PPE: Safety Clothing at Work

The Government increased the national minimum wage in October 2014 to £7.69 per hour, however a report by Resolution Foundation has advised that there is now a record number of workers in low paid jobs and that year after year the number continues to increase.

As companies attempt to move out of the financial recession they look at ways of reducing expenditure and one of the overheads is protective clothing and safety equipment. Workers should not be asked to pay for safety clothing because the law requires employers to pay for it.

Section 9 of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 states that no company shall charge its employees for safety clothing and equipment that is required in order to be able to safely do his or her work.

In any case, the law also states that safety clothing or personal protective equipment (PPE) should only be used as a last resort, only after all other reasonably practicable steps have been taken to prevent and control risks.

The legal requirements are contained in the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and the Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992 (the PPE Regulations).

The PPE Regulations have been in force since January 2003 and regulation 4 requires every employer to provide suitable personal protective equipment to its workers who may be exposed to a risk to their safety while at work, except where that risk has already been controlled by other means.

The law therefore requires the company to first of all arrange for a competent person to do a risk assessment, that is, to think about what work activities might cause harm and what are the reasonable steps to be taken to control the risks in the workplace.

If the risks to employees’ health and safety cannot be controlled by other means then the employer should then consider what type of protective clothing and PPE should be provided.

The protective clothing and PPE that is provided to employees must be suitable and this requires the company to assess the protective clothing and equipment before it is supplied for use by employees.

There is a lot of counterfeit and substandard safety clothing and equipment that has been imported in the UK from outside Europe and it is important that businesses check that clothing and products have been tested to European standards and carry the CE mark of quality. The British Safety Industry Federation can advise companies on safety product standards for different types of protective clothing and equipment.

The law also requires that the safety clothing fits the employee and workers should not be expected to use the wrong-sized protective clothing.

More information:

Resolution Foundation: Low Pay Britain 2013

www.resolutionfoundation.org

Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992

www.legislation.gov.uk

British Safety Industry Federation

www.bsif.co.uk