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News

Protective clothing and equipment must be provided free

HSE InfoLine : 18 February, 2004  (Company News)
The Health and Safety Executive is reminding employers within the catering industry about their duty to provide workers with free personal protective equipment. The duty applies to catering employers both in the private and the public sectors.
Percy Smith, HSE Principal Inspector dealing with the catering industry said: 'Recent reports to HSE from unions and groups of workers indicate that some employers providing safety shoes or other items of PPE are classing them as part of the work uniform and charging workers for them. Regrettably we receive similar reports regularly over the years. Catering employers must understand that the practice of charging in this way is illegal.'

'The provision of PPE should never be the first step in dealing with risks in the workplace, anyway,' Mr Smith said. 'Only after all other reasonably practicable steps have been taken to prevent and control risks to an adequate level should there be recourse to PPE.'

In catering, PPE may include safety shoes which are slip-resistant or with protection against objects dropped onto the feet; gloves or gauntlets to protect hands and arms from burns and cleaning agents; aprons and overalls to protect from hot splashes; and face masks and goggles to protect against cleaning agents for ovens and hot plates.

The risk of injury from slipping is higher in the catering industry than in most; and worker complaints about having to buy protective footwear feature prominently in reports reaching HSE. Avoidance of spills and leaks on to the floor, immediate cleaning of spills and provision of non-slip flooring surfaces are some key steps to achieve a high degree of control. 'Each case must be considered on its merits,' Mr Smith said,' but sometimes, despite all these measures, slip-resistant shoes will be necessary to adequately control the risk. When this is the case, the shoes will be regarded as PPE and must be supplied free.

'Where staff turnover is rapid and the cost of personal issue equipment kept by staff when they leave is high, many employers choose not to issue any at all. In this situation, free provision of slip-resistant overshoes may be an alternative to avoiding the problem and risking breaking the law.'
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