Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is any clothing or equipment a worker uses or wears to minimise health and safety risks. PPE includes items such as:

  • boots
  • ear plugs
  • face masks
  • gloves
  • goggles
  • hard hats
  • high visibility clothing
  • respirators
  • safety harnesses
  • safety shoes
  • sunscreen.

Risk management

Where it is not reasonably practicable to eliminate a health and safety risk in the workplace, control measures must be put in place. While PPE can be useful, it is one of the least effective safety control measures and must not be relied on to satisfy hazard control requirements.

PPE works best when you use it to supplement higher-level control measures or when no other safety measures are available. Before relying on PPE, conduct a risk assessment to see what higher-level control measures are available.

Only use PPE as:

  • last resort
  • an interim measure
  • a supplement to other control measures.

PCBU responsibilities

Before choosing PPE you must apply all other control measures to reduce risk in the workplace. Consult with the supplier to make sure all PPE is suitable for the type of work and workplace conditions.

Use appropriate signage to remind workers to wear their PPE.

PPE must be:

  • selected to minimise risk to work health and safety
  • suitable for the nature of the work and any hazard associated with the work
  • a suitable size and fit and reasonably comfortable for the person wearing it
    • any issues must be resolved appropriately in order for you to fulfil your legislative responsibilities
  • maintained in good working order
  • repaired or replaced, if required
  • clean and hygienic
  • used or worn by the worker as intended
  • stored appropriately.

You must:

  • consult with users (workers) and their representatives
  • conduct a detailed evaluation of the risk and performance requirements for the PPE
  • ensure compatibility of all PPE items where more than one type is required (for example ear muffs with a hard hat)
  • provide users with information, training and instruction in the use, maintenance and storage of PPE
  • only use PPE that complies with the relevant Australian Standard or equivalent standard.

PCBUs should ensure PPE:

  • is used in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions
  • does not interfere with any medical conditions of the worker using it
  • is periodically assessed to ensure it is and continues to be effective.

PCBUs must regularly monitor PPE to make sure it is being used and stored correctly. The level of monitoring needed will depend on the level of risk and the experience of the workers involved.

If a worker refuses to wear or use the PPE, the business can take action against the worker.

Supplying PPE

The PCBU is responsible for:

  • providing a worker with PPE unless it has already provided by another one
    • for example, a business may not need to provide PPE if the worker’s labour hire company provided them with it
  • covering the costs of all PPE
    • you must not charge, levy or deduct from an employee's wage any costs associated with the supply and maintenance of PPE
    • you may provide a PPE allowance, as long as it covers the cost of all required PPE
  • ensuring all PPE (including PPE purchased by a worker through a PPE allowance) meets the standards required under the law and is:
    • selected to minimise risk to work health and safety
    • suitable for the nature of the work and any hazard associated with the work
    • a suitable size and fit and reasonably comfortable for the person wearing it.

PCBUs are not required to cover costs of clothing, shoes and equipment not considered as PPE.

Worker responsibilities

If your employer provides you with PPE you must:

  • use or wear it in accordance with any information, training and instruction in the use, maintenance and storage
  • not intentionally misuse or damage the PPE
  • inform the business of any damage, defect or need to clean or decontaminate the PPE
  • inform your manager if the PPE is uncomfortable, does not fit properly or they have an adverse reaction using it
    • your employer must work with you to resolve any issues relating to the suitability, fit and comfort of the PPE.

Workplace visitors

All visitors must wear any PPE required at that workplace. The PPE must be worn in accordance with any information, training or reasonable instruction provided by the PCBU.

Managing problems with PPE

Using PPE may, in some circumstances, become a health and safety risk.

For example:

  • wearing PPE may adversely affect how well tasks can be performed—PPE can restrict vision or mobility
  • it may be uncomfortable to wear and some workers may not be able to wear the recommended PPE at all due to sensitivities, such as workers who are allergic to latex cannot wear certain kinds of rubber gloves
  • it may create new hazards through its use—some items might hinder the body’s natural cooling mechanisms by preventing evaporation of perspiration.

Any problems must be appropriately managed to ensure compliance with legislation.

Further information

Work Health and Safety Regulations 2012 (SA) sections 36, 44, 45, 46 and 47

Work health and safety consultation, co-operation and co-ordination - Code of Practice

A guide to buying P2, or equivalent, respirators for use in the Australian & New Zealand work environment - Australian Institute of Occupational Hygienist