Personal Protective Equipment

Selecting the right protective kit for a job requires a thorough knowledge of the risks involved.

Why is PPE needed?
Many aspects of horticultural work involve working in harsh conditions and using hazardous products or sharp tools and machinery. Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is equipment worn or held at work that protects against health-and-safety risks. Many items of PPE are hazard-specific.

When should PPE be worn?
All tasks should be assessed for potential risks to determine the safest types of products, tools or machinery to be used. Where alternative means or controls are not available or impractical, the risk assessment will indicate the most appropriate PPE to be used. It may be necessary to seek advice from a health-and-safety consultant or from the manufacturers of the PPE.

What are the regulations?
The main requirement of the PPE at Work Regulations 1992 is that PPE be supplied wherever there are risks to health and safety that cannot be controlled in other ways.

Who should supply the PPE?
Employers and the self-employed have a duty to provide appropriate PPE and ensure it is used, cleaned, stored, maintained and checked as required. Employers also need to provide users with the necessary instruction and training to use and care for the PPE. Employees should report any loss, damage or defects to their supervisor and employer. PPE must be replaced as required or as indicated by the manufacturer.

What are the main assessment factors?
L    Check that it prevents or adequately controls the risk.
L    Check the PPE is well-made, of suitable materials, conforms to the relevant standards and is CE marked.
L    Check the PPE is the correct size or can be adjusted to fit and be comfortable.
L    Check the user’s state of health.
L    Consider the demands of the job in terms of freedom of movement, visibility, communication and comfort.
L    Where multiple PPE items are required, such as visor and ear defenders, ensure they are compatible.

How do you know if a product is up to the job?
PPE must be to an approved standard. Check the specifications before deciding which products to purchase. For instance, the specifications for boots will identify the strength of the steel toecap, the depth of tread, resistance to oil and chemicals, heat tolerance and, in some cases, the amount of flex.
Products for chainsaw users will detail the resistance to being cut.

Why is size important?
If clothing is too large it may become snagged in machinery. Too tight, and movement may be restricted and work become tiring. Badly fitting boots can damage the feet and spine — in addition to not providing optimum grip. The wrong size of gloves may also mean insufficient grip on tools and machinery.

Can PPE be shared?
It may seem a good way of saving money, but equipment should never be shared. For starters, although regular cleaning will help keep levels low, PPE is likely to be contaminated with bacteria. Ear defenders are a particular problem, especially when worn on hot days, and disease can be spread easily between users. More importantly, PPE is personal to the user. Not only has it been selected as the best fit for that person, but it is the user who will be familiar with it and know how it has been maintained, when it was last checked and whether it is awaiting repair or about to be condemned.

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