A Part 10 The Personal Protective Equipment At Work By J Mc Cann
THE PERSONAL PROTECTIVE
EQUIPMENT AT WORK
PPEW Regulations implement EC
Directive 89/656/EEC on the Use of PPE in
the Workplace. This Directive is one of the
first series of individual directives under the
Framework Directive (89/39/EEC), aimed at
achieving minimum common health and
safety standards in member states. The
regulations also implement some provisions
of the Framework Directive on employees'
duties in respect of PPE.
► The regulations place duties on employers towards
their employees, but do not place any duties in
relation to any other persons who may be affected
by their activities (e.g. customers). HSW Act s.3
will, of course, continue to apply in such cases.
The regulations place identical duties on the self-
employed in respect of their own safety.
Principally the regulations are drafted in terms that require
the employer to ensure that (for example) PPE is provided.
► This is to allow for common practices in some industries
(e.g. construction, chemical ) where the site occupier or
major contractor would normally be best placed to provide,
maintain, etc., PPE.
► Although employers may not themselves carry out the
necessary action, it is still their responsibility to ensure that
the necessary action is taken to protect their employees'
health and safety.
regulations have broad application
because of the generic definition of PPE,
limited only by specific disapplications in
reg.3(2). These are intended to exclude
equipment which is either;
► not PPE within its normally accepted sense,
► or is not an appropriate subject for health
and safety legislation.
codes of regulations listed in reg.3(3),
require the provision and use of certain PPE
against particular hazards, and apply in
place of the PPEW Regulations.
►These regulations are, however, amended
by the PPEW Regulations so that they fully
implement the Use of PPE Directive in
respect of the types of PPE with which they
Since the PPEW Regulations are relevant statutory
provisions, HSW Act s. 9 will apply in the case of PPE
provided to comply with the regulations. Charging
employees for the provision or use of such PPE is
not allowed. This would not, of course, prevent
employers charging for PPE they provide under the general
duty of HSW Act s. 3 or where there is no relevant statute.
For example, some current schemes for part payment
towards the cost of safety footwear could still be
permitted, provided that the footwear is not for use in
circumstances where risks are significant and reg.4
requires PPE to be provided).
The extent to which HSW Act s. 9 may prevent employers
charging their employees for any use of the PPE outside
work, may be raised. It is likely that HSW Act s. 9 will
prevent any charging for PPE provided under the
regulations, whether or not it is also used outside work.
However, since this has never been tested in the courts, it
is possible that some schemes could be devised under
which charging for private use of PPE would be allowed.
Enforcement officers should exercise discretion in
considering whether to take enforcement action against
any such schemes which were genuinely voluntary and had
no adverse effects on health, safety and welfare.
► The PPEW Regulations do not impose significant
further requirements that were not either explicitly
covered in existing regulations or implicitly
covered under HSW Act. In respect of
enforcement, the explicit requirements under the
PPEW Regs should be considered before enforcing
under the general requirements of HSW Act.
► There will be occasions when action could be
considered under other regulations. In these cases
the normal policy of enforcing under the most
appropriate and/or specific regulations should be
followed. For example, where a person was using
unsuitable equipment including PPE to work on or
near electrical equipment, action under the
Electricity at Work Regulations 1989 reg.4 would
be more appropriate in most cases.
► The requirements of reg.4 (provision, etc), reg.7
(maintenance etc), reg.8 (accommodation , etc.),
and reg.9 (information, instruction and training)
are considered absolute and likely to be the main
subject of any enforcement action. The PPEW
Regulations should not change policy in respect of
overall standards sought and enforced in most
In summary, an enforcement strategy should take note of the
The approach should not be altered
where the regulations re-enforce existing
requirements, e.g., the wearing of eye
protection when using abrasive wheels.
A more pragmatic approach should be
adopted where the requirements are new or
more prescriptive particularly where the risk
is not immediate.
(iii) Appropriate action should be taken where
there are immediate risks to health and safety
irrespective of the newness of the legal
► failure to use high visibility jackets by banks men
guiding vehicles and
► failure to wear anti-static boots where there is a
risk of ignition,
► or wrist or hand protection when carrying glass
definition of PPE is broad, and brings
within the scope of the Regulations a wide
range of equipment including safety
harnesses, life jackets and high visibility
clothing as well as more obvious types of
PPE such as hard hats, gloves and safety
boots. In all cases, however, the equipment
will only be PPE as defined, and reg 2
will only apply if it protects against a
risk to health and safety. 15
► Even though clothing affording protection against
weather is specifically mentioned in the definition,
such clothing would only be subject to the
Regulations if it was provided against an
established/identified risk to health and safety.
Factors to be considered include the length and
frequency of exposure to the wet/cold conditions,
the temperature and rainfall, and the types of
ordinary clothing which the employee can
reasonably be expected to provide and wear for
practice, however, the scope of the
regulations is limited by the specific
disapplications contained in reg.3
► The disapplication for quot;ordinary working clothes
and uniforms’ in reg.3(2)(a) is included so that
employers are not expected to provide items of
everyday wear which may give limited protection
against lower level risks, e.g. some minor impacts
and abrasions or exposure to the sun. However,
where risks are such that ordinary clothing will not
provide adequate protection then the employer
will need to provide PPE which does (e.g. high
visibility clothing for those working where vehicle
movements take place).
