21st March 2022

Change to PPE Regulations

All workers to have the same level of PPE protection

A recent article in IOSH Magazine has revealed that from 6th April 2022, employers in the UK must provide the same level of protection to workers who carry out casual work as employees who have a contract of employment.

The amended personal protective equipment regulations will have significant implications for employers across a wide range of industries regardless of whether their workforce is a combination of employees and casual workers or is only comprised of workers that carry out activities on a casual or irregular basis.

How will this affect employers?

Under the amended rules, an employer that uses both casual and contracted workers must now ensure that there is no difference in the way PPE is provided to them. They must also ensure that everyone undertaking work activities is provided with training and instruction so they know how to use the PPE properly. Under regulation 11 of the Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992, employees are required to report any supplied PPE that is subsequently lost or becomes defective to the employer. Under the new rules, this requirement has been extended to limb (b) workers

For businesses that are entirely reliant on casual workers, there will be a significant cost implication as they are now required to provide all PPE free of charge.

HSE consultation

Last year, the HSE ran a four-week public consultation to raise awareness of the coming changes to the regulations and to ‘gain an insight into the potential costs’ arising from the amendments.

The reason for the shorter than normal consultation period was that the Secretary of State for the Department of Work and Pensions had already agreed these changes to bring it in line with the court’s judgment and to provide clarity for workers and employers. The amendments will apply to England, Scotland and Wales.

The HSE has also reminded employers that the changes to the PPER 2022 do not apply to all risks, for example, lead exposure and asbestos. In these circumstances, separate regulations will apply to managing the risks and how they will be enforced.

IOSH findings

Although IOSH has welcomed the amendment as it affords all workers, regardless of their employment type, the same protection for the tasks they complete, it pointed out the challenges that the new rules would pose for managers, including the short time-frame proposed to implement the requirements. This is in addition to ensuring that employers would be ready to carry out the required risk assessments for all workers and training on PPE use by the enforcement deadline. IOSH also noted that important PPE controls such as face-fit testing of limb (b) workers undertaking irregular hours could present an issue to employers, due to the practicalities of them attending site at a particular time.

IOSH have also raised the issue of cost for organisations that employ or may choose to employ casual workers. They pointed out that although the relative cost of purchasing PPE per worker, which on average is around £284 per year, was reasonable for higher hazard or specialised industries, for some (smaller) organisations, it wasn’t.

An IOSH spokesman commented; ‘The focus should be on protection and risk management. The requirements for the provision [of PPE] should be as an outcome of the risk assessment for the task, and the issuing of the protection should not be led by the type of worker they are classed as.'