Whose Responsibility Is It to Provide PPE?

Posted on written by Sam Barton

Every job comes with a degree of risk however in certain occupations working with hazardous materials or in dangerous conditions is much more common.

In November 2017, we looked at the latest statistics from the Health and Safety Executive. It showed that there were over 70,000 injuries reported by employers in 2016-17 and while this was a slight decrease on the year before, it still amounts to a sizable number. In many cases using proper Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) can significantly reduce the risk of certain incidents causing injury.

In this weeks’ blog, we are going to explore PPE, what it is and what the law says that an employer must provide for employee’s.

What Is Personal Protective Equipment?

In short, Personal Protective Equipment or PPE as it is generally known as is a measure to protect employees from a wide range of potentially dangerous materials or activities in the workplace.

You can read a short history of PPE here.

PPE can range from hard hats, specialised clothing or masks that might only be used in certain scenarios. Even though in many workplaces PPE is vital to protect an employee from harm, where does the onus lie on providing this equipment? Is it up to the employer or is it the employee themselves?

Does an Employer Have To Provide PPE?

The law is fairly straightforward for the most part when it comes to Personal Protective Equipment. There are even regulations called the Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations (1992) that set this out quite clearly.

“Every employer shall ensure that suitable personal protective equipment is provided to his employees who may be exposed to a risk to their health or 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)

So, if the risk to health and safety cannot be nullified without using PPE, then an employer needs to provide certain equipment to their workers. Furthermore, if we look at Section 9 of the Health and Safety at Work Act (1974), an employer can’t charge for PPE if it is only used for the purposes of work so an employee should never have to pay for hard hats or certain protective clothing if it is necessary to keep them safe whilst doing their job.

What About Agency Workers & the Self-Employed?

There are many misconceptions when it comes to agency workers and PPE.

Some employers don’t technically class agency workers as employees however even though they paid by an agency as soon as they commence work they are deemed an employee and have to be supplied with PPE the same as everyone else.

Self-employed workers are a little bit different. Unless the person who is self-employed is solely working with one employer on a full-time basis then they have to provide their own PPE that meets the required standard of that workplace.

Personal Protective Equipment has a broad scope and covers a wide range of different things that are designed to keep workers safe.

The HSE have a guide on PPE that looks at what types of equipment are required in certain situations.

Have you ever had problems with getting PPE at work? What about if you were an agency worker? Let us know!

Whose responsibility is PPE. Legislation and health and safety surrounding PPE.

10 Responses to “Whose Responsibility Is It to Provide PPE?”

  1. Andrew

    Hi Sam,

    We supply PPE to kitchen staff but some have asked whether they can supply their own, specifically their own whites. We would rather not and maintain control and maintenance/cleaning responsibilities for all PPE but we’re struggling to come up with a legitimate reason other than – ‘we’d prefer you not to’.

    What is the guidance around employees providing their own PPE voluntarily?

    Thanks

    Andrew

    Reply
    • Sam Barton

      Hi Andrew,

      Thank you for leaving a comment. Firstly, this is a problem many organisations have, we see it a lot on construction sites where employees would rather provide their own boots.

      Employees are allowed to provide their own PPE, some organisations will even supplement it based on what they would have paid themselves. However, it is still the employers responsibility to ensure the PPE does the job it is intended to do sufficiently. For some PPE that is pretty easy, for other items it could be more difficult.

      If your team providing their own PPE will require you to check that it is fit for purpose each time (for example making sure it has a CE mark) then that could be a legitimate reason to ask them to use your own. By researching the ideal PPE yourself and providing it you won’t need to check the type of PPE, only that it is still in a suitable condition.

      I hope this helps.
      Sam

      Reply
  2. Michelle Doonan

    my daughter is a care worker and has to wear gloves when she is with clients, she cannot wear the latex gloves due to having sensitive skin, she has spoken to her employer and they are using everything possible not to get nitrile gloves in for her, excuses like to expensive, ppe supplies are short, they have said she needs to buy her own gloves, what do you advise

    Reply
    • Sam Barton

      Hi Michelle,

      If your daughter is an employee and not self-employed her employer will need to provide PPE (if deemed necessary in their risk assessment of the task) and they cannot charge for it.

