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Employers liability: The provision of personal protective equipment (PPE)

As lockdown has gradually eased, more and more employees are now returning to offices, factories, shops, plants and other premises. However, COVID 19 has created some real headaches for employers on a range of issues including issuing personal protective equipment (PPE).

Whilst the landscape of what employers must do in these strange times change frequently, I thought it beneficial to summarise the law (pre-lockdown) on what an employer’s duties are.

When I first started practicing in this area, lawyers could base claims for personal injury on both breaches of statutory regulations and common law negligence. However, since the introduction of the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013, lawyers can no longer cite breaches of Regulations. They can, however, use them to support arguments for inferring negligence.

So, what are the rules?

They are contained within the Personal Protective Equipment Regulations 1992. These Regulations continue to impose criminal liability for breaches and it is likely that the courts will consider the regulations highly relevant to the question of liability in negligence. The HSE also issued Approved Codes of Practice (ACOPs) which enable employers to see how they can comply with the law.

In short, an employer must provide PPE for dangerous processes where an employee might otherwise suffer an injury if it were not provided. A risk assessment will be required based on the degree of risk and the potential of harm. Common types of PPE issued could be breathing apparatus, goggles, gloves, ear defenders etc.

These rules apply to all employers, including the Crown and Police.

An employer’s duties do not just stop with the provision of PPE. The Regulations state that an employer must ensure the use of the PPE, maintain and repair PPE, and provide information, instruction and training on its use. For example, an employee may be provided with a respirator but unless they are shown how to use it, the employee may still come to harm through its incorrect use.

Any PPE must be sufficient for the job being undertaken. I have personally acted for an individual who was provided with goggles which when worn created a gap at the side of his eyes. As he was undertaking his task, a piece of metal flew through the gap and into his eye.

Johnathan Steventon-Kiy, specialist personal injury lawyer, says:

“The failure to risk assess of provide suitable PPE has been the subject of many successful legal cases. In addition to this has been the failure to provide proper information, instruction and training on the proper use of PPE. If you have been injured as a result of any of the above, get in contact with our team today.  The specialist solicitors in Biscoes Personal Injury team have many years of experience pursuing these sorts of cases and we act for the majority of our clients on a no win no fee basis.”

Contact our specialist personal injury, medical negligence and industrial disease solicitors on 02392 660 261, email or visit for more information. You can also follow us on twitter using the handle @biscoesmedneg


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The contents of this article are intended for general information purposes only and shall not be deemed to be, or constitute legal advice. We cannot accept responsibility for any loss as a result of acts or omissions taken in respect of this article.