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Personal protective equipment

Personal protective equipment

What is personal protective equipment?

Personal protective equipment (PPE) is any equipment that employees and workers wear or hold to protect them against any health and safety risks. These can include safety helmets, gloves, eye protection, high-visibility clothing, safety footwear and safety harnesses.

You must provide your employees with PPE where necessary.

What law applies?

  • The Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992
  • The Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations (Northern Ireland) 1993

Your responsibilities

You must make sure employees and workers use PPE wherever there are risks that can't be effectively controlled using other control measures. You have a legal responsibility to ensure that PPE is:

  • Properly assessed for its suitability before use
  • Maintained and stored properly
  • Given with instructions on how to use it safely
  • Used correctly
  • Given to employees for free

Providing PPE

The 5-step approach to risk assessments should tell you whether you need to provide PPE. You should first consider whether you can reduce health and safety risks using other suitable control measures.

What to consider when assessing whether PPE is suitable

When assessing whether PPE is suitable, you need to consider:

  • Whether it's appropriate for the hazard and the conditions
  • If it prevents or sufficiently controls the risk without increasing its level
  • The length of time the employee needs to wear the PPE, the physical effort required to do the job and the actual task involved
  • Whether it can be adjusted to fit
  • The state of health of those who'll be wearing it
  • If more than one item of PPE is being worn, whether they're compatible

Ensure any PPE you buy is marked with 'CE' — this means that it obeys certain basic legal safety requirements and in some cases will have been tested and certified by an independent body.

To choose the right type of PPE for your employees, you should speak to your supplier.

Using PPE

Train and instruct people on how and why to use it properly. Regularly check that employees are using PPE. You also need to tell them when it needs to be repaired or replaced.

Ensure that the PPE is clean and in good condition, following the manufacturer's advice. When it's not being used, it should be properly stored away.

Also ensure that suitable replacement PPE is always readily available.


The Health and Safety Executive has updated guidance available to help employers decide whether and what PPE their workforce may need.

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