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Changes to employers’ PPE responsibilities now in force

Manual workers working Print publication

12/04/2022

Employers’ responsibilities to workers regarding the provision of personal protective equipment (PPE) changed from 6 April 2022, as Walker Morris Regulatory & Compliance expert Claire Burrows explains.

What has changed?

As the Health and Safety Executive’s guidance page explains, the Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992 place a duty on every employer in Great Britain to ensure that suitable PPE is provided to ‘employees’ who may be exposed to a risk to their health or safety while at work. The Personal Protective Equipment at Work (Amendment) Regulations 2022 came into force on 6 April 2022 and amend the 1992 Regulations by extending duties regarding PPE to ‘limb (b) workers’. The types of duties and responsibilities placed on employers and employees remain unchanged.

A ‘limb (a) worker’ is a worker who has a contract of employment. These workers are already within the scope of the 1992 Regulations and are employees under the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. A ‘limb (b) worker’ is described as a worker who generally has a more casual employment relationship and works under a contract for service. The definition of ‘worker’ in the new Regulations captures both categories.

What does this mean in practice?

If PPE is required (which should be determined following a risk assessment and consideration of the hierarchy of controls to protect against risks to health and safety), employers must ensure that their workers have sufficient information, instruction and training on its use. The limb (b) worker has a duty to use the PPE in accordance with their training and instruction, and to ensure it is returned to the storage area provided by their employer.

If a risk assessment indicates that a limb (b) worker requires PPE to carry out their work activities, the employer must carry out a PPE suitability assessment and provide the PPE free of charge as they do for employees.

The employer is responsible for the maintenance, storage and replacement of any PPE they provide.

What if an employer fails to comply?

The appropriate use of PPE and compliance with the wider obligations set out under the Regulations is a common focus for HSE inspectors, be that during routine inspections, more targeted visits or incident investigations. Failure to comply with the PPE Regulations frequently results in enforcement action against duty holders, sometimes in the form of advice, but often including the service of improvement/prohibition notices and, in serious cases, prosecution that can attract potentially unlimited fines.

Duty holders should familiarise themselves with the new Regulations and refresh their understanding of existing duties under the 1992 Regulations, to ensure ongoing compliance with this important element of health and safety risk management.

Detailed HSE guidance on this subject can be downloaded here. The HSE’s main PPE at work page can be found here.

How we can help

If you need any advice or assistance on the application of the new Regulations, or in relation to any Regulatory & Compliance issue, please contact Claire.

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