Personal protective equipment (PPE)
Personal protective equipment (PPE) is clothing, equipment or substances designed to be worn by someone to protect them from risks of injury or illness. PPE can include:
- hearing protective devices, such as ear muffs and ear plugs
- eye and face protection, such as goggles
- safety helmets and sun hats
- gloves and safety boots
- clothing, such as high visibility vests or life jackets.
PPE is the least effective method of controlling a safety risk and does not control the hazard at the source. Because of this, the control of exposure to risks should be secured by one or more measures other than the provision of personal protective equipment.
PPE should only be used:
- where there are no other practical higher order control measures available (i.e. as a last resort)
- as an interim measure until a more effective way of controlling the risk can be used
- to supplement higher level control measures (as a backup).
Where PPE is to be used, the person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU) who directs the work to be undertaken must ensure the worker is provided with PPE, or ensure that PPE is provided by another PCBU.
When choosing appropriate PPE, consider how the equipment will protect the worker. Relying on PPE alone is not likely to reduce the risk of injuries, but it could reduce the severity of any potential injury.
As an employer, you must ensure that the PPE provided is:
- suitable to the nature of the work and any associated hazards
- suitable in size and fit and reasonably comfortable for the worker who is to use or wear it
- maintained, repaired or replaced to ensure it is in good working order, and clean and hygienic
- used/worn by the worker so far as is reasonably practicable.
A worker must be provided with information, training and instruction in relation to the safe use, storage and maintenance of the PPE and must use the PPE in accordance with the information, training or reasonable instruction.
The worker must not intentionally misuse or damage the PPE and must inform the PCBU of any damage to, defect in or need to clean or decontaminate the PPE of which the worker becomes aware.
The PCBU must also ensure that PPE used or worn by 'other persons' at the workplace is capable of minimising the risks to the person's health and safety and is used or worn by the person.
The PCBU must ensure workers have appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) and must not charge or impose a levy on a worker for the provision of PPE. However there may be circumstances where who pays for it can be negotiated in the workplace.
In deciding who should provide PPE consider:
- the availability of equipment
- whether the equipment can generally be used outside work, such as sunglasses or boots
- the need for a personal fit
- the requirements in the relevant industrial award or enterprise agreement regarding provision of PPE.