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March 20, 2024

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HSE acknowledge issue of ill-fitting PPE as regulator engage with SHP

SHP’s Inclusive PPE campaign took a significant step forward as Karl Simons OBE opened communication with the UK health and safety regulator.

Simons, who is Chair of SHP’s Editorial Board, is now engaged with Senior Executives and Policy Advisors at the HSE is positive following initial discussions.

“The HSE is listening and is very aware of the issues highlighted by the campaign and has received queries and concerns relating to ill-fitting PPE being provided to workers, or requesting clarification on the regulations in this area,” he told SHP.  “I am encouraged by its response and understanding of the challenges being raised within multiple sectors of our national economy and the fact that HSE is fully in support of the need for positive change in this area.”

In conversation with Simons, HSE said: “We are supportive of the SHP campaign and it is disappointing to read about the experiences of those having to wear ill-fitting PPE which, in some cases, appears itself to be causing additional discomfort or risks to the wearer. It is foreseeable that oversized boots, for example, present trip hazards and overalls with sleeves or cuffs that are too big are at an increased risk of entanglement with machinery”.   HSE referenced these personal and shared experiences are vitally important to highlight the issue, raise awareness, promote discussion and influence change as raised in so many of the lives experience stories being shared by readers of SHP.”

Suppliers and PPE

Karl Simons OBE is Chair of SHP’s Editorial Board

Conversations between the two parties identified that failures in the supply chain were not necessarily due to a lack of suitable and available PPE produced by the manufacturer – or a lack of willingness to do so – but that there could be barriers to obtaining suitable PPE within the worker’s organisation. This is at odds with the requirements of the PPE Regulations and the accompanying guidance.

The HSE stressed to Simons it is currently ‘very clear’ in the Regulations that PPE must be suitably selected for each worker taking into account ergonomic requirements, ensuring that it is capable of fitting the wearer correctly and, so far as is reasonably practicable, it does not increase the overall risk. Complying with this requirement may mean the employer seeks out a range of alternative suppliers or changing procurement practices to ensure a wider selection of suitable equipment.

The Regulator also pointed towards a clear expectation that employers take into account the individual needs of its workers when procuring PPE and, if necessary, it urged all employers to review their procurement arrangements to ensure that all workers are supplied with suitably inclusive equipment.

Regarding enforcement action, for example, if an organisation failed to regard the needs of individuals in compliance with legal obligations, HSE clarified that it would take such steps if it was shown to be the case.

PPE fit

In a recent podcast for International Women’s Day, HSE’s Chief Executive, Sarah Albon highlighted progress made while acknowledging there is more to do: “As more and more women join these industries, they’ll become a louder voice and more demand…With just little bit of thought – and you see our best companies do this – more places can make those extra few steps, not to make a woman feel that she has to ask, or somebody is doing her a favour.”

On having the right PPE and facilities for women onsite she said: “It makes a huge difference…the availability of appropriate facilities is really patchy.”

“It’s about the facilities, it’s about having somewhere appropriate to change… It’s also about the fit of PPE itself, there can be such a struggle, for women to get – particularly boots – but other equipment that actually fits them properly.”

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