Regulation 3 (2) (b) disapplies the regulations only in
respect of offensive weapons, and it is not intended that it
should prevent the regulations applying to protective
helmets and other protective equipment worn by security
personnel or law and order services. The Prevention of
Crime Act 1953 s. 1(4) as amended by the Public Order Act
1986, Offensive Weapons Act 1996 and Criminal Justice
Act 1988 defines quot;offensive weaponsquot; as quot;any article made
or adapted for use for causing injury to the person, or
intended by the person having it with him for such use by
► The Road Traffic Act 1988 s. 192 (1) (and hence
the PPEW Regulations reg. 3 (2) (d)) define a road
as quot;any highway and any other road to which the
public has access, and includes bridges over which
a road passesquot;.
The PPEW Regulations are disapplied where any of the 6
codes of regulations listed in reg.3(3) apply. However this
disapplication is limited to protection against risks
which are within the ambit of those 6 codes. In some
cases it is possible that one item of PPE could be subject to
both Codes of regulations if it protects against more than
one risk. For example, the PPEW Regulations will not apply
to a chemical protective glove provided under COSHH,
solely to protect against contact with corrosive fluids.
However, if the glove is provided for use in situations
where it would also have to provide protection against
broken glass, then the PPEW Regulations would apply in
addition to COSHH.
The disapplications in reg.3(3) do not apply to reg.5
PROVISION OF PPE (REG.4)
PPE should always be considered as the ‘last resort’ to
protect against risks to health and safety; engineering
controls and safe systems of work to remove the risk
should always be considered first. However, an offence will
occur under reg.4(1), whenever PPE is not provided to
protect against a risk which is not adequately controlled by
other means. It will be possible for there to be an offence
under this regulation and, at the same time, for there to be
an offence under another part of the Relevant Statutory
Provisions (RSPs) and regulations for failure to take other
measures to protect against the same risk. In these
circumstances it could be appropriate to quote both codes
of regulations in any notice but proceedings should
normally be implemented for the more significant breach. 23
of PPE in accordance with reg.4(1)
does not provide a defence to any charge of
failure to comply with any other relevant
quot;Adequately controlledquot; is used to set a 'minimal riskquot;
threshold beyond which PPE is required (reg.4(1)), and to
provide a test of the effectiveness of the PPE (reg. 4 (3)
(d) ) .
► In the case of emergency escape, for PPE which is not
normally worn, it would not be possible to claim that the
regulations do not apply because the risks are normally
adequately controlled by other means. If it is foreseeable
that a fire or other incident could require the wearing of
escape PPE, then reg.4(1) will apply. In particular, the
definition of PPE in reg.2(1) makes it clear the regulations
apply to all PPE intended to be worn.
The PPE provided must be quot;suitablequot;. Regulation 4(3) lists
requirements which PPE must meet if it is to be suitable.
The relationship of reg.4(1) to reg. 4 (3) is like that of
HSW Act s. 2 (1) and s. 2 (2), that is:
► (i) the offence is under the first provision; the second only
sets out some particular ways in which the offence can
► (ii) the second provision does not limit the generality of the
► Although there are no explicit qualifications of reg.
4 (3) (b) , it should be recognised that the
employer can have only partial knowledge of the
state of health of the wearer of PPE. Account
should be taken of this limitation when
implementing enforcement action.
Regulation 4 (3)(d) is qualified by ‘so far as is
practicable’ in recognition that some types of PPE
cannot provide adequate control of the risks
against which they are designed to protect the
wearer (e.g. protective clothing for fire-fighters).
► The impracticality of achieving adequate control is
not grounds for failing to provide or use PPE.
► Equally, cost is not a relevant consideration.
COMPATIBILITY OF PPE (REG. 5)
► Regulation 5 requires different items of PPE worn
at the same time to be compatible, including any
PPE provided under the 6 codes of regulations
listed in reg 3(3). For example, respirators
provided under COSHH must be compatible with
eye protection provided under PPEW.
ASSESSMENT OF PPE (REG. 6)
► Regulation 6 is restricted to an assessment to
determine the suitability of the PPE to be chosen.
Action should be considered under the
Management of Health and Safety at Work
Regulations 1999 in circumstances where a risk
assessment has not been completed and risks to
health and safety has been identified.
► Itis reg 6(1) which creates the substantive duty.
Regulation 6(2) only illustrates some of the issues
which need to be addressed in the assessment
process. Enforcement action should be taken
under reg 6(1). Although the steps in reg. 6(2) will
constitute the main part of the assessment, other
elements of suitability set out in reg. 4(3) will also
need to be considered.
MAINTENANCE (REG. 7)
► This provision is similar to the maintenance
requirements in the Workplace Regulations 1992
and the Provision and Use of Work Equipment
Regulations 1998. However, there is a specific
reference to cleaning and replacement in PPEW.
Cleaning is relevant both to the hygiene of any
items of PPE where it may be used by more than
one person, and to the prevention of ill health,
irritation etc. to the wearer which may result from
contamination of the PPE by process materials or