Personal Protective Equipment, also known as PPE, is a simple and easy way to help protect your staff whilst at work. PPE is any protective equipment
or clothing that is worn at work to reduce the effect of potential workplace hazards. PPE is used to protect from a wide range of hazards including -
Injuries to hands or skin, e.g. dealing with chemicals, sharp objects or waste products
Injuries to eyes, e.g. splashes from hot or dangerous liquids or flying particles
Injuries to head or feet, e.g. falling objects
Injuries to lungs, e.g. breathing in harmful dusts
The weather, often for comfort, but also instances where physical protection is required
This type of equipment not only protects workers from physical injuries, it can protect them from developing serious ongoing health issues later in life, e.g. breathing problems from inhalation of fumes & gases.
Whilst providing this protection is simple and effective, it should not be seen as a shortcut to protecting staff when other control measures should be in place eg avoiding the need for staff to be involved in a process. As a reminder, PPE provided should only be given as a last resort when you have considered all other methods, e.g. removed the risk or introduced safe systems of work.
Some PPE is relatively easy to provide, e.g. gloves to cleaners, but other equipment needs some consideration before being issued, especially if the activity is dangerous. The Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992 were introduced to force employers to consider the provision of PPE, ensure the right equipment is issued for the activity concerned and staff are trained in how to use, store and keep in good condition.
The law also states that protection equipment should be provided free to employees. When it states free, it must be completely no cost to staff and this includes no refundable deposits or charges to replace equipment when it has been word out.
The staff who are going to use the equipment should be involved in the actual selection as they will have to wear it. If staff find masks, gloves uncomfortable they won't wear them and therefore cause you, as a business owner, a problem. Unfortunately it is no longer acceptable to just issue equipment and leave it for staff to wear, or not. Recent case law now means that any PPE provided needs to be checked by employers that it is being worn otherwise you will be liable not the employee.
Overall Personal Protective Equipment plays a significant role in helping staff from becoming injured or unwell at work. It is an area that is not as simple as it first seems and further work is often required to ensure you are meeting your legal requirements.
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