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Personal Protective Equipment

Safety Policy Arrangement 26-2003 (rev.2010)


Policy Statement

The University of Dundee aims to control risks to staff and others affected by its activities by such means that personal protective equipment is only needed as a last resort in circumstances where risks cannot be otherwise controlled.  Where personal protective equipment (PPE) is necessary it must be effective against the risk, suitable for the wearer, inspected, cleaned, maintained and recorded according to statutory requirements and best practice. 

This policy applies equally to students and visitors partaking in activities under the University’s control.  Contractors working for the University are required to comply with the relevant health and safety legislation and the University will make such enquiries as it considers necessary to satisfy itself of their compliance.

Definition of PPE

PPE includes clothing and equipment intended to be worn or held by a person at work to protect against one or more health and safety risks to that person. It does not include uniforms or sports clothing and equipment worn in competitive sports, but it does include protective clothing or equipment worn by sports instructors in the course of their work, and clothing for anyone working in adverse weather and extremes of temperature.


Deans/ Directors are responsible for ensuring risk assessments are documented for any activity for which PPE has been specified.  These risk assessments should evidence that there is no other reasonably practicable means of satisfactorily protecting people from health and safety risks, and should specify any future proposals planned for controlling the risks and the time scales for their implementation.  It should also document the selection process to ensure the PPE is effective against the risk and suitable for the wearer, and is inspected, cleaned, maintained and stored appropriately. 

Deans/Directors are responsible for ensuring that when PPE is needed for tasks undertaken by staff it is provided free of charge to the employee. Students and visitors may be required to provide themselves with suitable PPE before being allowed to take part in certain activities under the University’s control, and will be advised of suitable types of PPE to obtain. For example, students may be advised to provide their own laboratory coats, waterproof outer clothing and sturdy footwear for field trips. In rare circumstances where the PPE required for students or visitors is of a specialised nature needing technical approval by the University for a particular activity, that will be provided by the University together with training in its appropriate use.

Deans/Directors are responsible for ensuring that PPE is worn by people identified in the risk assessment.  Training must be given to ensure that staff understand the need for and the use of PPE, and when to use it. Local Rules should incorporate information on PPE and internal disciplinary procedures for non-compliance with this Safety Policy Arrangement.

Staff must co-operate by wearing/using the prescribed PPE as instructed, and should raise any difficulties with their School/ Directorate Safety Representative/ Co-ordinator or line manager. 

Safety Committees should discuss any difficulties that arise and should review Local Rules, referring to Safety Services if matters cannot be resolved locally.

Guidance Note on Personal Protective Equipment

Although PPE may appear to be a relatively inexpensive and simple safeguard to counteract a risk, its use is often far more expensive in time and money than was originally thought.  The costs of implementing the full requirements of the PPE Regulations include significant administrative time and continuing expenditure. Therefore for routine tasks, or those undertaken by a number of people, which rely on use of PPE an assessment should be made frequently of whether there are more effective means of risk control available.

A specific set of Regulations, The Personal Protective Equipment Regulations 1992, govern the provision, training, inspection, maintenance, storage and replacement of PPE, but the need for PPE must usually be determined by risk assessment as required under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999. Other Regulations where PPE has particular reference, and some prescriptive requirements, are:

While it is easy to specify that PPE must be worn all the time in specified areas or for certain activities, it must be realised that PPE is uncomfortable and users are likely to discard it if they do not perceive a risk.  An example here is a blanket requirement to wear head protection within the perimeter of a building site.  When the site is still bare except for an office Portacabin there is little foreseeable risk of falling or swinging items hitting the head, so the requirement is excessive.  When construction work has commenced the requirement is essential.

In some activities or circumstances the need to wear PPE is clear, and a mandatory instruction can be issued, whereas in other cases there is a discretionary element. The training that needs to be given to staff must enable them to make competent decisions about when to wear the PPE in situations where their activities are varied. For example, when handling rubbish sacks, protective gloves may be needed if bags are overloaded or cannot be picked up by the necks or they are suspected of having harmful waste in them, but often the risk in lifting partly filled tied bags of domestic rubbish without gloves is minimal.  It would be excessive to require that heavy protective gloves were always worn for this task but reasonable to provide the gloves to the operator and train him/her to assess whether they need to use them in particular circumstances.

