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Why is PPE Important in the Workplace?

We should never ignore the importance of PPE in the workplace. To understand how important it is, we need to understand what it is. The definition of personal protective equipment (AKA: PPE) is any items of safety equipment that protects the wearer against potential occupational health and safety risks.

It is legally required for most industries such as construction, agriculture, and engineering. Protective equipment required by law will differ according to the wearer’s working conditions. 

Read on to find the importance of personal protective clothing.

Why is it Important to Wear PPE in the Workplace?

According to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), it is important that we make the workplace as safe as possible. There should be instructions and procedures in place, and employees should have adequate training and supervision. But even after these safety systems have been applied, some hazards might remain.

The Risks of Not Using Workplace Safety Equipment:

Injury to the...

  • Lungs - from breathing contaminated air.
  • Head and feet - from falling items.
  • Eyes - from debris and waste in the air or emitted from powertools etc.
  • Skin - from contact with corrosive substances.
  • Body - from extreme heat or cold.

PPE is the last level of protection in the workplace. The protective equipment forms a final barrier between your employees and the occupational hazards they face daily. It is important you choose the safety and protective wear carefully to safeguard your employees against specific dangers. In addition, train your workers to use their personal protection equipment correctly and teach them how to identify and report any faults.

What are the Different Types of PPE and their Uses?

Eye and Face Protection

Manchester Royal Eye Hospital worked with Manchester University to create a general information leaflet on eye safety (revised in September 2019). Their findings were:

  • 90% of all eye injuries could have been prevented.
  • 3/5 workers were not wearing their PPE
  • 40% of all workers were found to be wearing the wrong type of eye protection

Protective eye equipment shields not only the wearer’s eyes, it can also protect their face too. An example of eye and face protection in construction is a face shield which protects you against a variety of hazards. Such as: chemical splashes, dust, gas and even radiation.

Different types of eye protection safeguard against different hazards. It is important your choice is suitable for the job role.

Safety Gloves

According to the HSE, there has been an increase in incidences of contact dermatitis in construction workers. In addition, carpal tunnel syndrome can also affect construction workers.

Personal protective equipment gloves will safeguard your employees’ hands and arms from: abrasions, extreme temperatures, cuts, punctures, electric shocks, chemicals, vibrations and more.

Different gloves offer varying levels of personal protection. You need to consider the hazards in your workplace to make a suitable choice.

Here's our guide on hand safety and all our guides on safety gloves

Head Protection

According to a 2016 Labour Force Survey (LFS), of the 5,055 non-fatal injuries reported between 2016 and 2017 for the construction industry, 13 percent were due to being struck by falling objects.

HSE have reported 71,062 non-fatal injuries were reported in 2017/2018 and 10% of these injuries were because of being struck by a moving object.

Hard hats (or Safety Helmets) protect the wearer from the impact of falling or flying objects and from hair getting caught in machinery. They are also colour coded for different job roles.

Bump caps protect the wearer from "bumps", so are perfect for working under vehicles. Hard Hats and Bump Caps are not the same and have different uses.

High Visibility Clothing

Hi-vis clothing such as vests, jackets and trousers are essential equipment to keep your workers safe and seen on site. This type of safety protective clothing ensures that your employees can be easily seen in a variety of light conditions, from low light to broad daylight.

A Hi Vis vest is one of the most popular types of high-visibility clothing and there are different things to consider when you are picking them for your construction team. For starters, there are different levels of protection, based on the type of clothing and level of visibility they offer.

High Visibility Classifications:

Class 1 - the lowest level of protection. It should only be worn in minimal risk zones. For example, only wearing Hi Vis trousers.

Class 2 - the intermediate level of protection. More visible in the dark with headlights shining. For example, wearing a Hi Vis vest.

Class 3 - the highest level of protection. For example, wearing a Hi Vis coverall/overall or high visibility vest and trousers.

A Hi Vis vest is a popular choice of high-visibility clothing. It is important you consider the different levels of protection the law requires for your workplace.

You should ensure you know all about the high visibility standards before you buy, as the incorrect hi vis is effectively no hi vis at all.

Respiratory Protection

Respiratory personal protective equipment is a special form of PPE that offers protection for the respiration system.

A 2016 survey conducted by LFS found that of the 80,000 participants, 3,000 construction workers suffered from breathing and lung problems that were caused or made worse by their work. Therefore respiratory protective equipment (RPE) is essential.

HSE have reported an estimated 12,000 people die each year due to occupational lung disease and there are 20,000 new cases that are self-reported.

As with most PPE, the wrong kind of respiratory protection is no protection at all. Learn al you need to know in our guide to FFP1, FFP2 and FP3 here.

Safety Footwear

Of the 5,055 non-fatal injuries reported in the 2016-17 period, construction employees were most likely to suffer from slips, trips and falls. The slip and trip hazard is one of the most prevalent in every industry but is particularly so in construction as there can be a variety of debris littering the floor.

But it is not just slip hazards that can harm your workers. Heavy and sharp items can easily crush or pierce the feet and legs too. It is important that your employees are wearing the appropriate safety foot protection to ensure that their feet and legs are as protected from hazards as the rest of their body.

XAMAX® have some useful guides to safety footwear that includes all the standards, what to look for before you buy and help in choosing the right foot protection for your job roles.

Make Sure Your Workers are Protected

PPE is essential to protect your staff from occupational hazards in the workplace. However, we should only use it as a last resort. Supplying protective equipment is one step towards safeguarding your employees, but it is no substitute for a safe working environment. The first step to safety is to conduct a full risk assessment to identify any dangerous practices. From there, you can make changes for a safer environment so the PPE remains the last line of defence, not the first.