SAFed Health and Safety Passport Scheme

Module 13 — Personal Protective Equipment  

13.1     Introduction

This document forms one of a series of modules on various health and safety subjects that comprise the examinable material considered necessary for the award of the SAFed Health and Safety Passport.

When you have studied this module you should have acquired sufficient knowledge to be able to complete the questions detailed at the end of the module.  Upon satisfactory completion of all modules, you will be eligible to undertake the final assessment for the award of the SAFed Health and Safety Passport.

The SAFed Health and Safety Passport is issued to Engineer Surveyors by the Health and Safety Manager of their employing company upon satisfactory completion of the Safety Passport final assessment.

The award of the SAFed Health and Safety Passport provides evidence that the holder of the Passport has the appropriate knowledge and awareness in health and safety matters considered necessary for an Engineer Surveyor to undertake the duties for which they are authorised by their employing company.

The passport is valid for a maximum of three years.

13.2     Key Objectives

Having studied this module you should have an awareness of:

·         Legislation applicable to Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

·         Responsibilities for the provision and wearing of PPE

This module is specifically focussed on personal protective equipment with respect to the responsibilities for provision and wearing of such equipment as well the type of equipment available.

PPE is defined, in the regulations, as ‘all equipment (including clothing affording protection against the weather) which is intended to be worn or held by a person at work and which protects him against one or more risks to his health or safety’.

13.3     Legal commentary

The aim of the Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) at Work Regulations 1992 is to ensure that certain basic duties governing the provision and use of PPE apply to all situations where PPE is required.

13.4     Discussion

An employers’ responsibility is to identify specific risks and to eliminate those risks at source if possible.  If that cannot be accomplished then the risks should be reduced and controlled by engineering methods such as isolation or local exhaust ventilation.  When these controls are insufficient then adequate personal protective equipment should be provided.

13.5     Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

Because the effectiveness of PPE can be easily compromised e.g. by not being worn properly, it should always be considered as the last resort.

Not only should this equipment be provided free of charge the employer should also ensure that adequate training has been provided in its use, care and limitations.

It is your responsibility to look after it, inspect it before use, and use it when required to do so and change it when it is defective.

PPE should be clean and fit correctly and it must be suitable to combat the hazards for the wearer and the job being undertaken.

13.5.1  Type of Equipment

PPE protects different vulnerable areas against different hazards:

Area of Body — Whole body

Hazard — Temperature extremes, adverse weather, chemical or metal splash, pressure sprays, impact, contaminated dust

PPE — Conventional or disposable overalls, boiler suits, chain mail aprons, high visibility clothing  

Area of Body — Eyes

Hazard — Chemical or metal splash, dust, projectiles, gas and vapour, radiation

PPE —Glasses, goggles, face screen

Area of Body — Head & Neck

Hazard — Impact from falling or flying objects, risk of head bumping

PPE — Helmets, bump caps

Area of Body — Breathing / Lungs

Hazard — Dust, vapour, gas, oxygen deficiency

PPE — Disposable face mask or respirator, half/full face respirators, air fed helmets, breathing apparatus

Area of Body — Ears / Hearing

Hazard — Noise

PPE — Ear defenders, plugs

Area of Body — Hands

Hazard — Abrasion, temperature extremes, cuts, impact, chemicals, electric shock, skin infection, disease or contamination

PPE — Barrier cream, gloves, gauntlets, mitts, wrist cuffs

Area of Body — Feet / Legs

Hazard — Wet, electrostatic build up, slips, cuts, falling objects, metal and chemical splash

PPE — Safety boots and shoes with steel toe caps (and mid steel sole), gaiters, leggings

13.5.2  Choice of PPE

When deciding what PPE should be worn there are essentially three aspects that should be considered:

·         The workplace — What sort, and how big, are the risks that remain after all other controls?  What is an acceptable level of exposure to that risk?

·         The environment — Are there any physical constraints that should be considered?  What movement is required by the individual? Are there any temperature or ventilation issue that should be considered?

·         The PPE wearer — Has he been trained adequately? Does the equipment fit? Does the PPE interfere with the work being carried out?

