The What, Why, When, Who and How of Personal Protective Equipment (or PPE)  

Most hazards can be controlled, in part, through personal protective equipment, also known as PPE. While this is a recognised risk control strategy, it does have some drawbacks. Below we outline some of the areas for consideration when it comes to using PPE. 


What PPE is and when should it be used?

PPE is defined as all equipment which is intended to be worn or held by a person at work for protection against one or more risks to that person’s health or safety. Examples include, hard hats, goggles, ear defenders, protective clothing (including shoes and items for protection against the weather), gloves, dust masks and respirators, etc. 


PPE should be used as part of a wider risk control strategy as it is the last line of defence, with other control methods such as Elimination, Substitution, or Engineering Controls all of which will protect a group rather than individuals. That said, PPE is a useful insurance policy or failsafe should any other control measures fail, and in some cases is the only option. 


Don’t forget that any controls measures should be determined as part of your Risk Assessment process, and should involve those carrying out the tasks. This is expecially important when PPE is involved given the impact on individuals.

Who is responsible for providing PPE (and to who)?

Ultimately the employer is responsible for providing all equipment (and training) required for compliance with statutory requirements. This include covering the cost of these. 


From April 2022, this requirement, along with other duties listed in the PPE regulations, has been extended to include contractors (unless a business form themselves) and casual workers as well as employees. 

For Principal Contractors (under the Construction Design and Management (CDM) Regs 2015) it is good practice to ensure all subcontractors are supplying appropriate PPE for the tasks being carried out by their workers, and other activities on site. 

Is there anything I need to do when using PPE?

Where risks can’t be controlled by other means, or the use of PPE is there as a failsafe, employers must do the following: 

  • Ensure PPE provides level of protection required to keep user safe
  • Any item provided is compatible with any other PPE used if worn together 
  • Ensure that PPE is maintained, cleaned and replaced as required to ensure the required level of protection is maintained
  • To provide a place to store PPE when not being used, that will keep it free from damage or contamination
  • To provide appropriate information, instruction and training for anyone required to wear PPE
  • To ensure that all those who need to wear PPE do so based on the information and instruction provided
  • Those using PPE also have a duty to report any loss or defects of any items provided to them


I want more information:  

You can find out more using the links below: 


The HSE’s Risks at Work – Personal protective equipment (PPE) information page gives a good summary of the types of PPE available and the risks they protect from. 


The HSE’s L25 Publication on the PPE Regulations provide a helpful commentary on these and how to comply with them. 


Here are links to the text of the regulations themselves:


The Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992

The Personal Protective Equipment at Work (Amendment) Regulations 2022


In light of the new regulations coming into effect in April 2022, the HSE has also produced a helpful guide available here



PPE is not the fix all solution it may seem, and should be used with caution. 


Why not take this opportunity to review your risk assessments, and controls to see if you need PPE, and check that any PPE you are using is appropriate.


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