Personal Protective Equipment

Last updated: December 2020 | 4 min read


This article is useful reading for all employers and employees, whatever your line of work.

It is especially relevant to those carrying out physical labour, or tasks which involve more than minimal risk.

What is PPE?

Personal protective equipment (PPE) is any type of clothing, equipment or substance which is designed to protect against risks of injury or illness.

It includes (but is not limited to):

  • Breathing apparatus for example, respirators;
  • Ear muffs and ear plugs;
  • Eye and face protection such as goggles;
  • Safety helmets and sun hats;
  • Gloves and safety boots;
  • Clothing such as high visibility clothing or life jackets.

An employers health and safety obligations

In order to understand the workplace health and safety requirements for personal protective equipment (PPE) and your obligations under the law you must consider and understand relevant legislation and codes of practice.

These are:

  • Workplace Health and Safety Act 1995 - which imposes obligations on people at workplaces to ensure workplace health and safety and helps employers meet their workplace health and safety obligations
  • Workplace Health and Safety Regulations 1997 describes what must be done to prevent or control certain hazards which cause injury, illness or deat
  • Codes of practice (or prior to 18 November 2004, advisory standards) which are designed to give practical advice about ways to manage exposure to risks common to industry.

Every Queensland employer must have workers’ compensation insurance.

Most employers insure with ‘WorkCover’ Queensland, while a small number of large organisations have their own insurance.

This insurance coverage ensures that employees injured at work receive financial support.

When should PPE be used?

PPE should be used in conjunction with other control measures. It should not be relied upon as the main control. Sometimes, it might be uncomfortable to wear, time-consuming and expensive in the long run.

However, it should be used at any tie when there has been a risk identified, or there might be a risk, of carrying out a particular task.

Why pays for PPE?

Employers must ensure workers have appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE).

Who pays for it can be negotiated in the workplace.

Payment arrangements could include:

  • The employer buys and pays for it;
  • The worker buys it and is fully or partially reimbursed;
  • The worker buys it and pays for it;
  • In deciding who should provide PPE consider;
  • The availability of equipment;
  • Whether the equipment can generally be used outside work, such as sunglasses or boots;
  • The need for a personal fit;
  • The provisions in the relevant industrial award or enterprise agreement;

Selecting PPE

  • Personal protective equipment (PPE) should:
  • Be appropriate for the type of work;
  • Give adequate protection to the user;
  • Not create additional health or safety risks;
  • Be compatible with other PPE being used;
  • Fit properly;
  • Not interfere with any medical conditions of the user;
  • Be easy to use;
  • Be comfortable;
  • Comply with relevant Australian Standards.

Consult with workers when selecting PPE and consider a persons individual characteristic and style preference.

Using PPE

  • Make sure that:
  • Personal protective equipment (PPE) is used in accordance with the manufacturers’ instructions;
  • The PPE fits correctly;
  • Workers are instructed and trained in how to use it;
  • Appropriate signs should be displayed.

Training should be done:

  • When new workers start work;
  • When you get new PPE;
  • To refresh workers memories from time to time.
  • Remember to keep a record of any training.

Storing and maintaining PPE

Personal protective equipment (PPE) should be stored in way which ensures its cleanliness and functionality.

PPE needs to be checked regularly both during storage and use.

PPE should be maintained to ensure its continued effectiveness. As part of maintenance program identify and record:

  • Maintenance duties and responsibilities;
  • Storage procedures;
  • Cleaning procedures;
  • Checking procedures;
  • Replacement criteria.

Repair or discard damage or defective PPE.

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