The importance of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) in the workplace

It is no accident that PPE is the last item on the list within the Hierarchy of Control. It should always be considered as the last line of defence against injury, damage, or disease.

Wearing safety glasses or steel capped boots will not protect you from inadequate procedures or inappropriate tools, however it will increase your safety if all other considerations are taken into account and actioned appropriately.

Hierarchy of Control

When assessing any task to identify the potential for injury or damage, in the first instance the Hierarchy of Control should be applied.

Can the task or any of its elements be:

  • Eliminated? 
    Can anything be removed?
  • Substituted? 
    Are there any alternative options that are less hazardous?  
  • Engineered? 
    Can the hazard be isolated in any way?
  • Controlled administratively? 
    What policies and/or procedures can be implemented to control the risks or hazards?
  • Protected with PPE?
    Physical protection from potential injury or damage.

What is PPE?

PPE is equipment or clothing worn to protect the user against health or safety risks at work. 

Its principal responsibilities are to:

  • Protect unnecessary injury at work.
  • Provide protection from hazardous environmental exposure.
  • Prevent the spread of germs and any other biological or infectious diseases.
  • Comply with legislation and regulations.

PPE is only used as a last resort after other control measures have been considered.

Examples of PPE 

  • Safety glasses and goggles
  • Hard hat
  • Protective gloves
  • Steel capped boots or shoes
  • Hearing protection
  • Clothing (including long and long)
  • Face mask

PPE is only effective when it is:

  • Properly assessed before use (suitability).
  • Maintained and stored properly.
  • Provided with instructions on how to use it safely.
  • Used correctly by employees.

Training 

It is important that employees issued with PPE are aware of why it is required and what their responsibilities are. 

Training should include:

  • When it is to be used.
  • When it should be repaired.
  • When it should be replaced.
  • Details on its limitations.
  • How to ensure that PPE is suitable to the applicable task.
  • Explanations of safety signs which identify specific PPE.

PPE is the final remedy and should not be used to replace other methods of control.

Always ensure that any PPE issued is worn properly, correctly maintained and never misused.

If in doubt, always complete a Risk Assessment. This will help to identify any potential risks or hazards where additional PPE may provide more protection.

PPE CAN SAVE LIVES. USE IT PROPERLY AND LOOK AFTER IT, AS YOU WOULD WANT IT TO LOOK AFTER YOU!