PPE – A Short Guide To Personal Protective Equipment

Employers have duties concerning the provision and use of personal protective equipment (PPE) at work. Callidus Health & safety’s Daren Lawson provides a short guide to PPE, from discussing the different types, advice on how to choose the right type of PPE to training and monitoring. 

What is PPE?

PPE as defined in the PPE at Work Regulations 1992 is equipment that will protect the user against health or safety risks at work. It can include items such as safety helmets, safety footwear, hard hats, gloves, eye protection, high-visibility clothing and safety harnesses. Respiratory and hearing protection, although PPE is covered by separate Regulations.

What do you have to do?

Only use PPE as a last resort

A risk assessment must be completed for all work activities (including COSHH assessments) and If PPE is still needed after implementing other controls (and there will be circumstances when it is, e.g. head protection on most construction sites), this must be provided free of charge to your employees.

Choose the right PPE based on the hazards and what you are protecting your employees from.  (for instance a material glove will offer little protection when handling diesel!  Also ensure employees are trained in how to use, clean and maintain PPE properly and are aware of how to identify and report any faults

Types of PPE you can use

Part of body Hazards PPE options


Chemical or metal splash, dust, projectiles, gas and vapour, radiation Safety spectacles, goggles, face screens, face shields, visors
Head and neck


Impact from falling or flying objects, risk of bumping head, hair entanglement in machinery, chemical drips or splash, climate or temperature Industrial safety helmets, bump caps, hairnets, welding scarfs,  and firefighters’ helmets


Noise – a combination of sound level and duration of exposure, very high-level sounds are a hazard even with short duration Earplugs, earmuffs, semi-insert/canal caps (consider attenuation)
Hands and arms


Abrasion, temperature extremes, cuts and punctures, impact, chemicals, electric shock, radiation, vibration, biological agents and prolonged immersion in water Gloves, gloves with a cuff, gauntlets and sleeving that covers part or all of the arm
Feet and legs


Wet, hot and cold conditions, electrostatic build-up, slipping, cuts and punctures, falling objects, heavy loads, metal and chemical splash Safety boots and shoes with protective toecaps and penetration-resistant, mid-sole wellington boots and specific footwear, e.g. foundry boots and chainsaw boots
Lungs Oxygen-deficient atmospheres, dusts, gases and vapours respiratory protective equipment (RPE) (remember face fit testing)
Whole body


Heat, chemical or metal splash, spray from pressure leaks or spray guns, contaminated dust, impact or penetration, excessive wear or entanglement of own clothing Conventional or disposable overalls, boiler suits, aprons, chemical suits. Don’t forget other protection, like safety harnesses or life jackets


Selection of PPE:

Seek assistance from reputable PPE companies who will be able to offer a range of products (which should be CE marked in accordance with the Regulations) and provide advice on the same.

Engage the work force and give them the opportunity of choice and the opportunity to test different makes / brands and select equipment that suits the user – consider the size, fit and weight of the PPE. If the users help choose it, they will be more likely to use it

Remember, PPE should be compatible with other PPE that is required to be worn, e.g. wearing safety glasses may disturb the seal of a respirator, causing air leaks. Cheap is not always better!

Instruction and Training

Ensure that you provide suitable instruction and training doe your staff on the following:

Why PPE needs to be worn, what they are being protected from and the benefits and potential consequences with not wearing PPE.

How to wear the PPE correctly.

How to clean, maintain and store the PPE.

How to undertake checks for faults and the procedures for reporting any faults; and exchanging or obtaining new PPE.

Monitoring and Review

Carry out regular checks on PPE to ensure that it is being used, maintained and checked. If it isn’t, find out why not.

Use safety signs to designate mandatory PPE areas remind people that it should be worn.

Ensure that you regularly review PPE requirements when there are any changes in equipment, materials and methods – you may need to update what you provide.

Undertake occupational health monitoring where necessary as this acts as an early indication of things going wrong.

About Callidus

Callidus are a friendly, no nonsense health and safety consultancy based in Leeds. Founded in 2009 Callidus provide project management, health and safety consultancy and health and safety training. We help organisations plan for success, protect their interests and perform to their best potential.