Personal protective equipment

Personal protective equipment (PPE) is equipment and clothing that is specifically designed to minimise the risk of and protect you from serious injury, infection or exposure to hazards which can cause injuries or illnesses. This can include items such as footwear, gloves, helmets, goggles, face masks, body armour and more.  

Following a risk assessment, PPE should be introduced as a last resort if no other measures can be put in place to remove the risk entirely. 

Do I need to wear PPE?

If your employer has highlighted that PPE is required to keep you safe or reduce risk of injury, you must wear it. This is not a choice. The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 stipulates you must: 

  • Take reasonable care for your own health and safety and that of others who may be affected by what you do or do not to. 
  • Co-operate with your employer on health and safety. 
  • Correctly use work items provided by your employer, including personal protective equipment (PPE), in accordance with training or instructions. 
  • Not interfere with or misuse anything provided for your health and safety or welfare. 

If you choose to not wear PPE, you are not only putting yourself and potentially others at risk of injury or illness, you may also face disciplinary action. 

Am I required to undertake PPE training?

Yes, whenever a new piece of PPE is provided, your employer is legally required to provide the correct information, instructions and training on how to properly wear or use it. They must also provide information on how to maintain, clean, store and dispose of the PPE. 

Where is PPE needed?

PPE is needed on any premises where there is a risk that cannot be removed and that therefore must be mitigated by PPE. It is your employer’s responsibility to inform you where PPE is required at work. 

Does PPE eliminate the risk?

No, PPE does not eliminate risk of injury or illness – its purpose is to reduce the likelihood of injury or illness. For example, if you wear a hardhat and you are hit on the head by a heavy object, the hardhat will protect you from any significant head trauma, however you may still suffer minor injuries. 

Whose duty is it to supply PPE?

It is your employer’s legal duty to pay for and provide any PPE required at work. You must return any PPE equipment supplied by your employer in the event that you leave work.  

If you are self-employed, you must supply your own PPE, unless you are solely working with one employer on a full-time basis.

Whose duty is it to enforce wearing PPE?

It is your employer's duty to protect you from health and safety risks and they have a legal obligation to enforce the use of PPE. 

I need PPE. What do I do?

If you require PPE that is not already supplied, you should speak to your employer or your Health and Safety Representative immediately. They will then be able to conduct a risk assessment to see if you require PPE or if other measures can be put in place to protect you from the risk.  

Can PPE be shared?

This depends on the PPE – items such as footwear and clothing will be ordered to fit individuals so should not be shared as this could increase the likelihood of risk.

If you sustain any injuries or illnesses because you shared PPE when your employer has provided you with your own, you will not be entitled to compensation.  

PPE such as hats, gloves or googles may be shared, provided they fit and are disinfected properly first. 

What if my PPE doesn’t fit or is uncomfortable?

Ill-fitting PPE puts the wearer at risk of injury or illness. If your PPE does not fit or is uncomfortable, you should speak to your employer or Health and Safety Representative immediately to rectify this. 

You should not be expected to undertake tasks which require PPE whilst your equipment does not fit as this puts you at risk. 

What do I do if I have suffered an injury or illness due to not being provided with PPE? 

If you sustain an injury or industrial illness because your employer failed to provide you with the correct PPE, you may be entitled to compensation. 

It is your employer's legal duty to protect you at work, and by not providing you with the correct PPE, they are liable for any injuries or illnesses that you sustain whilst at work. 

As a member of Community, you have access to free and discounted legal services, including personal injury claims. 100% of any compensation won will go directly to you. Find out more. 

If you need help or advice, please contact us at or on 0800 389 6332.


Not a member?
Let’s get to know each other.