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Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

31 March 2023

Personal Protective Equipment, or short PPE, is according to the Hierarchy of Risk Controls the last control method used to control risk. According to the Health and Safety Authority (HSA):

“Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) means any device or appliance designed to be worn or held by an individual for protection against one or more health and safety hazards. Respiratory Protective Equipment Respiratory Protective Equipment (RPE) is a particular type of Personal Protective Equipment, used to protect the individual wearer against inhalation of hazardous substances in the workplace air.”

In other words, PPE includes any equipment or clothing intended to be held or worn by people at work to offer protection against identified problems.

Where more than one item of PPE is required to be used simultaneously, e.g. hearing defenders and safety helmet, the items must be compatible and must not interfere with the level of protection offered by the individual items. Many manufacturers offer integrated systems which might be used provided they abide to certain rules.

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE ) must be provided free of charge by employers – employers cannot pass on to employees any financial costs associated with duties relating to safety, health and welfare at work. 


Personal Protective (PPE) Rules

Safety, Health and Welfare at Work (General Application) Regulations 2007 , Part 2 Chapter 3 covers Use of Personal Protective Equipment at work. Broadly speaking all Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) must:

  • Be suitable to protect against the risk and fir properly.
  • Give adequate protection.
  • Be compatible with other equipment worn.
  • Carry a CE mark.
  • Be cleaned and maintained regularly and be replaced if worn or broken. This includes changing filters, eye shields, etc. as necessary.
  • Be thoroughly cleaned or washed, before removal if contaminated to avoid accidental contact by user.
  • Be correctly stored in a well ventilated and clean area.
  • Be worn (employers may take disciplinary action against employees who do not wear required PPE).

Personal protective Equipment (PPE) must meet certain EU requirements and standards which confirm it meets specified safety and various test criteria. Generally PPE that carries CE mark will meet these criteria.

European Union (Personal Protective Equipment) Regulations 2018 provide that PPE may not be placed on the market or brought into service unless it complies with basic health and safety requirements. It is deemed to be in conformity with the Regulations if it bears the CE mark”.

It should always be remembered that PPE does not change the hazard in any way. Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) offers protection for the wearer only.


Types of Personal protective Equipment (PPE)

When a Risk Assessment indicates that PPE should be used, it is important to choose the right type to protect different parts of the body.

Some of the types of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) are:

  • Helmets – protects head. Usually used in construction, mining and other groundwork or work where there are risks of falling objects.
  • Visors and face shields – protects face. Usually used by welding and foundry workers (molten metal splashes).
  • Goggles and glasses – protects eyes. Usually used for welding work with lasers, woodwork, or all these activities where there is a risk of flying fragments or chemical splashes.
  • Plugs, muffs and helmets – protects ears. Usually used for work in noisy environments, e.g. heavy duty drilling and/or hammering and noisy machine rooms.
  • Gloves (rubber, chain mail) – protects hands. Used for work involving the handling of hazardous substances, chainsaws, knives saws, hot/cold items, rough wood, etc.
  • Respiratory Protective Equipment (RPE) – used to protect respiratory system. Work in unhealthy atmospheres and/or involving exposure to hazardous substances and work producing substantial quantities of dust. Respiratory Protective Equipment (RPE) not worn or selected appropriately is totally ineffective. In addition, it may give the user a false sense of protection. For further guidance or RPE see Health and Safety Authority – Respiratory Protective Equipment.
  • Clothing (high visibility/thermal, cut resistant, safety harness, etc.) – protects the body. Usually used for work involving risks of splashing or other contamination. It is also used for work with chainsaws (arms and legs) or ionising radiation, etc. It is also used for work where there is a risk of falling.
  • Safety boots and gaiters (toe protectors, insulating footwear) – usually used for work where there is a risk of splashing or of falling objects. In addition, it is used for work with live electricity.

Personal protective Equipment (PPE) should only be used if the hazard cannot be controlled any other way.


Training in Use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

All employees required to use Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) must be provided with suitable information, instruction and training (including training in the use, care or maintenance of PPE) to enable them to make proper and effective use of any PPE provided for their protection.


Further Guidance on the Requirements of the Personal Protective Equipment Regulations

For additional guidance on the requirements of the Personal Protective Equipment Regulations, please refer to the relevant Personal Protective Equipment Guidance to the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work (General Application) Regulations 2007.


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