What is PPE?
Personal Protective Equipment - PPE - is any equipment that will protect you from risks to your health or safety. It includes items such as hard hats, gloves, eye protection, hi-visibility clothing and safety footwear. PPE also includes face masks / respirators (known as Respiratory Protective Equipment, or RPE) and hearing protection.
The Last Resort
PPE is a common risk control measure however it is known as a last resort because:
- It only protects the wearer, it cannot protect others around you not wearing PPE
- If used incorrectly, or if the wrong type is chosen, it may not provide the protection you require
- PPE often 'fails to danger‘ - if your PPE fails you may be directly exposed to a hazard e.g. if your gloves rip, chemicals could directly contact your skin
PPE is often mandatory, however for the reasons above it should never be the only control measure.
- Avoiding a hazard or substituting it with something less harmful (less concentrated chemical, different material etc.)
- Using engineering controls (use of extraction for fumes or acoustic housing to reduce noise)
- Limiting frequency and duration of exposure to a hazard
- Using procedural controls (methods, operating procedures, work instructions)
Always read your local risk assessments – they identify the hazards in your work area, the controls you need to follow including what PPE you may need to wear. If you use PPE but it is not mentioned on a risk assessment, make sure the document is updated.