A further example is the use of hearing protection (HP) in an area where the noise is between the first and second action levels as defined in the Regulations.  In this case the employer has to advise the use of PPE but cannot insist on it.  If employees are trained to understand the risks they can make a valid choice not to wear the HP for an exposure of 10 minutes but to choose to wear it for an exposure of several hours.

Training needs to inform staff of the full range of risks and the mechanism by which harm is caused against which the PPE is being used. 

The details of how to wear or use the PPE must be taught, together with any checks for correct fitting.

The need to regularly inspect and clean PPE must be explained, whether this is done by the user or someone else, and the correct procedure for reporting, rectifying and recording faults.  User responsibilities, such as recharging batteries for powered RPE, need to be clearly specified in local rules.

Selection of PPE
Where risk assessment has identified the need for PPE the nature of the hazard predominantly influences the type of PPE to be chosen.  Other factors which must be considered are:

Types of PPE

1.  Protection against impact and machinery injuries, and harmful substances

a)    Head protection
Safety helmets conforming to BS EN 397 should be used whenever there is a risk of falling or suspended objects striking the head. Suitable safety helmets must be of appropriate size for the wearer and have and adjustable headband.  A chin strap is useful in preventing the helmet coming off if the wearer falls.

The material which safety helmets are made of does deteriorate with age, therefore they must be replaced after three years or if they have been subjected to an impact or other damage.  Safety helmets should be stored away from direct sunlight, chemicals and extreme temperatures, and should not be modified in any way.

Bump caps or scalp protectors conforming to BS EN 812 are sometimes an acceptable alternative to safety helmets where the risk of injury arises from the worker bumping into low overhead structures but a helmet would be cumbersome.

b)    Safety footwear
Shoes or boots with steel toecaps protect toes against crushing injuries from dropped objects or from injuries from impact or running over by heavy trolleys etc. Footwear may also incorporate a steel mid sole plate to protect from penetrating injuries.

BS EN 351-1 and 351-2 “Safety Footwear for Professional Use”, are relevant standards.

In some circumstances footwear with slip resistant soles or waterproofing may be needed. 

Often adequate safety can be achieved by ensuring that staff wear appropriate shoes at work; “a sensible shoe policy”. For example, in a biochemistry laboratory open-toed shoes and sandals are inappropriate because of the risks of spillage but there is not a strong case for wearing safety shoes with steel toecaps. Similarly, cleaning staff need to wear flat shoes with closed vamps that provide stability when they are carrying items.

c)    Eye and face protection
Visors, face shields or safety glasses or goggles are used to protect against flying material causing injury, in the case of glasses or goggles these need to be of a type resistant to impact rather than chemical splash.

Care must be taken in deciding whether protective glasses are sufficient to reduce the risk of injury.  In general laboratory work where the main hazard is splashing liquids, protective glasses with side wings are advisable all the time but these should be supplemented by the use of a face shield for more hazardous activities such as preparing stocks of diluted acids from concentrates. 

Any activity where there is a foreseeable risk of high energy particles hitting the eye or face are  unlikely to be satisfactorily risk controlled by the use of high impact eye protectors alone.

Detailed guidance is given in BS EN 7028:1999, “Eye Protection for Industrial and Other Uses – Guidance on Selection, Use and Maintenance”.

Eye protection must conform with BS EN 166 which specifies the qualities of different types of protection.  BS EN 166 Code marks (older BS 2092 markings are also shown below) on the lenses and the frames indicate the suitable usage of particular glasses and goggles as follows:



BS EN 166 markings



BS 2092 marking

Optical class

Refractive tolerance + 0.06 dioptre

                                  + 0.12 “       “

                                  + 0.12/0/25  “ 








Mechanical strength

General purpose

Low energy impact

Medium energy impact

High energy impact (goggles only)














BS 2092

BS 2092:2

BS 2092:1


Liquids (chemical)

Large dust particles

Gas and Fine dust particles

Short circuit electric arc

Molten metals and hot solids




















Other markings

Resistance to misting

Resistance to scratching






Safety Services have arranged a scheme for the supply of prescription safety glasses for staff who need these for work.  These prescription safety glasses are intended for people who wear spectacles to correct their vision and whose works exposes them to more than the occasional risk of particles or slashes entering their eye.  Where exposure to such risks is rare or short duration spectacle wearers should use over glasses or goggles over their spectacles.

Contact your Safety Representative for information on how to obtain prescription safety glasses.

d)   Body protection
Leather aprons may be appropriate to control the risk of ejected fragments of materials being  processed. 

