Issuing and managing PPE

You’ve decided that staff need personal protective equipment (PPE) and have spent time selecting suitable items. But before you hand them out, it’s worthwhile considering the next steps. Our flow chart shows what’s legally required.

Not so easy

Using personal protective equipment (PPE) as a means of controlling risks to health and safety is not as simple as it first appears. Even if you’ve managed to choose something which suits the task and fits the individual, there are still hurdles to overcome, e.g. getting staff to wear it, ensuring it’s stored properly, keeping it clean and maintained and replacing it when needed. These difficulties are summed up in the Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992 and the official guidance which supports them.

Tip. To lead you through the process, use our flow chart - PPE issuing and management. It summarises the actions which need to be taken when you issue PPE and afterwards.  This can be downloaded free here.

How’s the document organised?

Our process begins at the point where suitable PPE has been selected. Note. Getting to this point can be tricky and may require specialist advice from suppliers and/or your health and safety advisor. From here our flow chart branches into three streams headed: (1) “Staff management”; (2) “Stores”; and (3) “Premises”. The first refers to standard PPE which applies to a job role and will be issued personally to staff, and the second to supplies of items which will be held centrally. The third column describes facilities to be provided, signage to display and visitors to manage.

Staff management

Column one begins with an instruction to compile lists of non-disposable items for each job role. This is followed by the step-by-step procedure for issuing and managing these items. It covers:

  • record keeping
  • checking for good fit
  • providing instruction to staff
  • managing the expiry and replacement process
  • cleaning and maintenance
  • management inspections; and
  • enforcing the correct wearing of PPE.
  • Stores

The stores column begins by asking you to write a list of items which will be issued on an “as required” basis. These may include specialist equipment, e.g. safety harnesses, ropes and lifejackets and disposable items such as gloves, ear plugs and masks.

Our flow chart guides you through the process of identifying what to stock, pre-issue inspection, return procedures, formal inspection and record keeping.


The final part of our document runs through the changes you might need to make to your premises to promote the use of PPE and to accommodate it. It covers: (1) signage for mandatory PPE, e.g. hearing protection zones; (2) visitor needs; (3) storage; and (4) drying and laundering. The flow chart finishes by suggesting a periodic review of your arrangements by the health and safety committee.

Use our document to implement a systematic process of PPE management. By following it, your staff will be properly instructed so it’s used correctly, cleaned, maintained, issued to the right employees and replaced when needed. You will need to display signs, provide storage and enforce the rules.

Note: If you issue PPE, display mandatory sign to wear the PPE for certain tasks and instruct employees to wear the PPE but then do not enforce the wearing of PPE you can be found liable in the event of an accident. Your MUST enforce you own policies and procedures!


Safety Alert – Telescopic Ladders

Warning after safety tests lead to over 32,000 telescopic ladders being withdrawn from sale.

Enquiries by trading standards teams into the safety of telescopic ladders revealed major concerns.

Telescopic ladders have become increasingly popular in recent years because they fold away and can be easily stored. However, their pyramid-style operation can require up to 32 locking mechanisms and just one faulty part can lead to the ladder collapsing.

A total of 13 different telescopic ladder types have been tested by four local authorities. All failed to meet BS EN 131 − the recognised standard for ladder design, safety and structural requirements.

Almost all the ladders were easily damaged during testing, showing they were not robust enough to cope with normal wear and tear.

In the worst case, a ladder snapped in half beneath the test load − despite claiming to comply with the safety standard.

Mike Ashworth, Strategic Director for Economy, Transport and Communities, said:

"We began these tests after concerns were raised by a Derbyshire company. The results are absolutely shocking − particularly with firms advertising the ladders as complying with relevant safety standards as this means it is now difficult to advise buyers on what to look for.

"People simply aren't getting what they are paying for. This is bad enough under any circumstances, but when it is placing them in danger, it simply isn't acceptable."


Advise for duty holders

Combination ladders

Following a recent fatal accident investigation, HSE is strongly advising all duty holders and users of combination ladders to ensure that they:

  • carry out pre-use checks;
  • use them in accordance with instructions;
  • check the locking mechanism(s).

Telescopic ladders. 

  • pre-use checks on the ladders are thorough, checking the components and operation of each and every locking mechanism (often one or two per rung) and the associated release mechanism(s);
  • the ladders are stored well, transported carefully and maintained (including cleaning) as dirt and grit etc. can affect locking mechanisms;
  • they understand the limitations and likely performance of their ladder, e.g. strength, bending etc. 

