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How Much Liability Does the Employer Hold for PPE?

How Much Liability Does the Employer Hold for PPE?

How Much Liability Does the Employer Hold for PPE?

We all know that it is an employer’s responsibility to provide personal protective equipment (PPE) free of charge to employees, but where exactly does an employer’s liability for PPE end? Are employers held responsible for equipment failure, even if an employee decides to use their own personal PPE on site, or if they refuse to wear it?

We cover all aspects of employer responsibility here in our employer liability FAQ:

Is An Employer Liable For PPE Failure?

In a nutshell, yes. An employer must provide suitable PPE as determined by a risk assessment for the site, or for the job function. This typically includes PPE for the eyes, face, head, hands, and feet, as well as protective clothing, breathing devices, and shields if deemed necessary. There are slightly different requirements for the construction and marine industries, so it’s worth checking what’s needed in your sector. While it is an employee’s responsibility to frequently check their PPE and report wear and tear, it ultimately falls upon the employer if the PPE fails to do what it needs to.

Does All PPE Need To Be Provided For Free?

No. Following legislation changes that came into effect in May 2008, any PPE that is necessary for the job and must be worn on the job site is to be provided by the employer for free. However, ordinary clothing, non-speciality footwear and eyewear, and weather-dependent items such as sun cream, raincoats, and winter gloves — essentially anything that is permitted to be worn off-site — does not have to be offered.

Is An Employer Liable For An Employee’s Own PPE?

While an employer cannot request that an employee buy, pay for, or use their own PPE, they can agree to allow workers to use their own personal protective equipment on-site as long as it meets the necessary requirements and is in good working order. In this instance, the liability ultimately still falls with the employer. Even if it is an employee’s own personal equipment that fails on site, it is the overall responsibility of the employer.

Is An Employer Liable For PPE In Relation To Agency Workers/Subcontractors?

Yes. Responsibility for agency workers and subcontractors can be a tricky area, especially if the workers are paid through the agency. In this instance, it may seem logical that they are not considered to be employees. However, they are deemed to be an employee when working on site, and must be provided with the same care.

The only exception to this is when working with self-employed workers. If a self-employed worker does indeed meet the criteria for being self-employed (they are considered to be an employee if they are only working for one employer, if they cannot be replaced easily within their role, and have access to employee benefits such as paid holiday), then the worker must provide their own PPE that meets the site’s needs.

Is An Employee Liable If An Employee Refuses To Wear PPE?

Again, yes. The Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992 stipulates that it is an employer’s responsibility to ensure that all workers are wearing the correct PPE. In situations where a refusal is made on the basis of a poor fit or medical condition, the employer is still liable and must make an effort to rectify the situation through identifying and providing suitable PPE that can be worn by the employee. In other situations, a refusal to wear necessary PPE on site without good reason can be cause for dismissal.

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    Posted in PPE

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