Overtrousers of stout material can protect against penetrative injuries when handling garden waste.

For chainsaw work, gloves and trousers incorporating Kevlar padding are used to minimise injury in the event of accidental contact of the saw blade with hands or legs. 

Laboratory coats provide some protection against spillages and help prevent chemical or microbiological contamination reaching the wearer. In high risk situations whole body suits may be needed.

Boiler suits provide protection against dirt, abrasions and reduce the risk of clothing becoming snagged on protrusions.

Waterproofs and insulated jackets are examples of clothing for working in adverse environments.

e)   Hand protection
Gloves of different types can be used to protect against a range of hazards such as extreme temperatures, corrosive materials, toxic chemicals, infection risks, sharp or abrasive materials, solvents and even tools which generate excessive vibration.  The risk assessment should specify what type/s of glove is necessary and the assessor must also consider the needs of the wearer in the activities which are hazardous.  Dexterity, grip, fit and comfort are important, as well as thinking whether the use of gloves adds any other risk factor, for example, a heavy glove may impede accuracy of selecting control buttons on a machine.  Using the wrong size of glove diminishes performance and may cause danger, therefore an adequate supply of different sizes of gloves must be available or users individually issued with suitably fitting ones. Most gloves reduce the risk of injury and reduce the damage if injury does occur, but they cannot be relied upon totally so users need to understand their limitations and the need to check reusable gloves for damage before use.

Where the hazard indicates that disposable gloves are suitable, the University’s policy on Latex Allergy must also be taken into account. Powdered latex gloves are unacceptable, but in circumstances where users have been informed of the need to report any symptoms if these occur, no-one in the department suffers from a latex allergy, and the use is not continuous, latex gloves may be appropriate. Disposable vinyl or nitrile gloves are preferable.  Users should be trained to discard disposable gloves by inverting them as they take them off so that contaminated surfaces are enclosed when discarded to the waste stream appropriate for the activity.

Certain chemicals permeate some types of glove materials and make them either ineffective or quickly outworn. Some gloves can only be used with certain chemicals for a short time before the material permeates through to the hand, so users need to be made aware of the limitations of such gloves. Guidance on suitability is usually available from reputable suppliers of safety equipment, but in general, solvents, chlorinated hydrocarbons and PCBs require the use of Viton gloves, handling strong acids needs butyl gloves, strong alkalis need neoprene, and nitrile gloves provide the best protection against oils and can be used for aliphatic solvents as well.

Leather gloves usually offer good protection against glass and other sharp materials while chainmail gloves are used at bandsaw work and by butchers deboning meat.

2.  Respiratory protective equipment
This category of PPE presents a number of technical, operational and maintenance challenges which need to be thoroughly researched before relying on human protection by this means. Safety Services should be contacted in any circumstances where it is considered necessary to use RPE for a routine activity and they can carry out the necessary face fit testing if any non-powered RPE is to be used.

Most RPE does not provide complete protection from the hazard, and a notional figure, the Assigned Protection Factor, is specified for each type of RPE to indicate how effective it is.  The Assigned Protection Factor means the factor by which the hazard is reduced, therefore a basic type FFP1 particle filter mask with Assigned Protection Factor 4 only reduces the hazard to a quarter of what it was – provided that it fits properly and is worn correctly!

Any RPE that relies on the user drawing air through filters (rather than excess clean air being provided to the user) requires to be face fit tested for each user. Leakage around the face seal of RPE must be below a certain level to ensure that the use of that RPE is as effective as it can be within its specification.

All RPE needs thorough instruction, training and supervision of the staff using it, and records need to be kept of its issue, inspection, cleaning, repair and maintenance, as well as a record of training.

There are five commonly used types of RPE:

The hazards for which RPE may be used include:

A range of British Standards cover various types of RPE as shown in the table below, and BS EN 4275:1997, Guide to Implementing an Effective Respiratory Protection Programme, gives details.

All RPE used in the University must be CE marked and approved to a relevant BS.  The code markings of filters and disposable masks can be confusing, and if there is any doubt as to the appropriate RPE to use, Safety Services should be contacted. 

The numbers 1,2,3 refer to the class or efficacy of the filter or mask, “P” indicates that the device protects against dusts, and there are code letters shown in the table according to the type of gas or vapour which he filter is designed to withstand. Therefore a filter designated EN 141 A2P3 has a medium capacity to prevent passage of organic vapours and a high efficiency particle filter.

