Whilst the use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is considered to be essential in helping to reduce, minimize or even eliminate certain risks and dangers associated with work-related activities and tasks, under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations such equipment or clothing should only ever be seen as a last resort.
Clearly, if such personal protective equipment is deemed necessary there is a definite risk. Everything possible should be done to try to minimize or eliminate that risk, with PPE equipment being used only in cases where any level of risk remains in spite of any other action taken.
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Employers have a legal duty to provide appropriate PPE equipment to all employees who require it, with appropriate training and auditing of the use of such equipment also falling to the employer. The Regulations specifically indicate the following eight areas which employers should make a careful note of and with which they should ensure full compliance.
1. The Provision Of Personal Protective Equipment: In cases where there is any perceived level of risk or potential injury, it is the employer's responsibility to supply appropriate PPE equipment.
Any and all such equipment or safety clothing provided should be appropriate to the risks and the conditions, take into account any ergonomic requirements, should fit correctly, should be effective at helping to reduce or minimize the risk, and should comply with any and all CE requirements.
2. PPE Compatibility: Any safety equipment or clothing should be fully compatible with any and all possible combinations of other PPE clothing or equipment which may need to be worn. For example, eye protection should not interfere or be interfered with by the use of breathing apparatus where both may need to be worn or used together.
3. PPE Assessment: All personal protective equipment and clothing should be assessed to ensure that it is fully suited to protect against the risks involved, including the characteristics of the clothing and equipment.
The PPE equipment and clothing should be compared with other alternatives to ensure the best possible selection is made, and that the use of any safety clothing or equipment should be assessed to make sure that it is still appropriate to the conditions, environment, or hazards.