies.

Regulations for Employers and Businesses Issuing PPE

Once an organisation or site manager has determined that PPE is necessary, they must comply with the standards set by the Personal Protective Equipment (Enforcement) Regulations. These standards are there to ensure that PPE is sufficient and suitable.

Criteria include the following:

  • Checking that the PPE is fit for purpose. It should fit the user properly and not interfere with employees carrying out their duties. A very heavy helmet, or one that is too loose, may not protect the wearer if they encounter falling debris or experience a fall.
  • Ensuring separate PPE items work effectively when worn simultaneously. If a worker needs to wear a protective helmet, can they also wear safety goggles? Will one PPE item compromise the performance of another – and if so, what are the suitable alternatives?
  • Providing training in the correct use of PPE. Employers must ensure their staff know how to use their equipment properly, how to wear it, and when to request replacement items.

PPE training should be followed with enforcement policies to ensure that all personnel or visitors observe the correct processes.

That could mean carrying out spot checks, using workforce monitoring, or tasking a manager with inspecting workflows to verify whether the right PPE is being worn or used.

Employee Responsibilities for the Correct Use of PPE

Where staff do not comply with PPE requirements, managers should also have a policy to set out to deal with the issue or know what disciplinary action may be necessary for workers who actively refuse to use appropriate PPE.

Employees are responsible for wearing their PPE correctly, attending training sessions, reporting defects to their supervisor, and ensuring they keep personal equipment clean and in good condition.

Eye goggles that are not cleaned after a shift, for example, may contain contaminants or blurring that will render them ineffective – although staff should have clarity about who is responsible for general maintenance.

Staff must also know how to report malfunctioning or defective equipment and understand what they can and cannot do if they are concerned their PPE is not functioning. In most cases, they should not enter a hazardous area under any circumstance if they require a replacement piece of PPE.

What May Happen if a Business Does Not Issue PPE?

The repercussions can be severe if PPE is necessary but is not provided or is inadequate. That could include situations where PPE has been issued but is unsuitable – such as a high-vis vest in too small a size or remote worker communication devices that do not operate when needed.

Employers can be held legally liable if a reportable incident occurs and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) finds them at fault or in breach of health and safety legislation.

Outcomes can include unlimited fines and even criminal proceedings, so implementing robust risk assessments, issuing fully compliant PPE, and ensuring it continues to be deployed correctly are essential.

Employees are entitled to report any concerns that PPE is inadequate. These consultations should be taken seriously and recorded to ensure the appropriate action is taken or any unfounded concerns are addressed.

How to Select the Right PPE for Your Workforce

In some environments, PPE is the norm – think construction sites or roadway workers, with high risks of physical injury. PPE is assigned as a standard requirement before any individual can enter the site.

However, in others, things are less clear-cut. A formal, comprehensive risk assessment is crucial to ensure managers and decision-makers have oversight of the risks present and understand the available options.

Clearway is a nationwide provider of a comprehensive range of security services and can organise an independent, professional risk assessment at your convenience. We can also provide PPE detection and advise on PPE compliance. 

Please get in touch at any time for more guidance around PPE and the regulations relevant to your business.

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