The Risk Management Tool Box Blog

Types of PPE

Graham Marshall - Saturday, March 02, 2013

In the United Kingdom, the Personal Protective Equipment Regulations (2002); and the Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations (1992, as amended) provide the main requirements to be met for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) at work.

Other special regulations cover hazardous substances (including lead and asbestos), and also noise and radiation.

In the UK, every employer has a duty (where necessary) regarding the provision and use of PPE.

PPE is equipment that will protect workers against known hazards at work and there are several specific types of PPE that can be used to protect specific parts of the human body.  These types are highlighted below.

+   Eyes - safety spectacles, goggles, face screens, face-shields, and visors. Make sure the eye protection chosen has the right combination of impact/dust/splash/molten metal eye protection for the task and fits the user properly.

+  Head and neck - industrial safety helmets, bump caps, hairnets and fire-fighters' helmets. Some safety helmets incorporate or can be fitted with specially-designed eye or hearing protection.  Don't forget neck protection, (e.g., scarves for use during welding).  And remember to replace head protection if it is damaged.

+   Ears - earplugs, earmuffs, noise-cancelling headphones, and semi-insert/canal caps.  Make sure to provide the correct hearing protectors for the type of work, and make sure workers know how to use them. Choose protectors that reduce noise to an acceptable level, while allowing for safety and communication.

+  Hands and arms - gloves, gloves with a cuff, gauntlets and sleeving that covers part or all of the arm.  Avoid gloves when operating machines such as bench drills where the gloves might get caught.  Some materials are quickly penetrated by chemicals so take care in selecting the correct gloves for the task.  Seek specialist advice if need-be.  Note that barrier creams may provide additional protection, but their use is unreliable and they should not be used instead of appropriate PPE protection.  Also note that wearing gloves for long periods can make the skin hot and sweaty, leading to skin problems. Using separate cotton inner gloves can help prevent this.

+   Feet and legs- safety boots and shoes with protective toecaps and penetration-resistant, mid-sole wellington boots and specific footwear (e.g., foundry boots or chainsaw boots).  Footwear can have a variety of sole patterns and materials to help prevent slips in different conditions, including oil- or chemical-resistant soles. It can also be anti-static, electrically conductive or thermally insulating.  In all cases, appropriate footwear should be selected for the identified hazards within the work being conducted.

+   Lungs – respiratory protective equipment (RPE).  Some respirators rely on filtering contaminants from workplace air. These include simple filtering face-pieces and respirators and power-assisted respirators.  Make sure any respirator in use fits properly.

There are also types of breathing apparatus which give an independent supply of breathable air (e.g., fresh-air hose, compressed airline and SCBA - self-contained breathing apparatus). The correct type and size of respirator filter must be used as each is effective for only a limited range of substances.

Filters have only a limited life. Where there is a shortage of oxygen or any danger of losing consciousness due to exposure to high levels of harmful fumes, only use breathing apparatus – never use a filtering cartridge

+   Whole body PPE- conventional or disposable overalls, boiler suits, aprons, chemical suits. The choice of materials includes flame-retardant, anti-static, chain mail, chemically impermeable, and high-visibility clothing.

And don't forget other protection, like safety harnesses or life jackets where these are needed.

+   There may also be a requirement to provide emergency equipment.  Careful selection, maintenance and regular and realistic operator training is needed for PPE equipment for use in emergencies, like SCBA, respirators and safety ropes or harnesses.

Find out more information by searching online for the following:

+  Respiratory protective equipment at work: A practical guide HSG53; and

A short guide to the Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992 Leaflet INDG174 PDF.

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