      Most employers would make reasonable adjustments at the employee request but if they are hesitant you may need to show evidence that the existing PPE isn’t suitable. If you can show that the existing PPE isn’t suitable it is the employers responsibility to make other arrangements.

      I’d always suggest working with an employer to solve the problem, perhaps you could do some research to find some competitively priced and available gloves that would suit. Ultimately though if they refuse a reasonable change they are in breach of health and safety regulations.

      All the best,
      Sam

      Reply
  3. Jason Beck

    Hi Sam

    We are currently on a project with numerous sub contractors and specialist trades, on a daily basis, operatives arrive minus Safety Helmets expecting to be supplied them. from reading the article above it is the their Employers responsibility to supply?, we do supply to operatives directly employed by ourselves,

    As the main contractor on site is it our responsibility to supply PPE to these outside Contractors not directly organised or employed by ourselves?

    Regards

    Jason

    Reply
    • Sam Barton

      Hi Jason,

      Yes it is their employers responsibility to provide it, if you have risk assessments that require PPE you shouldn’t let them work without it.

      I’d suggest speaking with the employers to ensure they understand their responsibilities. I’ve linked to the HSE guidance below.

      HSE Guidance

      Regards,
      Sam

      Reply
  4. Liam Harding

    Hi sam.
    I work in the Arboriculture industry as a climber (employed) My employer provides PPE but myself and many other members of staff are unhappy with the quality of the PPE provided, to be blunt….the ppe is sh*t, bottom of the range and as cheap as can be, this also includes climbing kits. I’ve put forward providing my own kit and paying for it so i know exactly whats in the bag and i feel safer and more efficient climbing with this kit. I have told him i will provide loler certificates for his own records but he says he would rather me use the one provided. This has become a ongoing battle with members of staff who are fed up with using bottom of the range kit provided when our lives are on the line using it.

    Reply
    • Sam Barton

      Hi Liam,

      Sorry to hear about your situation, you should never be made to feel unsafe in the workplace.

      Can you find out more regarding your PPE? Perhaps from the manufacturer, if you can show it’s not suitable for the work you are completing your employer will need to reconsider their approach to making the task safe.

      Unfortunately, if your employer believes it to be safe and fit for purpose and has evidence for that. From the manufacturer for example. Then they are meeting their requirements. That said, they do have a responsibility to do what is reasonable to make you feel safe. It might be worth speaking with them to find out why they use the PPE they use, and why they aren’t happy with the PPE you suggested.

      It sounds as though you may have already tried that though, in which case you may have limited options, going above your manager could help. If there is no one above to speak with you could seek some advice regarding employment, The Citizens Advice Bureau will be a good place to start.

      Again, I’m very sorry to hear about your situation, you’re doing exactly what the HSE want employees to do, having conversations and an input into their H&S. It’s often more complicated than that in the real world though.

      All the best,
      Sam

      Reply
  5. Walter

    Hi Sam,
    I work as a care worker and I need to wear gloves, masks, aprons when supporting clients, when I inform management of ppe running out they ask me to go to the office 20mins away to collect it myself, is that good practice or it should be supplied by the employer at the place of work?

    Reply
    • Sam Barton

      Hi Walter,

      Thank you for commenting.

      Your employer has to provide PPE and they have to store it correctly. They could probably argue that the office is a suitable place to store the PPE and they are still providing it for you. That said, it’s pretty inefficient you wasting time to collect it. I’d recommend you speak with them, explain how you feel it’s a waste of time and perhaps make a suggestion for where it could be stored closer to your work. They may have a good reason for why it isn’t already stored there but an open conversation can often bring good results.

      Good luck and stay safe.
      Sam

      Reply

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