Ensuring the health and safety of employees is a legal responsibility for all UK businesses. Providing proper personal protective equipment (PPE) is a fundamental part of this duty of care. Outlined below are six critical pieces of PPE that should be made available to safeguard workers from common occupational hazards. By supplying suitable PPE and enforcing its use, businesses enable staff to carry out their roles securely whilst remaining legislative compliant. This article explores key PPE to be considered when conducting workplace risk assessments.
1. Hard Hats/Helmets
Hard hats or helmets protect the head from falling objects, debris, and electrical hazards. They should be routinely worn in construction zones, factories, warehouses, and other sites with overhead or electrical risks. Hard hats must comply with current standards, be inspected for damage regularly and replaced when worn or expired. Staff should receive training on proper use and care.
2. Safety Goggles/Glasses
Eye injuries are unfortunately common in workplaces if eyes are not properly shielded. Safety glasses with side protection guard eyes from flying particles, splashing liquids and more. Goggles form a secure seal around the eyes for extra defence when handling hazardous chemicals. Employers must provide suitable eye protection for employee tasks and ensure they are labelled as meeting required standards.
3. Work Gloves
Exposed skin on hands is vulnerable in many work situations, making gloves essential PPE. They defend against cuts, burns, vibration, chemicals and extreme temperatures. Leather, metal mesh, latex, nitrile, and other gloves are available for diverse needs. Conducting a hand hazard evaluation informs the correct glove choice and helps reinforce proper use. Gloves should fit properly and be regularly inspected and replaced.
4. Safety Footwear
To guard feet against falling objects, slipping, uneven terrain and penetration risks, substantial footwear is key. Safety shoes, reinforced toe boots and specialist Wellington boots with steel toecaps are common. Examining floor conditions and potential foot hazards dictates the necessary shoe requirements. Additionally, some environments demand electrical and chemical resistance. Proper footwear helps prevent long-term mobility issues.
5. Face Masks
Protecting nose, mouth, and lungs is essential around airborne particulates, including dusts, fumes/gases, and biological hazards. Activities like welding, spray-painting, chemical processing and asbestos removal require appropriate masks and respirators to prevent the inhalation of dangerous substances. All respiratory equipment should be identified as complying with personal protection standards. Face fit testing ensures masks provide an adequate face seal.
6. Hearing Protection
In occupations with continual loud noise, like construction and manufacturing, ears are at risk of permanent damage. This is prevented by wearing either disposable or reusable ear defenders. Earmuffs cover the full ear, and headphones sit inside the ear canal to block excessive noise. Employers must enforce hearing protection rules in high-decibel zones and provide regular hearing checks to personnel. The key is always keeping exposure below damage levels.
The provision, maintenance and monitored use of proper personal protective equipment constitutes a key aspect of the overall health and safety strategy for every UK business. By responsibly equipping staff with suitable PPE and setting an example with its consistent, appropriate use, employers foster a mutually protective work culture benefitting all.