16 June 2020

PPE: Legal Principles & Government Guidance

The Government has started to ease the lockdown and workers are beginning to return to their workplaces and naturally workers will have concerns and questions:

  • Is it safe to return to work yet?
  • Is my workplace “COVID secure”?
  • Have sufficient health and safety measures been put in place to protect me?
  • What is PPE?
  • What does the law say on PPE?

In this blog, Julian Monk, senior solicitor, looks specifically at PPE.

What is the guiding principle for safety at work?

The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 places a general duty of care on employers to ensure the safety of their employees and those affected by their operations. The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 requires employers to carry out a suitable and sufficient risk assessment of all work activities for the purpose of deciding what measures are necessary for safety.

What is PPE?

Personal Protective Equipment that protects its wearer against health or safety risks at work, e.g. safety helmets, gloves, eye protection, high visibility clothing, safety footwear and safety harnesses. It also includes respiratory equipment.

What is the law on PPE?

The Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992 (as amended) and the Personal Protective Equipment Regulations 2002 set out the main requirements in relation to PPE.

What are the main duties with regard to PPE?

Regulation 4 (1) states: “Every employer shall ensure that suitable personal protective equipment is provided to his employees who may be exposed to a risk to their health and safety while at work except where and to the extent that such risk has been adequately controlled by other means which are equally or more effective”.

Regulation 4 (3) provides that such equipment must be appropriate for the risk or risks involved and the conditions where exposure may occur. So far as practicable, it must be effective to prevent or adequately control the risk involved.

Regulation 6 (1) states: “Before choosing any personal protective equipment… an employer or self-employed person… shall ensure that an assessment is made to determine whether the personal protective equipment he intends will be provided is suitable”.

How do these regulations apply for workers during COVID-19?

Following a risk assessment, if PPE is needed, then the equipment provided will vary depending on the nature of the work done, the place of work and who is involved. This will vary from one employment to another e.g. staff in frontline services in a healthcare setting will need gloves, aprons and screens. Public Health England have set out guidance on different requirements applicable to different personnel.

The Government has given detailed guidance on the use of PPE. For those not working in health and social care, measures such as continuing to work from home, social distancing and self-isolating remain the most effective preventative measures.

Keeping PPE under review

Employers are duty bound to monitor the risk, ensure risk assessment, training and equipment are suitable. Employers must ensure that PPE remains fit for purpose with consideration of its storage, life cycle and disposal to avoid a further risk of infection and contamination.

Our personal injury and clinical negligence lawyers are all members of APIL. If you need any help or advice, please get in touch with Domini David or Julian Monk.

our lawyers deliver an excellent quality service, independently recognised by The Law Society and our many returning clients.

Skip to content