Injury claims under the PPE at Work Regulations 1992

Employers have duties concerning the provision of personal protective equipment wherever there is a risk to safety that cannot be controlled by other means. If this duty is breached an inadequate PPE injury claim could be made.

Personal protective equipment (PPE) is any equipment that will protect the user against health and safety risks at work. Under the Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992 (the Regulations) employers must supply PPE free of charge to employees that may encounter hazards in the workplace.

What is personal protective equipment?

PPE is defined by the Regulations as 'all equipment (including clothing affording protection against the weather) which is intended to be worn or held by a person at work and which protects him against one or more risks to his health or safety.' It includes a variety of items, such as:

  • Helmets, hard hats and bump caps
  • Gloves
  • Overalls and boiler suits
  • Waterproof, weatherproof and insulated clothing
  • Goggles, face shields and visors
  • Safety footwear
  • Safety harnesses.

Hearing protection, respiratory protection and specialist radiation and asbestos equipment are not covered by the PPE Regulations. This is because there are other more specific regulations that apply to these hazards.

What do the Regulations require?

The Regulations are a legislation of last resort. Wherever there are health and safety hazards that cannot be eliminated or controlled in other ways, employers must supply personal protective equipment.

The Regulations also require that PPE is:

  • Fit for its intended purpose
  • Maintained and stored properly
  • Issued with instructions on how to use it safely 
  • Used correctly by workers.

Assessing the suitability of PPE

It is essential that PPE gives adequate protection for the hazards associated with the job. Employers should follow certain best-practice procedures when selecting and using PPE, such as:

  • Choosing products that are "CE" marked in accordance with the Regulations
  • Choosing equipment that is the correct size and fit for the user
  • Ensuring that equipment is compatible where different pieces of PPE are used simultaneously 
  • Telling employees why PPE is needed, when to use it and what its limitations are
  • Cleaning and repairing reusable equipment in accordance with manufacturer's instructions
  • Erecting safety signs reminding employees that PPE should be worn.

How are the Regulations enforced?

The Health and Safety Executive a number of options for penalising a breach of the Regulations. They can:

  • Provide verbal advice on the implementation of the Regulations
  • Issue a formal warning
  • Issue an improvement notice
  • Issue a prohibition notice to stop a dangerous practice
  • Prosecute the employer for serious breach of the legislation.

A worker who has suffered injury as a result of a failure to supply PPE can make a claim for compensation against their employer. This is not a direct claim under the Regulations. Instead, the workers would file a personal injury claim and demonstrate that the employer failed to take reasonable care for the worker's safety.

When assessing the claim, the Courts would look at the Regulations as a guide for deciding whether the employer failed to comply with their legal duties.