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      • Published 24 Jan 2023
      • Last Modified 19 Apr 2024
    • 11 min

    Personal Protective Equipment (PPE): A Complete Guide

    As an employer operating an industrial business, you have a legal duty to protect the health and safety of your employees through the provision of appropriate personal protection equipment (PPE).

    In this guide, we will be examining the different types of PPE equipment available, as well as the principal regulations governing their use. Use it as a reference to help you ensure you are fully compliant with the law and your workers are fully protected by the most suitable PPE for their jobs.

    What is PPE?

    Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is workplace safety gear that protects workers from hazards. PPE includes items like protective visors, reinforced boots, gloves, and masks.

    PPE is important because some workplaces, such as industrial sites and factories, have serious hazards. Even with training and safety practices, accidents, equipment failure, or inattention can cause injuries. Common dangers include heavy objects, corrosive liquids, or air contaminants. Modern, well-designed PPE gear reduces the risk of injury and can make all the difference between a situation in which a worker walks away from an accident and one in which they do not.

    What PPE should employers provide?

    Employers have a legal duty to make suitable, properly maintained workplace safety equipment available to any employees working in potentially hazardous environments. These employees must also be provided with adequate training in the use of the equipment. It must be stored in an accessible location, and if it is not required on a daily basis, employees must be made fully aware of its location for easy access.

    PPE equipment must be regularly checked, and a PPE inspection register must be maintained and kept up to date.Alternatively, employers can demonstrate that the risks have been adequately addressed in other ways.

    How do I determine the appropriate PPE for a specific task or job?

    To select suitable PPE for a task or job, conduct a risk assessment to identify hazards, evaluate risks, and implement control measures. Choose PPE based on its effectiveness, suitability, comfort, and compatibility with the task. Ensure PPE complies with relevant standards and regulations. Consult with workers and experts to get their input and feedback on PPE selection and use.

    Can PPE be shared among multiple employees, or should it be assigned to individuals?

    PPE should ideally be assigned to individuals rather than shared to avoid risks like cross-contamination or damage. If sharing is necessary, thorough cleaning and disinfection before and after each use are vital. Single-use PPE, such as disposable gloves and masks, should never be shared or reused.

    What are employees’ responsibilities for PPE?

    Employees who work in potentially hazardous environments must be supplied with suitable PPE by their employers, along with training in its use, but they also hold some responsibilities themselves under HK Regulations.

    These duties include:

    • Using the safety equipment properly, in accordance with the PPE training they have received.
    • Taking reasonable care of the PPE provided and not attempting unauthorised modifications or repairs.
    • Visually examining PPE equipment before use to try and identify potential faults or developing problems (for example, tears in PPE clothing). They should report any identified issues without delay.
    • Returning the equipment to the proper storage areas after use unless it is normal practice for them to take it home overnight (PPE footwear and clothing, for example).
    • Reporting any loss of PPE equipment immediately so no unnecessary risks are taken in its absence.

    What PPE training should be provided to employees regarding the use of the equipment?

    Employees should receive comprehensive training on the use of PPE, covering topics such as hazard identification, PPE selection, proper fitting and wearing techniques, maintenance procedures, and legal obligations. This training ensures that employees understand the importance of PPE, how to use it effectively, and their responsibilities in maintaining a safe working environment.

    What are the potential consequences of not using or improperly using PPE?

    Not using or improperly using PPE increases the risk of injury, illness, or death from workplace hazards. It also diminishes the effectiveness of the equipment and can lead to legal liabilities, penalties, and reputational harm for employers. Additionally, it adversely affects workplace productivity, reputation, and morale.

    Types of PPE Equipment

    There are many different types of PPE available, intended both for general, daily use and in specialised environments. For example, PPE clothing includes safety helmets, specialist thermal and waterproof clothing - and general workwear like high vis jackets and reinforced footwear.

    Let’s take a look at the most frequently seen types of PPE equipment:

    PPE Boots and Shoes

    PPE Boots and Shoes

    Reinforced, penetration-resistant safety boots and shoes are one of the most fundamental PPE items. They protect feet – and especially toes – from impacts, drops, and abrasive surfaces and they are available in a range of strengths. Footwear with slip resistant soles can also play an important role in preventing accidents

    View Safety Boots & Shoes
    Reusable Respirator

    Reusable respiratory protection

    Respiratory protection equipment comes in two basic varieties: disposable and reusable. Reusable respirators, meanwhile, provide sturdier protection for use in more hazardous environments: for example, when toxic fumes are present. Some models are filter-based while others include their own oxygen supply.

