PPE is anything used or worn by someone to reduce a risk to their health and safety. PPE may include overalls, footwear, gloves, chemical resistant glasses, hearing protection, face shields, hard hats, respirators and air-supplied respiratory equipment.
Is PPE the best choice?
In most circumstances, you should not rely on PPE as a control measure against hazards. It should only be used:
- as a last resort when you have used all other reasonably practicable control measures and the risk has still not been eliminated
- as interim protection until higher level controls are in place
- as a back up measure supplementing other higher level controls (for example, in high risk activities such as spray-painting, abrasive blasting and some emergency response actions.
Is PPE effective?
The effectiveness of PPE relies heavily on:
- workers following instructions and procedures for wearing/using the PPE correctly
- the PPE fitting correctly
- the PPE being properly maintained.
Workers might avoid using PPE if it:
- must be used for long periods
- interferes with clear vision needed for the task
- makes it difficult to perform fine work
- is hot or uncomfortable to wear
- if they have not been properly trained on how to fit and use it correctly.
The best way to know if this is happening is to watch your workers performing their tasks. If they discard the PPE or do not use it, this may indicate that it doesn’t fit, is uncomfortable, or interferes with their work. You should also watch workers after the task is complete to make sure they clean, maintain and store the PPE correctly.
Choosing the PPE
PPE must be suitable for the task being performed. Examples include:
- choosing the right chemical-resistant gloves that offer the best resistance to the chemical being used. Some gloves may be resistant to some solvents but not to others
- using a full-face, air-fed respirator rather than a half-face respirator during spray-painting operations, to reduce exposure to hazardous chemicals like isocyanates, which can cause skin and respiratory allergic reactions
- selecting a hard hat that has the option to add either a thermal liner for cold work, or a neck and ear shield to reduce UV exposure for outdoor work
- making sure high visibility garments really are hi-vis, and not faded through use.
If you’re a Person Conducting a Business or Undertaking (PCBU), you must ensure any PPE required at your workplace is:
- selected to reduce risk to health and safety
- suitable for the type of work being done, and any hazard associated with the work
- of suitable size and fit and reasonably comfortable for the worker who will use or wear it
- maintained, repaired and replaced so it continues to effectively protect the worker
- kept clean and hygienic, and in good working order.
- provide the worker with suitable PPE
- give information, training and instruction in the proper use, storage and maintenance of the PPE
- make sure the PPE is maintained, repaired or replaced as necessary
- most importantly, make sure your workers USE their PPE!
If you’re a worker, contractor or other person at a workplace you must, so far as you are reasonably able to:
- use or wear the PPE provided to you according to any information, training or instruction given
- not intentionally misuse or damage the equipment
- report any loss or damage to your manager.
If your PPE is uncomfortable, doesn’t fit properly or causes an adverse reaction when using it, tell your manager.
Visitors must also wear PPE as instructed by the PCBU while on site.