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The Basic PPE FAQs - Frequently Asked Questions - Part one

7 September 2015

The Basic PPE FAQs - Frequently Asked Questions - Part one

Who should pay for PPE for employees*?
If items of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) are required for a task they must be provided free of charge by the employer.

When am I supposed to use PPE?
You should receive instruction from your supervisor or manager regarding your tasks and the hazards associated with those tasks. You will also receive instruction regarding when, where and/or what PPE you should use for each particular task.
If a hazard cannot be eliminated or isolated, then PPE is used to minimise the hazard. PPE must always be regarded as a 'last resort' to protect against risks to safety and health. Other controls must be considered first. For example, it may be possible to do the job using methods that will not require the use of PPE. If this is not possible, more effective safeguards should be put in place. For example, fixed screens could be provided rather than individual eye protection.

Why is PPE a last resort?
There are a number of reasons why PPE must be considered as a 'last resort':
PPE only protects the person wearing it, whereas measures controlling the risk at the source protect everyone in the workplace. PPE may restrict the wearer to some extent by limiting mobility or visibility, or by requiring additional weight to be carried. Thus creating additional hazards.

What type of information, instruction and training should be given for PPE use?
The extent of information, instruction and/or training for PPE will vary with the complexity and performance of the kit. For example, a full Breathing Apparatus kit will require more training to use properly than a disposable face mask.
However, information and instruction should cover the following:

  • The risk(s) present and why the PPE is needed.
  • The operation (including demonstration), performance and limitations of the equipment.
  • Use and storage (including how to put it on, how to adjust and remove it).
  • Any testing requirements before use.
  • Any user maintenance that can be carried out (e.g. hygiene/cleaning procedures).
  • Factors that can affect the performance of the equipment (e.g. working conditions, personal factors, defects and damage).
  • How to recognise defects in PPE, and arrangements for reporting them.
  • Where to obtain replacement PPE.

In addition to initial training, refresher training may be required from time to time.

How do you assess or choose PPE? How do I know it is suitable for the task?
The need for PPE must be identified through Risk Assessment. Risk assessments should be reviewed by employers and employees. To be able to choose the right type of PPE, the hazards involved in the task or work environment must be considered carefully. PPE must also meet the needs of the individual.
The following factors should be considered when assessing the suitability of PPE:

  • Is the PPE appropriate for the risk involved and conditions at the place where exposure may occur? e.g. goggles are not suitable when full-face protection is required.
  • Does the PPE prevent or adequately control the risks involved without increasing the overall risk? e.g. gloves should not be worn when using a pillar drill, due to the increased risk of entanglement.
  • Can the PPE be adjusted to fit the wearer correctly? e.g. if a person wears glasses, ear defenders may not provide a proper seal to protect against noise hazards.
  • What are the needs of the job and the demands it places on the wearer?
  • How long will the PPE need to be worn?
  • What are the requirements for visibility and communication?
  • If more than one item of PPE is being worn, are they compatible? e.g. does a particular type of respirator make it difficult for eye protection to fit properly?

Why, how and who is responsible for maintaining PPE?
An effective system of maintenance of PPE is essential to make sure the equipment continues to provide the degree of protection for which it is designed. Therefore, the manufacturer's maintenance schedule (including recommended replacement periods and shelf lives) must always be followed. Maintenance may include: cleaning, examination, replacement, repair and testing. The wearer may be able to carry out simple maintenance (e.g. cleaning), but more intricate repairs must only be carried out by competent personnel. The costs associated with the maintenance of PPE are the responsibility of the employer.

*Employees can be full time, casual, part time or fixed contract.


…Where a worksite has significant hazards that could result in harm to an employee, the employer must provide suitable protective equipment and/or suitable personal protective clothing at NO COST to the employee…