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 also has a handy 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.

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

  1. kevin.monks

    I work in all weathers for an agency and do not get p.p.e, supplied . I would like to know they responsible for supplying it to me.

    • Nisha Dhingra

      Hi Kevin,

      Thank you for your comment. The HSE states “For temporary workers, in many cases the employment business would be the employer and would be responsible for ensuring any necessary protective equipment is provided”. As a result, I would advise you to speak with your agency, as the business your working under should provide you with PPE equipment. If you would like further information on HSE regulations on PPE please click here.

      I hope I have been able to help.

      Kind regards,


  2. Peter Clements

    do full time students have to provide their own PPE? Or is the College obliged to provide it?

    • Sam Barton

      Hi Peter,

      The organisation controlling the site so probably school management has a duty to keep people on the site safe. Typically an employer would provide PPE in line with their risk assessments to their employees and they are required to by law.

      With students, it’s a little more of a grey area. If you are an employee they’d have to provide it if you were a visitor they could say you can only come on to their site if you wear it and provide it yourself.

      Ultimately if you feel unsafe performing a task you should stop and speak to someone about that. If they won’t provide PPE you should have a conversation about that too. On the plus side, if you ultimately purchase PPE yourself it belongs to you and you can take it into the workplace as a self-employed tradesperson or similar.

      Good luck with your training and all the best.



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