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What is PPE and when should it be provided?

View profile for Rosie Reynolds
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Often when we think of personal protective equipment, we have visions of hard hats, steel toe capped boots and high-visibility vests. However, PPE is relevant in a whole host of situations outside a building site.

We are hearing a lot about PPE across the news at the moment in relation to our frontline workers who are facing the threat of Covid-19. Protective equipment is more important than ever to ensure we avoid transmission of the virus as much as possible to our key workers.

The Personal Protective Equipment Regulations 1992 impose a duty on employers to ensure their staff are provided with and are trained to use appropriate protective equipment to mitigate health and safety risks, where such risks cannot be avoided in any other way.

In light of the current unprecedented situation in the UK, it is more important than ever that our key workers know how to keep themselves safe, and that they should have access to the equipment needed to protect them as much as possible. This is of course not limited to the NHS but all our key workers who are helping the country function through this period, including but not limited to the police force, postal workers, refuse collection teams, delivery/courier drivers and supermarket workers.

Not only do employers have a duty to provide this equipment, but they must ensure that it is correct for its intended purpose, well-fitting and that staff are trained in how to use it.

It is also important to note that there are other health and safety regulations which may be particularly relevant at this time. The health and safety “six-pack” refers to a set of regulations which provide guidance regarding our safety at work. In addition to PPE these refer to the Management of Health and Safety at Work, Manual Handling Operations Regulations, Display Screen Equipment Regulations, Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations and the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations.

In order for key workers to continue caring and providing for us, they have to put their own health at risk. The least we can do is ensure they are receiving all safeguards and protections possible to protect them. Although the situation is of course unprecedented, this does not mean that workers should compromise their right to protection.