Personal protective equipment (PPE) is clothing and equipment worn by employees, students, contractors or visitors to protect or shield their bodies from workplace hazards.
Section 19 of the Occupational Safety and Health Act 1984 sets out the obligation of an employer 'where it is not practicable to avoid the presence of hazards at the workplace, [to] provide the employees with, or otherwise provide for the employees to have, such adequate personal protective clothing and equipment as is practicable to protect them against those hazards, without any cost to the employees'.
- Codes of Practice: First Aid Facilities and Services, Workplace Amenities and Facilities, Personal Protective Clothing and Equipment 2002, provides guidance on the selection, provision and use of personal protective equipment and requirements for specific hazards.
- Occupational Safety and Health Regulations 1996 also provide guidance.
In the hierarchy of controls (elimination, substitution, engineering, administration and PPE), personal protective equipment is considered the least satisfactory method in the prevention of work-related injury or illness and is only to be used when other measures are not feasible or cannot be implemented immediately. PPE should be used, however, to supplement or augment other means of hazard control, to further minimise the risk of injury.
Issues affecting use of PPE include discomfort and inconvenience, and inappropriate or poorly maintained equipment. It is vital that problems caused by inadequate selection, fit and maintenance do not undermine the effectiveness of the equipment.
Types of personal protective equipment
PPE can be considered in the following categories, based on the type of protection afforded by the equipment:
- Respiratory protection - for example, disposable, cartridge, air line, half or full face
- Eye protection – for example, spectacles/goggles, shields, visors
- Hearing protection – for example, ear muffs and plugs
- Hand protection – for example, gloves and barrier creams
- Foot protection – for example, shoes/boots
- Head protection – for example, helmets, caps, hoods, hats
- Working from heights - for example, harness and fall arrest devices
- Skin protection – for example, hats, sunburn cream, long sleeved clothes
- Other personal protective equipment: This may include PPE for specific tasks such disposable clothing for working with chemicals, radiation hazards, welding, painting. Examples include: lead aprons for x-ray protection; sleeve protectors, aprons, coveralls when using chemicals; leather jackets, trousers and spats for welding; thermal and cold protective clothing for work near furnaces and cool rooms.
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Responsibilities for equipment
Management must ensure that:
- the needs for PPE are assessed by a person who is competent to judge whether other methods of risk control can offer better protection of safety and health than the provision of PPE
- professional advice is obtained, where necessary, to identify the most suitable types of PPE for the tasks to be carried out
- training is provided to supervisors and employees to enable them to ensure the proper selection, fit, use, cleaning and maintenance of PPE
- supervision and enforcement of the PPE policy is undertaken
- evaluation of the effectiveness of the PPE program is carried out on a regular basis
- suitable PPE is provided for visitors who may be exposed to hazards in the workplace. At UWA this includes students where appropriate. Equipment shall be properly cleaned before re-issue
- all equipment complies with current relevant Australian Standards and should be stamped or labelled with an AS compliance marking. Existing PPE shall be re-assessed regularly to ensure compliance.
According to Occupational Safety and Health Regulations 1996 regulation 3.35, employees:
- must use the protective clothing or equipment in a manner in which he or she has been properly instructed to use it
- must not misuse or damage the clothing or equipment, and
- must, as soon as practicable after becoming aware of any
notify the person providing the clothing or equipment of the damage, malfunction or need to clean or sterilise the clothing or equipment.
- damage to
- malfunction of, or
- need to clean or sterilise, the clothing or equipment
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Sources of more detailed information
Up to date information on relevant codes can be accessed through SAI Global. Contact Safety and Health for further information if required.
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