A beginners guide to PPE

PPE is the collective term used to describe any equipment which can offer protection from occupational health and safety hazards in the workplace. To select the correct type of PPE, consider the various hazards in the workplace and identify the PPE that provides adequate protection against them.

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Head Protection

Hazards: Impact from falling or flying objects, risk of head bumping, hair entanglement.

Options: Suitable head protection such as hard hats, bump caps and hair nets.


Hearing Protection

Hazards: Loud industrial machinery such as pneumatic drills.

Options: Either ear plugs, overhead ear defenders or clip-on ear defenders.


Eye Protection

Hazards: Chemical or metal splash, dust, projectiles, gas and vapour, radiation.

Options: Safety spectacles, goggles, face-shields or visors.



Hazards: Airborne particulates such as concrete dust, fibreglass, asbestos and chemical vapours.

Options: Disposable valved or unvalved dust masks, or full and half face masks with appropriate filters installed.


High Visibility

Hazards: Low light conditions and foul weather leading to reduced visibility, on site vehicles or road traffic.

Options: Hi-Vis vests, trousers, shirts and overalls. For track-side workers, use Go/RT products.


Fall Protection

Hazards: Falls, working at heights, icy surfaces.

Options: Appropriate safety harness complete with fall arrester.


Protective Gloves

Hazards: Cold surfaces, mechanical equipment, sharp edges, chemical exposure, mechanical vibrations.

Options: Appropriate en420 protective gloves.


Knee Protection

Hazards: Cold surfaces, persistent injuries from kneeling on hard floors, abrasions.

Options: Slip in knee pads compatible with knee pad trousers, strapped exterior knee pads, kneeling mat or rolling stool.


Safety Footwear

Hazards: Nails, broken glass, screws, oil spills, ice, dropped objects.

Options: Metallic or non-metallic en345 footwear.


Flame Protection

Hazards: Heat, flames, radiant heat.

Options: Specialist flame retardant clothing such as overalls, gloves, jackets and trousers.

Can I charge for providing PPE?

An employee's safety whilst at work must not depend on his/her ability to purchase protective clothing, therefore an employer cannot ask for money from an employee for PPE, whether it is returnable or not. This includes agency workers, if they are legally regarded as your employees. If employment has been terminated and the employee keeps the PPE without the employer's permission, then, as long as it has been made clear in the contract of employment, the employer may be able to deduct the cost of the replacement from any wages owed.

How do I know what PPE my workplace needs?

To ensure you select the right PPE for your workforce, you should always run a thorough risk assessment beforehand to detail your exact needs. From there it is advisable to speak to a professional risk assessor or PPE supplier.

Do site visitors need to wear PPE?

Absolutely. All site visitors must wear the appropriate PPE when entering hazardous areas on site.

CE marking

Ensure any PPE you buy is 'CE' marked and complies with the requirements of the Personal Protective Equipment Regulations 2002. The CE marking signifies that the PPE satisfies certain basic safety requirements and in some cases will have been tested and certified by an independent body.

Key points to remember

Where Personal Protective Equipment is required, please ensure the following conditions are met:

  • Suitable PPE is provided.
  • It offers adequate protection for its intended use.
  • Those using it are adequately trained in its safe use.
  • It is properly maintained and any defects are reported.
  • It is returned to its proper storage after use.
  • All PPE is correctly fitted.

For more information on PPE usage and conformity, please read the PPE at work guide, issued by the Health and Safety Executive.

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