Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is defined as personal and protective specifically against the hazard or hazards that have been identified. PPE must be compatible and work effectively with other equipment. Correct PPE equipment is required to ensure that employees are protected from injury or disease through their work and provides a last line of defence when other risk management strategies have failed in some way. 

PPE is legally the responsibility of employers within the UK. The law currently emphasizes that employers must provide their staff with free of charge PPE. However, a recent TUC article has highlighted that over one in five workers are being forced into providing or replacing PPE equipment that they needed for their work. This is relevant particularly across the electrician and construction industries. 

Notably out of these, the survey highlighted that 11.6% of workers were required to use safety equipment at work and yet it was not provided or paid for by their employer. An additional 8.9% were responsible for any damage or replacements for employer provided PPE. 

An example would be the need to invest in good quality Arc Flash Hood in a usable and working condition as is essential for many electricians; the expense of which should be footed entirely by employers as dictated by the law. 

Compounding the poor levels of PPE provision there are two further factors to consider: 

  • Employers, where they do offer PPE, often buy low quality PPE of a standard size in an attempt to maximise profit through minimising costs. Employees therefore find that they are limited to uncomfortable, incorrectly sized PPE which is not effective against hazards and therefore often buy their own equipment. 
  • Within the current market place many workers within the construction or electrical engineering sector are now termed as self-employed, or are working through an agency. This enables employers to shirk around the law regarding satisfactory PPE and increasingly opens the doors to the requirement of self-funding for PPE provision. 

Interestingly, the law also goes as far as to state that every employer should ensure that all PPE provided is fully maintained (including replaced or cleaned where appropriate). This means kept in good repair and in efficient working order. With this in mind it’s also perhaps surprising to learn that a staggering 60% of those with employer provided PPE that requires regular cleaning are held responsible for the task. Their employers made no investment or provision for cleaning of PPE equipment. 

Unfairly, it seems that it’s most often than not workers from lower paid roles that are held responsible for the costs, and disproportionately it is female employees that are required to provide their own attire. This means there are many newly qualified electricians having to spend money they can least afford gaining test and commission, cherry-picking other types of certificates as well as investing in or maintaining their  Electrical PPE in order to make themselves more employable. 

Naturally the electrical companies currently benefit a lot from the individuals’ efforts to land work and are happy with the current situation. Until the law is backed up through pressure on companies, including those in the construction industry, to employ on a PAYE basis things look set to remain problematic. There is already little enforcement of the existing law and as a result many are forced to pay from their own pocket or go without, which is unthinkable within the construction industry. The government’s future plans to reduce the number of workplace inspections are set to increase the chance of the situation getting worse for the little guy before there’s any improvement.

Sent to us by Pete Clydesdale, of  Pete, thanks so much for pointing out that many contractors do not furnish the correct ppe for the employees, or none at all.  In the U.S., OSHA has very much the same regulations, and through inspections they have penalized many companies for these violations.  It is lawful that every person have the right to safe working places and the correct protection. 

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