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Personal Protective Equipment


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, PCBUs must put control measures in place. While PPE can be useful, it is one of the least effective safety control measures. PCBUs must not rely on PPE to satisfy their hazard control requirements. PPE does not control the hazad at the source and rely on human behaviour and supervision and used on their own tend to be ineffective in minimising risks.

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 PCBUs must apply all other control measures to reduce risk in the workplace.

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
  • maintained in good working order
  • clean and hygienic
  • used or worn by the worker as intended.

PCBUs must consult with any worker likely to be directly affected by a matter relating to WHS.

In relation to PPE, a PCBU should:

  • consult with users and their representatives and include 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)
  • consult with the supplier to make sure all PPE is suitable for the work and workplace conditions
  • ensure the PPE complies with the relevant Australian Standard or equivalent standard.

Supplying PPE

A PCBU must provide 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.

The PCBU must cover the costs of all PPE and must not charge, levy or deduct from an employee's wage any costs associated with the supply and maintenance of the PPE.

A PCBU may give a worker a PPE allowance, provided that it covers the cost of all required PPE. The PCBU must ensure that the chosen PPE is suitable and meets the standards required under the law.

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

    Worker responsibilities

    A worker provided with PPE by their employer must:

    • use or wear the PPE 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 their manager if the PPE is uncomfortable, does not fit properly or they have an adverse reaction using it.

    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.

    Use appropriate signage to remind workers to wear their PPE.

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

    Workplace visitors

    Any person must wear PPE that is 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, give rise to problems that, without proper management, could 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.

      The PCBU must work with the wearer to resolve any issues relating to the suitability, fit and comfort of the PPE. Any issues must be resolved appropriately in order for the PCBU to fulfil their legislative responsibilities.

      Ongoing monitoring is required to make sure the PPE 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.

      Further information

      Frequently Asked Questions

      Do PCBUs need to cover the cost of uniforms or regular shoes?

      Generally, no. The requirements to provide and pay for clothing and equipment under the WHS Laws only apply to items that are PPE. A worker’s regular clothing such as pants or jeans that are worn in a factory environment are not generally considered PPE. However some protective clothing and equipment will be such as boots, safety shoes and high visibility clothing.

      Where a PCBU is required to cover the cost of clothing or equipment because it is PPE, it is an offence for them to charge or levy a worker, or cause a worker to be charged for these items. Workplace relations laws also prohibit unauthorised deductions from an employee’s wage for work-related items such as PPE.

      What things need to be considered when choosing the right PPE for the job?

      PPE used at a workplace 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.

      PCBUs are required to consult, as far as is reasonably practicable, with workers who are likely to be directly affected by a matter relating to WHS. If the PCBU and workers have agreed to procedures for consultation, the consultation must be in accordance with those.

      Consistent with this duty, a PCBU should:

      • consult with users and their representatives and include 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)
      • consult with the supplier to make sure all PPE is suitable for the work and workplace conditions.

      For further guidance on consultation see the Code of Practice—How to Consult, Co-operate and Co-ordinate Activities with Other Duty Holders.

      When choosing PPE, PCBUs must ensure all other control measures to reduce risk in the workplace have been applied.

      PCBUs must also ensure the PPE complies with the relevant Australian Standard or equivalent standard.

      What is the role of the PCBU when workers are using PPE?

      PCBUs must ensure PPE is used and worn by the worker, so far as is reasonably practicable and is maintained, repaired or replaced to minimise risk to the worker who uses it. PCBUs must also provide the worker with information, training and instruction in the use, maintenance and storage of PPE.

      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
      • appropriate signs are used to remind workers where it must be worn
      • is periodically assessed to ensure it is and continues to be effective.
      What are the maintenance requirements for PPE?

      To ensure PPE continues to minimise any potential risk for the worker, PPE must be maintained, repaired or replaced and stored correctly. This includes making sure it is clean, hygienic and in good working order.

      What are ways to manage problems that may arise when using PPE?

      Using PPE may, in some circumstances, give rise to problems that, without proper management, could 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.

      Under such circumstances, the duty holder will still be required to discharge their duties under the WHS Laws.

      Where problems are identified with the suitability, fit and conformableness of the PPE, the PCBU must work with the wearer to resolve the issue. They must do this in order to comply with the requirement to ensure the PPE is a suitable size and fit and that it is reasonably comfortable for that wearer.

      Ongoing monitoring is required to make sure the PPE is being used and stored correctly.

      While monitoring the use of the PPE can be time consuming, the PCBU is under an obligation to do so, so far as is reasonably practicable. Monitoring also assists a PCBU to meet its duty to ensure PPE is appropriately maintained, repaired or replaced.

      The level of monitoring needed will depend on the level of risk and the experience of the workers involved.

      Can a duty holder provide a PPE equipment allowance instead of purchasing the required items?

      Yes. PCBUs can provide a PPE allowance, provided it covers the cost of the PPE required under WHS laws. The PCBU would still need to ensure the chosen PPE 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.

      If a PCBU merely provides an allowance for purchasing PPE, but has not carried out any assessments to ensure it is suitable, they may not have fulfilled their duties in relation to PPE.