Personal Protective Equipment: What does it mean?

The term that is thrown around the construction industry is Personal Protective Equipment, no doubt you have heard it before, but, do you know what it means? From even the simplest mention of the term to finding it within your qualification, there is many that still do not know the fundamentals of what personal protective equipment actually is.

But before we learn about the meaning let’s look at the history of the health and safety industry…

A brief history of Personal Protective Equipment

In the early to mid-1800’s the first spark of health and safety happened with the formation of the factories act 1833, this kick-started a whole sector. By 1974 the Health and Safety at Work Act and the formation of HSE was in full force, laying down the regulations and legislation which would still be enforced today!

These regulations were submitted every 2-3 years and outline everything from working with asbestos to Personal Protective Equipment. The Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992 was a huge step in safety, with hundreds of products being regulated and rated. These products ranged from hard hats to safety boots and ensured maximum safety for the wearer.

What does Personal Protective Equipment protect?

Personal Protective Equipment is designed to protect areas all around the body including the lungs, head, eyes, skin and body. Each area will have its own section of safety rating for products such as steel toe cap boots.

There are many hazards which could affect the eyes, from chemical splashes to dust particles. With other hazards affecting not just the eyes but also the head, such as flying/falling objects. The head can also receive injuries from hard hats and bump caps.

With hazards that affect the eyes can also have an effect on breathing, hazards such as dust can really damage the lungs as well as the eyes. Whereas other hazards are commonly forgotten such as vibrations and adverse weather conditions, these can affect the hands, feet and body.

So what does it mean?

Personal Protective Equipment in its rawest form is a collection of products that are designed to protect the wearer in accordance with the Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992. They protect against very specific hazards from the lacerations to the legs to asbestos fibres in the lungs.

Although some products are designed to protect one area these can sometimes provide a higher level of protection across the full body, not just the selected area.

Personal Protective Equipment is designed to protect, it must be worn where possible.