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PPE – know your responsibilities

Appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) is a must have in today’s highly dynamic construction industry where injury statistics are still too high.

It is an employer’s responsibility to provide employees with the correct PPE wherever there are risks to a workers’ health and safety that cannot be adequately controlled in other ways.

Often there is some confusion about the purchasing of PPE. To make it clear, it is the employer’s responsibility to purchase the appropriate PPE for its workers.

Once employees have been provided with appropriate PPE to carry out their specific roles, employers should provide training on how to use and maintain the PPE correctly.

As soon as training has been provided the employee becomes responsible for maintaining their PPE and must inform their employer if an item needs to be replaced or is damaged.

Educate your staff

One of the main problems faced in the construction industry is that a number of employers or principal contractors dictate PPE to employees without really understanding why they need it.

It is vitally important that bosses understand and explain to their employees why PPE is being used, as misunderstanding can lead to inappropriate protection being used. It can be more dangerous to wear the incorrect PPE on a site than not to wear any at all.

The two most common pieces of PPE used by construction workers are hard hats and safety footwear; however, gloves are also becoming more widely used. Eye protection is also important; you only get one pair of eyes, so they need protecting when required. Dust can also be harmful on some construction sites in which case face masks may need to be used.

Whatever the job, the correct fitting equipment must be worn. Employers need to ensure that they are not just generic pieces of equipment - dusk masks need to be bespoke to each person’s face.

If employers are not providing the correct PPE equipment to employees on a construction site, then they could be liable if the employee is injured.

The most important thing to remember is that PPE must be appropriate. Don’t just wear it because it looks right, but make sure it is fit for purpose and that you know why you are wearing it.

John Lacey is the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) construction group chair

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