Depending on your business, you might need to provide specific equipment for staff to do their jobs safely. But when it comes to providing safety equipment for your employees, what should you consider?
The main types of equipment your staff might need for your business are personal protective equipment (PPE) and respiratory protective equipment (RPE). It’s important to mention that providing this equipment should be seen as a last resort. If there are other ways for your staff to do their jobs safely, without this equipment and without risk, then you should consider using those processes.
Personal protective equipment – PPE is safety equipment that can be used to protect your employees against health and safety risks at work. It can be used to protect different parts of the body, from the head and eyes to hands and feet. Examples include:
Respiratory protective equipment – RPE, which consists of respirators and breathing apparatus, is used to protect workers from chemicals that are particularly dangerous when inhaled. This includes gases, solvents, chemical powders and sprays. Examples of equipment are types of facepieces, including:
Depending on your company, you might need PPE, RPE, or both, so you should think about the type of work your staff do across your business. For instance, they might work with dangerous chemicals, so will need to wear visors. Or some might require high-visibility clothing because they work in a busy warehouse late into the night.
This isn’t just case of thinking about how many staff you employ. You should also consider those staff working on a daily rota, such as on a factory floor, or those doing multiple jobs in different environments.
Think about what they are exposed to and how long for, such as hazards from the different machinery they use over a single shift. Also, consider those staff that might do certain hazardous jobs for a short time each day or week.
It’s important to make sure that safety equipment is always available for staff, even for those quick jobs that only take a few minutes. You should also have extra sets of equipment to hand, in case original gear becomes broken or damaged.
There are many companies that provide safety equipment, but, when selecting it, it’s important to choose products that are:
CE marked – A product with this symbol means it meets relevant EU directives, regarding health and safety or environmental protection.
Suitable to wear – It should be the right size, fit and weight for each individual. You should consider asking employees to provide body measurements, such for their head or shoe size, or ask them to help you choose equipment for them.
Suitable to use with other equipment – For instance, when one item is worn at the same time as another, such as goggles and respirators.
Right for specific machinery – Certain types of machinery may require users to use specific equipment. So it’s worth checking machinery manuals or contacting the suppliers who provided it. If in doubt, it’s also worth checking with a specialist adviser.
It’s important to remember that any piece of equipment that an employee needs for health and safety purposes should be given to them free of charge.
You should also make sure your staff are well trained to use all their equipment correctly. This includes providing training to show them how to wear it and how to remove it safely. For instance, how to take off protective gloves without touching the skin or remove goggles without affecting the eyes.
You should also have signage in the relevant parts of your business to remind staff when to wear or use their safety equipment. For instance, fitting a warning sign to remind staff to put on their protective gloves or goggles in an area containing hazardous substances.
They should also be shown how to look after their equipment, keep it clean and know where to store it, like in a dry, secure cupboard. You should also show them how to check that equipment isn’t damaged and know where to find replacements when faults are detected.
Safety equipment can be a key part of health and safety for many companies, so it should be considered and understood when developing your business.
At FSB, we provide members with a health and safety service that can help build their knowledge across important areas, such as safety equipment. We do this by giving them access to:
To find out more about how this service can help your business, please visit our FSB Health and Safety Advice page.
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