From April, employers will be obliged to provide personal protective equipment (PPE) to workers, as well as employees, who may be exposed to health and safety risks at work.
An amendment to the Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992, which was laid before Parliament this week (10 January), will come into force on 6 April 2022 and extends the duty on employers to provide personal protective equipment (PPE) to people classified as a ‘limb (b) worker’ under employment law.
Organisations will need to undertake a risk assessment to establish whether a worker requires PPE to carry out their work tasks. If they do, the employer will need to carry out a PPE suitability assessment and provide protective equipment or clothing to them free of charge, as they do for employees.
Organisations will also be responsible for the maintenance, storage and replacement of any PPE they provide, while workers will be responsible for reporting any loss or damage to their PPE.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has published guidance to help organisations that might be affected by the changes, and has warned that employers could be prosecuted or face enforcement notices if they do not provide PPE to those entitled to it.
Some 1.7 million workers suffered from a work-related illness in 2020/21, HSE figures released in December showed.
With many organisations facing staff shortages, last year the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health warned that safe working practices should not be compromised in order to maintain productivity. It published a checklist to ensure safe working when staff are absent or vacancies are high.