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Protective clothing

28 April 2005

Employers are required by law to provide suitable personal protective equipment for their employees at work. The term "equipment" includes clothing. Employers are under a duty to ensure that employees comply with the relevant regulations.

The requirements are set out in the Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992. In addition, the Food Safety (General Food Hygiene) Regulations 1995 require every person working in a food handling area to wear suitable, clean, and (where appropriate) protective clothing.

The Health and Safety at Work Act prohibits employers from charging employees for anything done or provided under a requirement of health and safety legislation. This means that PPE has to be provided for employees at the expense of the employer.

Employers have to provide their employees with instruction and training on PPE that is understandable, adequate and appropriate. This means that employees should be aware of the purpose of PPE and how to use and maintain it and the risks of not doing so.

In health and safety terms, PPE is a last resort measure to cover any risk that remains after all reasonably practicable steps have been taken to avoid or reduce risks in the workplace. In addition, the need for PPE has to be assessed on a case-by-case basis. Employers are not required to do more than is reasonably practicable. The use of PPE does not excuse failure to take other steps to avoid a risk.

Practical points and guidance

Certain risks are unavoidable in the catering and hospitality industry. In many workplaces, particularly kitchens, there is a risk of slipping.

PPE requirements for the catering industry are likely to include:

• non-slip shoes where there is a slipping risk;

• 100% cotton garments (for example, chefs' whites) where there is a risk that the garment material may aggravate burns in the event of a fire; and

• where caustic cleaning substances are used, long-sleeved vinyl gloves, goggles, a visor and possibly respiratory equipment.

There is a degree of overlap between the need for PPE to satisfy health and safety requirements and the need to satisfy food hygiene requirements. Guidance on the PPE Regulations is set out in the Approved Code of Practice from the Health and Safety Executive on PPE at work.

Roy Tozer is a Partner in the Regulatory Group of DLA Piper Rudnick Gray Cary UK LLP. roy.tozer@dlapiper.com

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