    View Reusable Respirators
    Face Masks

    Disposable Face Masks

    Face masks provide disposable face protection for use in hygiene and contamination-sensitive environments.

    View Disposable Dust Masks
    PPE Gloves

    PPE Gloves

    PPE gloves protect the hands of workers who come into close proximity with or handle hazardous materials. Specialist variations include thermal gloves for cold environments, latex gloves to protect against electrical shock, and heat resistant gloves to reduce the risk of burns. Gauntlets and gloves with sleeving are used in particularly hazardous environments where maximum protection is required.

    The recently released ISO 13997 standard specifies testing methods using a blade to ensure that safety gloves are genuinely cut-resistant.

    View Work Gloves
    disposable gloves

    Disposable Gloves

    Disposable gloves are an important piece of PPE in many industries including medical, catering and cleaning. They provide wearers with a barrier to protect them from damaging substances like chemicals or bodily fluids where they could be at risk from infection and cross contamination. They're manufactured in many colours, sizes and materials including Nitrile, latex and vinyl. They're also available as powder-free or pre-powdered to assist in putting the gloves on.

    View Disposable Gloves


    Overshoes are disposable covers worn over standard footwear in sensitive environments like laboratories, food factories and kitchens, where full safety footwear is not required but hygiene and cleanliness are important.

    View Overshoes
    High Visibility Clothing

    High Visibility Clothing

    High visibility jackets, vests, arm bands and trousers are designed for people who work at night or in environments where it is especially important that they can be seen clearly.

    View All Clothing Ranges
    Ear Defenders

    Ear Defenders

    Ear defenders and ear plugs are important PPE for workers in loud environments who are at risk of long-term hearing loss. Correct fitting is vital.

    View Range

    Eye Protection

    Goggles and safety glasses help cut the risk of injuries and even blindness from flying debris, chemical splashes, gas and dust. Safety glasses can be customised with prescription lenses for users who wear glasses in everyday life. Consult the safety glasses guide for more information: it important to ensure that eye protection fits correctly.

    View Safety Glasses
    Fall Arrest Harnesses

    Fall Arrest Harnesses

    Safety harnesses are designed for employees working in precarious high locations who are at risk of falling. They distribute the weight of the worker’s body evenly to avoid dislocations or injuries should a fall occur. They are similar to the protective equipment used by rock climbers.

    View Fall Harnesses & Kits

    How PPE should be worn

    How is PPE equipment issued and maintained?

    All personal protective equipment is issued and maintained by employers, who also store the items in most cases. In some organisations, however, it is routine for employees to take clothing items home with them overnight. The correct donning PPE sequence:

    Respirators and breathing masks should be secured at the back of the head first and then positioned on the face, ensuring a close-fitting.Gloves should be extended into position, ensuring that the wrist is not left exposed.Safety glasses and visors should be placed over the eyes first and then secured at the back of the head.

    PPE equipment should be inspected before each use and replaced when needed. Inspection frequency depends on the type, condition, and use of the equipment. Cleaning and maintaining PPE involves following the manufacturer’s instructions, using suitable agents, rinsing, inspecting, and storing.

    How should PPE be properly fitted and worn to ensure maximum protection?

    To ensure maximum protection, PPE should be chosen to fit the task and individual correctly. Adjustments should be made to secure it properly, and any defects or gaps should be checked for. It is crucial to wear the PPE for the entire duration of exposure to the hazard and to remove it carefully afterwards. Consult with workers and experts to get their input and feedback on PPE fitting and wearing.

    How do you take off PPE gear safely?

    Safe removal of PPE centres around avoidance of any contaminated areas. Examples:

    Respirators and breathing masks should be untied at the back and then peeled off away from the face to avoid contact between the face and the front of the device.The first glove should be peeled off away from the body, gripping the palm area and pulling. Remove the second glove by inserting a finger beneath the edge across your wrist and pushing forward.Remove safety glasses and visors by untying or unlatching them at the back and pushing forward, away from your face.

    If your hands come into contact with contamination while removing PPE, wash them swiftly with a suitable cleanser.

    What should you do if your PPE is damaged?

    Any damage to PPE should be immediately reported to your line manager or someone in a similar position of authority and then replaced.Some PPE, like disposable gloves and masks, are for single use only and should be discarded afterwards.

    How do you dispose of PPE correctly?

    Disposable PPE is likely to become contaminated after a short period of use. Dispose of it in designated, properly sealed waste receptacles.