What You Need to Know about PPE in Australia
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is an important safety control measure in any workplace environment. If there are hazards that can’t be removed or otherwise controlled, you need to wear PPE.
Read on to find out more about Personal Protective Equipment in Australia. In this article, we’ll explore different types of PPE and the laws and regulations surrounding PPE on Aussie worksites.
You will find out who is responsible for supplying PPE, the importance of maintaining your PPE, as well as potential issues with Personal Protective Equipment.
Types of PPE
Personal Protective Equipment is more than just goggles and hard hats. PPE can be implemented in practically every workplace and in a range of circumstances. Below, we’ve outlined some of the most common forms of PPE.
- Hand protection: including leather gloves, welding gloves, disposable gloves, and cut-resistant sleeves
- Respiratory protection: including disposable respirators, powered respirators, filters, and respiratory accessories
- Height safety equipment: including harnesses, fall blocks, and rescue equipment
- Eyeprotection: including goggles, safety glasses, eye washing supplies, and accessories
- Head protection: including hats, hard hats, beanies, welding helmets, visors, and shields
- Ear protection: including earmuffs and earplugs
- Medical PPE: including surgical masks, gowns, aprons, particulate filter respirators, and goggles
Who Is Responsible for Providing PPE?
In all cases in Australia, it is the responsibility of the employer to provide their employees with Personal Protective Equipment.
For the purposes of this article, the employer refers to the person or company conducting the business, and the employer refers to the worker completing the job. The only case where the employer does not need to provide PPE is when a Labour Hire company has already provided all the relevant equipment.
As well as supplying PPE, employers must train workers in the correct use of the equipment, including cleaning and storage. It is also important that signage is present that reinforces the use of PPE.
Paying for Personal Protective Equipment
In Australia, a worker never pays for their own PPE. This is once again the responsibility of the employer.
If you want your employees/workers to purchase their own PPE, you must provide an allowance to do so. In this case, it is still ultimately the responsibility of the employer to ensure the Personal Protective Equipment is appropriate both for the job and the individual.
To learn more about PPE rules, regulations, and responsibilities, consult the Model Work Health and Safety Act.
How to Choose the Right PPE
Wearing Personal Protective Equipment is a great start, but wearing the right PPE is absolutely essential!
Things to consider when choosing PPE include:
- Ensure it is suitable for the task and the hazards posed
- Ensure it is comfortable and well-fitting for each individual
- Ensure it does not hinder the worker in performing their task
- Ensure the health and safety of the wearer is protected
- Ensure it is compatible with any other PPE that needs to be worn
- Ensure each worker is wearing their PPE correctly before work begins
- Talk to each individual worker to select the right PPE
- Once PPE has been chosen, inspect it each time before it is worn to ensure it is in proper condition
Taking Care of Your Personal Protective Equipment
PPE Maintenance is the responsibility of both the worker and the employer.
Workers should ensure their PPE is hygienic, clean, and functioning properly. If there is a problem with the PPE, it should not be used. Employers should be notified, and the equipment should be replaced immediately.
Employers should train and instruct their workers in caring for their PPE, including how to clean, maintain, and correctly store all equipment. All equipment is different, and employers should refer to manufacturer instructions for correct maintenance information.
As well as self-checks by workers, the employer should regularly inspect equipment to ensure it continues to operate effectively.
PPE Dos and Don’ts for Workers
Employers and employees must work together to ensure PPE is used correctly. If workers deliberately misuse or damage PPE, they could face prosecution or disciplinary action. As well as this, workers are most at risk if something goes wrong with their equipment, so it is in their best interests to do the right thing.
DO: Ensure you are wearing and using PPE properly
DON’T: Wear or use damaged/defective PPE
DO: Inform your employer or supervisor when there is a problem with PPE
DON’T: Deliberately damage or misuse your equipment
DO: Raise the issue if you feel like your current PPE is inadequate for the job
DON’T: Continue wearing PPE that is uncomfortable or causing an adverse reaction
DO: Clean and store your PPE correctly after use
DON’T: Refuse to wear/use Personal protective Equipment
Potential Problems with PPE
Personal protective equipment is not perfect. While not wearing PPE can have serious consequences, other issues can also arise, such as:
- User error, including using the wrong PPE for the job
- Equipment faults
- Individuals having an allergy to the materials in the PPE
Potential consequences of these problems include:
- Exposure to health and safety risks, including injury and death
- Overheating, restricted vision, or other unintended impediments
- Allergic reactions
Personal Protective Equipment for Visitors
Sometimes PPE is only required for specific tasks, but in other cases, it’s required just for being on a worksite. In these cases, Personal Protective Equipment must be worn by everyone, including visitors to the worksite.
As an employer, you have the same responsibility to your visitors as you do your workers. Therefore, you must provide all relevant training, instruction and information, as well as provide the PPE that the visitor needs.
PPE Is No Substitute for a Safe Workplace
It might be surprising to hear, but Safe Work Australia considers PPE to be a last resort or a stop-gap measure on worksites!
This is because PPE is considered less effective than removing a hazard or replacing it with something much safer. Therefore, personal protective equipment should only be used after all other measures have been considered. PPE is best used as a backup or reinforcement for other measures or when navigating a hazard with Personal Protective Equipment is the safest option.
If you’re currently reviewing and implementing other safety measures, it may be appropriate to use PPE in the meantime.
Most importantly, all workplaces should foster a culture of safety and accountability. That way, you can minimise the risk to workers both when you are using PPE and when you’re implementing other safety measures.
Finally, when it comes to purchasing PPE, ensure you partner with a trusted supplier who can provide compliant and appropriate Personal Protective Equipment.