Businesses are being warned to prepare now for changes in the law surrounding PPE use at work. The laws about personal protective equipment (PPE) are changing on the 6th April this year. Many businesses are unaware of the change.
From April PPE must be provided, free of charge, to all workers. Employers will be responsible for storing and replacing any lost or defective PPE. Full training must be provided in how to use any kit.
“Large employers with their own Health & Safety teams know about the changes, but the vast majority of businesses in the UK are smaller enterprises and most have absolutely no idea the law is about to change” said Magnus Kauders, Managing Director of an Occupational Health & Safety
“It’s not just the cost of compliance that’s the issue, it’s the liability that comes with not providing the correct kit” he continued.
Currently the law says that PPE must be provided to workers who may be exposed to a risk. Items like jackets, goggles, hard hats, ear defenders, gloves and masks have to be provided by an employer.
From early April this year the law is being extended to cover all workers, including casual staff and contractors. Anyone who carries out casual or irregular work for one or more organisations is covered by the law
. However, the new law does not apply to self-employed people.
“Most organizations will likely have already been providing PPE based on the nature of the role itself rather than the status of the person doing it," said Mark Hamilton, a Partner at law firm Dentons.
"Perhaps in the case of employers who largely rely on workers, for example, food delivery companies, it will be a significant logistical and financial commitment having to now provide safety equipment such as helmets to all their workers, where previously they would just have made it a condition of work that one was worn, with the worker having to supply their own," he said.
The Health & Safety Executive say that employers must carry out risk assessments to identify risks to workers. If the risk assessment indicates that PPE should be worn, employers should then carry out a PPE suitability assessment
HSE inspectors can enter any UK business premises at any time. They already often include assessment of PPE as part of routine inspections.
Enforcement actions can range from verbal or written advice to statutory enforcement notices, which oblige employers to act. In the most serious cases, the HSE can criminally prosecute employers too.
Other laws covering PPE also apply to employers with specific risks, such as for those working on roads, with radiation, lead exposure, asbestos, noise or substances hazardous to health (like chemicals, fumes, dust or gases etc).
“The change is such an easy thing to miss, but the bills for getting it wrong from next month could be huge” says Mr Kauders.