Many sites will adopt an approach where signs are positioned at the entry points to certain areas that require a particular level of PPE:

Ear Protection must be worn:
Eye Protection must be worn
Head Protection must be worn:

13.5.3  Description of PPE

Body protection

Your employer will supply suitable types of polyester and cotton boiler suits or overalls.  If you are working where you may be in contact with asbestos, or other contaminated dust, then disposable overalls should also be provided which should be discarded through the specialist disposal systems available at the clients’ sites.

Special care should be taken in areas of high flammable gases or vapours where there is likely to be a risk of static electricity build up.  Ensure that all overalls have been washed before use for the first time and do not enrobe or disrobe in such areas as this is likely to be time when a static spark could be generated.

You should also be provided, by your employer, with specialist protective equipment for working outside in poor weather as well as high visibility clothing which is becoming routinely required on many sites.

Clothing can limit or restrict movement and also present an entanglement risk so careful selection of type of clothing is required.

Eye protection

There are three types of eye protection commonly available. The selection of which type will depend on the potential hazard that is present:

·         Safety glasses — Provide protection against low-energy projectiles.  They are generally sized to fit over prescription glasses if worn and so maybe easily dislodged.

·         Safety goggles — These offer a higher degree of protection than glasses.  They will offer some protection against dust and high energy projectiles.

·         Face shield — These provide full face protection.  They are not normally provided as standard equipment and maybe provided by the client if required.

Head protection

This level of protection is generally provided by either a safety helmet or a ‘bump’ cap.  Bump caps do not provide the same level of protection from falling objects as the helmet.

If your helmet has been subjected to sever impact it should be replaced even though damage may not be readily apparent.

The expected life span of a safety helmet, under normal conditions, is 4 years.  The date of manufacture is stamped inside the helmet and you have the responsibility of ensuring that a replacement is made before the expiry date.

Exposure to heat and/or sunlight can make the material of the helmet become brittle.  Care should be taken as to how and where the helmet is stored e.g. do not store your helmet in the rear window of your car.

Breathing protection

For work in places with a known or suspected hazardous dust, mist, metal fume, gas or vapour you should wear a suitable respirator.  The main types of respirator that are commonly available are:

·         Filtering half mask — Basically a face mask that covers the mouth and nose only.  They are made from a filtering material which removes the contaminants.

·         Half mask respirator — These have a rubber face piece and are fitted with removable filter cartridges.  Good hygiene standards must be maintained to ensure that the respirator continues to provide optimum protection.

·         Full face respirator — These are similar to the half mask respirators however they cover the eyes, nose and mouth.

·         Powered respirator — These provide a supply of clean filtered air.  This equipment listed does not provide protection against oxygen deficient atmospheres and specialist equipment such as self contained breathing apparatus should be provided by the client.

Ear protection — The main types of hearing protection are:

·         Earplugs — These fit into the ear canal and can be made from a variety of materials such as polyurethane foam, rubber or glass down.  They are generally disposable, however where re-usable plugs are supplied special care should be taken to avoid hygiene problems.

·         Earmuffs — These consist of rigid cups which completely cover the ears, and are held in place by a head band.  The cups are filled with sound absorbing material.  The protective value of ear muffs may be lost entirely if objects such as hats or glasses intrude under or past the acoustic seals around the cups.

Hand protection

Gloves give general protection from cuts and abrasions.  They must be carefully selected, taking account of such things as comfort, degree of dexterity required, ability to grip and the degree of protection provided.

Hazards from actually wearing the gloves should also be considered such as entanglement in moving parts of machinery.

It should also be noted that the wearing of gloves should not be used as a substitute for safe practices e.g. do not run ropes through your hands even when gloves are being worn.

Foot protection

Safety shoes or boots (fitted with protective toe caps) are designed to provide protection for the feet, especially for the toes.  They should be regularly inspected for condition, particularly the soles.  When in good condition they are an effective means of preventing slips, trips or falls.

They may have mid sole steel plates as protection from penetration by sharp objects from beneath the sole of the foot.

13.6     End of module and next steps

Well done!  By reaching this point you will have finished studying this particular module.  You should now have sufficient knowledge to answer the questions contained at the end of the module.

Answers to the questions should be forwarded to your Health and Safety Manager.

Provided that you have answered the questions correctly, your Health and Safety Manager will forward to you your next self study module.

Click here to answer questions on Module 13