Workplace Housekeeping – Dealing with Chaos and Mess

Scenario: You have several members of staff each with a similar amount of space. While most seem to manage, one is in constant chaos, blaming it all on their workload and environment. Where should you start?

At risk

A recent safety inspection has identified that housekeeping standards in the workplace are well below par. This is causing several specific hazards including: (1) tripping; (2) ergonomic problems around and beneath desks or around workshops / stores; (3) manual handling risks arising from difficulty to stored items; (4) fire hazard from the combustible storage and the risk of damage to electrical equipment; (5) inappropriate access to hazardous substances which should be locked away; and (6) stress for employees working there.


Doing nothing isn’t an option as you realise that you will be liable if there’s an accident. But getting anything done about it seems to meet with a brick wall. When the points were raised with staff, they blame it all on a lack of space, the wrong storage, too much work, etc. But spending lots of money isn’t really an option and in any case, you doubt that it will get to the root of the problem.

It’s you, not me

The majority of poor housekeeping is the result of mindset rather than the physical environment.

The main factors involved are:

  • the standards which the individual finds acceptable
  • the standards imposed (and measured)
  • the level of empowerment given to the employee to resolve the problems.

In other words, if you don’t set the standards you expect, you will get the level of tidiness which each individual think is OK. The resources and decision-making power you delegate will also have an effect.

Set out your stall

Where your requirements are already clear, e.g. within your health and safety policy, you can take measures to enforce your standards with the staff concerned. If not, you will need to go back to basics as follows:

Tip 1. Write to all staff with responsibility for premises pointing out the legal requirements, e.g. “to comply with the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992, Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 and other applicable regulations, all workplaces must be kept in a safe condition”. Explain that it is their responsibility to ensure compliance within their area and that a breach in standards exposes the company to a risk of legal action.

Tip 2. Describe the standard you expect in detail, for example, all floors to be kept free of stored items, all storage to be on shelving or in cupboards, confidential records filed, all corridors and fire exits to be unobstructed, fire extinguishers to be accessible, no combustibles stored in plant rooms, cleaning materials to be safely stored, etc.

Tip 3. Ask the managers to come back to you by a set date with any requested resources they need. Also ask them if there are any obstructions to achieving what you have asked.

Tip 4. Implement a routine inspection programme, including self-monitoring checks on, e.g., a weekly basis, and independent checks periodically.

Unless you take charge and set the example, you will get the standard of tidiness which individuals think is OK. Outline the legal responsibilities and your expectations in detail, e.g. unobstructed corridors, chemicals stored, etc. Ask the managers what additional resources they need to do what you ask, then inspect periodically.

A clean workplace can be achieved without spending a fortune and it contributes to a safe workplace for all!


H&S MANAGEMENT - The cost of non-compliance

Research has shown that it’s much cheaper to comply with your health and safety duties than leave it to chance. What’s to know?

Statistics. Safety consultancy Arinite has studied health and safety fines issued in 2016*. It identified that in total, £32,438,677 worth of fines were handed out. It also analysed how much businesses are spending on compliance. It found that small and medium-sized businesses can expect to pay between £5,000 and £40,000 per year to keep their house in order.

What does this cover? The investment includes maintenance in health and safety systems, e.g. policies, procedures, risk assessments etc., insurance, and the provision of competent health and safety advice.

More expensive. The consultancy then took the £40,000 figure away from the average fine. It concluded that if you’re fined it will cost you at least £75,000 more than if you had taken appropriate steps to become compliant. The difference between the cost of compliance and the potential fine is much greater for larger businesses.

Additional costs. It shouldn’t be forgotten that as well as fines, you also have legal costs, lost time, increased insurance costs, potential reputational damage, loss of business, etc. to factor in. As fines are getting larger all the time, the numbers will continue to stack up in favour of compliance over leaving it to chance.

Money well spent. Another important factor to consider is how the courts view those who have ignored their compliance duties. If there has been cost cutting at the expense of safety or a company has a persistent poor safety record, any penalty will be greater. If it can be proved that reasonable effort has been made to be compliant, the penalty you face will reflect this. Tip. Maintain records of how much time and money has been spent on compliance. For example, investment in competent advice, training, personal protective equipment, safer machinery etc. If things go wrong, this evidence may be useful in proving that you have invested in reducing the risks.

 If you’re fined it will cost you at least £75,000 more than if you had taken appropriate steps to become compliant. Keep records of what you spend on safety.

*To see the full research, please click on the following link


An inspector calls…

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has recruited new inspectors and launched an enforcement drive aimed at SMEs. What rights do they have, to inspect your business and what should you be doing to avoid a costly prosecution?

Click to read more ...