Personal protective equipment (PPE), designed to directly protect a worker from exposure to hazardous physical and chemical agents, sits at the bottom of the hierarchy of measures to control health and safety hazards. PPE has serious limitations due to the fact that it does nothing to control the hazard at source; should the equipment fail and not be noticed by the person using it their exposure to the risk increases dramatically.
PPE should be provided, as a last resort. Before PPE is considered employers should be aiming to eliminate the hazard altogether, or to reduce the risk by substituting less hazardous processes or introducing other physical control measures.
Where the need for PPE is identified the employer is obliged to provide it, free of charge, for every employee at potential risk.
PPE can be a very important measure in controlling risks faced by maintenance personnel. They may be required to work on primary control systems which are malfunctioning, switched off or disconnected. Without PPE they would be directly exposed to the hazard.
PPE will include, ear defenders protective, glasses and goggles, respiratory protective equipment, safety helmets, safety footwear, overalls, chemical protection suits, aprons, high visibility clothing, gloves, heat resistant clothing and cold weather clothing and the like.
When any PPE is supplied it must be properly maintained and stored. Employers must thereforeprovide facilities for the cleaning and maintenance of PPE and suitable storage facilities. There must also be a system for replacing worn out and damaged PPE. Workers must be given appropriate information, instruction, training to understand why and when PPE is required and how to use it correctly. They must also be supervised and their Managersmust ensure that the PPE is used when required and properly used.
See also: Hierarchy of Control;