personal protective equipment

Personal protective equipment general knowledge

What is personal protective equipment?

Personal protective equipment (PPE) is clothing and equipment worn by employees, students, contractors or visitors to protect or shield their bodies from workplace hazards.

The regulations also apply to any system placed on the market in conjunction with PPE for its connection to another external, additional device.

Personal protective equipment (PPE) is one of the least effective ways of controlling risks to health and safety and should only be used:

  • when there are no other practical control measures available (as a last resort)
  • as an interim measure until a more effective way of controlling the risk can be used, or
  • to supplement higher level control measures (as a back-up).

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:

Standard of personal protective equipment

The European Directive 89/686/EEC lays down the requirements for CE marking of personal protective equipment (ppe).

CE marking can, in simple terms, be described as a passport or ‘license to sell’ allowing free movement of goods within the internal market of the European Community.

It simplifies the task of market surveillance but also informs all market opera-tors (consumers, manufacturers, tradesmen) that the product meets the essen-tial requirements relating to safety, public health, consumer protection and other specific aspects of community interest laid down in the directives.

Amendments of Dir 89/686/EEC:
93/68/EEC     – CE not EC in text
93/95/EEC     – Products covered
96/58/EEC     – CE mark changes

The Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) Directive 89/686/EEC was adopted by the European Council in 1989 and since that time it has largely remained unchanged. As it’s now over 20 years old, it’s in need of a updating to reflect current technologies and processes of bringing PPE to the market. The draft version of the new Regulation has been approved by the European Commission and Parliament and it is waiting for the text to be agreed by the European Council which is due at the end of 2015. As the changes are made public we will keep you updated and we will support you through the transition. We will provide you with guidelines, useful information and training to help you make this as smooth as possible.

What the key changes of the new standard look like at present:

  • PPE Directive will be replaced by a Regulation
  • A number of types of protection will move from category II (intermediate) to category III (complex)
  • There will be a requirement to supply a declaration of conformity with every item of PPE that is placed on the market
  • A five year certificate of validity is being suggested bringing the Regulation in line with similar European requirements such as the Medical Devices Directive.

How do I choose the right personal protective equipment for the job?

When choosing the right personal protective equipment (PPE) for the job the selection processes must include consultation with users and their representatives and should also include:

  • a detailed evaluation of the risk and performance requirements for the PPE
  • compatibility of PPE items where more than one type of PPE is required (for example ear muffs with a hard hat)
  • consultation with the supplier to ensure PPE is suitable for the work and workplace conditions, and
  • preference for PPE that complies with the relevant Australian Standard or equivalent standard.

Persons conducting a business or undertaking should ensure:

  • personal protective equipment (PPE) is used properly in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions
  • PPE fits correctly and is reasonably comfortable for the worker who is to use or wear it
  • PPE does not interfere with any medical conditions of the worker using the PPE
  • workers are instructed and trained in how to use, maintain and store the PPE
  • appropriate signs are used to remind workers where PPE must be worn, and
  • periodic assessments are carried out to ensure PPE is used properly and is effective.