A common difficulty is estimating the effective life of a filter before it needs to be replaced. Manufacturers’ literature enclosed with filters or disposable masks gives some guidance on filter life according to the external concentration of material, but frequently users do not know the concentrations to which they are likely to be exposed. As a general rule users must err on the side of caution and schedule filter or mask changes at a frequency based on the assumption that they are being exposed to higher concentrations than they think.  Thus safe working in a contaminated atmosphere for 6 hours may require several changes of mask or filter. Where the contaminant is an allergen and may be present only in very small quantities, it is even more difficult to estimate the life span of the filter or mask.


British standard

Type of RPE

Hazards the RPE is designed to protect against and codes

Class or Filter Type

Assigned Protection Factor


BS EN 149

Disposable particle filter covering nose and mouth

Only dust particles NOT for gases or vapours








BS EN 405

Disposable filter with exhalation valve containing gas filtering material as well as particle filters

Certain types and concentrations of gases and vapours as described on product information, and dust.





(Gas may be A,B,etc)





BS EN 140




(BS EN 143)

(BS EN 141)

Reusable half mask covering nose mouth and chin fitted with replaceable filters

(Particle filters, P)

(Gas filters)

According to filter type/s, P or

A – organic vapours BP > 65deg C

B – inorganic gases, not CO

E – sulphur dioxide and acidic gases

K – ammonia and organic NH4 derivs

NO-P3 – oxides of nitrogen

Hg-P3 – mercury






Gas +P3






BS EN 136

Full face mask with vision panel using replaceable filters

According to filter type/s as described above




Gas +P3






BS EN 12941

Positive pressure full face hood or helmet

According to type of filters installed in supply line








BS EN 12942

Power assisted full face mask respirator

As above, user can draw air through filters if power supply fails.








BS EN 145

Self contained closed circuit breathing apparatus


All contaminants and low oxygen


c. 1000

3.  Hearing protection
Noise is a form of energy that can damage the structure of the inner ear leading to deafness.  The product of the length of exposure and the noise level gives the amount of physical energy absorbed by the ear and when this is too high it is likely that cumulative damage will occur. Although there are other factors which influence the onset of deafness, including genetics and ageing, when noise levels are greater than 85dB(A) there is a significant risk of noise induced hearing loss over a period of time.

Noise is measured in decibels and this is a numeric scale derived from a logarithmic increase in sound pressure level.  An increase of 3 decibels in noise level corresponds to doubling the sound pressure level on the ear and consequently doubling the physical damage.  An increase of 12 decibels therefore means the sound pressure level is 16 times as great. 

Current UK law, The Noise at Work Regulations 2005, requires hearing protection to be worn when daily or weekly personal noise exposure is above is 85 dB(A) or greater, and strongly advises it above 80 dB(A). A further requirement of these Regulations is that employees be trained and instructed about the potential damage noise can do to their hearing and how to protect it.  This includes conveying a good understanding of the amount of damage that is caused by removing HP even for a short time while exposed to high noise levels.

Employers are tasked with carrying out noise assessment surveys and marking hearing protection areas when daily or weekly personal noise exposure are above 85 dB(A) with signs indicating that hearing protection is mandatory.  There are few locations within the University where this is necessary, although there are areas that fall into this category if certain equipment is in operation. 

Where hearing protectors are needed they must be selected according to the level of protection they offer over the relevant frequency spectrum.  For example, low frequency noise is less effectively diminished by most types of HP than high frequency noise, so the manufacturer’s specification must be matched against the type of noise.  In nearly all cases around the University noise levels can be satisfactorily reduced by the use of disposable ear plugs, but users may prefer to wear ear muffs instead. In a few cases ear muffs are recommended due to their greater noise attenuation.

Ear muffs are a re-useable form of HP and can be purchased in high specifications that protect against some very loud noise levels.  However, they require to be properly fitted, kept clean, inspected maintained and repaired or replaced when necessary, and all these activities to be recorded.  Ear plugs do not offer such high protection levels but are disposable, therefore only records of training, suitability, issue or availability, and supervision of use are needed.  In all cases users should be offered a choice of types of HP and receive adequate training in their proper fitting, use and care, and this training  must be recorded.

4.  Obtaining PPE
The University does not have a central purchasing arrangement for all PPE, therefore departments should approach reputable suppliers of safety equipment.  Several suggested suppliers are listed below, but may not cover very specialised applications.



Safety Shop

Showa Best

Fisher Safety