Personal protective equipment

A person in control of a business or undertaking must provide personal protective equipment and clothing for workers when hazards in the workplace cannot be eliminated. Personal protective equipment can also be used effectively in conjunction with other measures to adequately reduce the level of risk. Personal protective equipment is typically required for work where location continually changes and fixed engineering controls are not appropriate and work which is irregular and short in duration such as maintenance inspections and entry into confined spaces.

Personal protective equipment protects a worker’s body from hazards and includes a wide range of clothing and safety equipment such as overalls, safety hats, safety boots, safety glasses, gloves, goggles, respirators, ear muffs, high visibility clothing.

Selecting the right personal protective equipment for the job

The selection processes should include:

  • detailed evaluation of the risk and performance requirements for the personal protective equipment;
  • consultation with users;
  • ensuring compatibility of personal protective equipment items where more than one type of personal protective equipment is required such as ear muffs with a hard hat; and
  • consideration of workers’ medical conditions and fitting requirements.

Personal protective equipment plan

The plan should include:

  • the basis for selecting each type of equipment used in the workplace;
  • necessary medical data, such as the results of individual hearing tests undertaken prior to and periodically during exposure to noise;
  • worker training needs;
  • exclusive use of personal protective equipment by workers where relevant;
  • fitting requirements for individual items of personal protective equipment;
  • cleaning and disinfecting procedures;
  • storage requirements of the equipment;
  • maintenance and/or replacement requirements; and
  • periodic assessments to ensure that the equipment is used properly and is effective.

Use of personal protective equipment

The person in control of a business or undertaking must ensure:

  • all personal protective equipment complies with the relevant Australian Standards;
  • the right type of personal protective equipment for the job is selected;
  • personal protective equipment fits properly and is comfortable under working conditions;
  • personal protective equipment is stored in a clean and fully operational condition;
  • personal protective equipment is stored where it is easily accessible and safe from interference, damage and contamination;
  • personal protective equipment is checked regularly during storage and usage to make sure it is in good working order;
  • damaged or defective personal protective equipment is repaired or discarded; and
  • all workers are adequately trained in the need for personal protective equipment, how to correctly and safely use and maintain it and that workers use the personal protective equipment properly in accordance with the training provided.

Some possible disadvantages of using personal protective equipment

Possible disadvantages of using personal protective equipment may include:

  • wearing personal protective equipment may adversely affect the performance of tasks being undertaken such as restricting vision or mobility;
  • personal protective equipment may be uncomfortable to wear and some workers may not be able to wear it such as workers who are allergic to latex and cannot wear rubber gloves;
  • ongoing supervision is required to ensure the personal protective equipment is being used correctly;
  • personal protective equipment may create new hazards such as some items of personal protective equipment can hinder the body’s natural cooling mechanisms by preventing evaporation of perspiration; and
  • personal protective equipment may be an expensive option if used as a long term control measure when the costs of continuous maintenance and replacement are taken into account.


Signs should be posted in the workplace wherever it is necessary to use personal protective equipment. These signs serve as a useful reminder to workers of the kind of personal protective equipment that should be used.

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