A Guide to Workwear & Safety

Posted by Jack Durant at

A Guide to Workwear & Safety Workwear & Safety

According to the Health and Safety Executive statistics 2010/11 - 117 people were killed at work with over 115,000 reported injuries through RIDDOR. A further 200,000 injuries were reported which resulted in more than 3 days off work. Overall, there was a loss of over 26 million working days costing the UK Economy over £14 billion.

Frightening statistics, I’m sure you will agree.

Health & Safety requires commitment. The costs don't need to be excessive, however the costs of having unsafe practices, accidents, down time, insurance costs, as well as poor morale, high staff turnover & missed deadlines can be considerably more. These can affect profitability & in the case of small businesses it may be the difference between survival & going under!

Therefore, we have put together this simple guide to assist in bringing awareness to both the employer and employee.


Safety Workwear & PPE | Health & Safety Law | PPE at Work Regulations | Safety Helmets | Respiratory | Eye Protection | Ear Protection | Safety Clothing | Hi Vis | Gloves | Footwear

Safety & WorkwearSafety Workwear & PPE

 Safety workwear and footwear is everywhere. From the builder with his hard hat, gloves and safety shoes, through to the school crossing supervisor with his high-visibility jacket. Safety wear has quickly become a fundamental part of life, particularly for those professions where the working environment is fraught with potential hazards.  

Why Wear Personal Protection Equipment

Partially due to tighter health and safety laws which govern the conditions in which employees are expected to work and behave, and partly due to a shift in employer's attitudes to safety, generally taking greater care of the welfare of their employees, there has been a huge surge in demand for protective clothing and garments in the work environment. But is all of this safety clothing and footwear really necessary for those working in dangerous trades?

Even if you leave aside the legal requirements dictated by health and safety laws, the answer is still a resounding yes. Safety footwear and workwear is designed for the sole purpose of protecting the wearer in situations where there is potential for harm. It can also provide additional support, comfort, and warmth, as well as provide weather-proofing and visibility in less clement conditions.

It is in the interest of both the employer and employee to make available and use of safety wear at work. Preventing injury or minimising the impact of accidents to the workforce not only saves a painful trip to hospital, but the costs incurred to the employer through loss of productivity. It is better to pay a small amount for a few essential items of safety workwear than to have to pay for a sick or injured employee.
“Safety Workwear & Personal Protection Equipment is designed for the specific purpose of protecting the wearer in situations where there is potential for harm…”

Even for the general public, safety workwear can be beneficial. Clothing and apparel such as safety shoes, glasses and gloves are extremely helping in preventing injury and keeping you safe whilst undertaking maintenance jobs around the house or in the garden, whilst high-visibility clothing can keep you safe and seen whilst out dog walking, jogging, or cycling at night.

So, when is safety workwear essential? Almost everywhere it seems! Wherever you turn these days, it's likely that there is a tradesman in a high visibility jacket, or a construction worker with safety boots and thick gloves. In short, whether at work or at home, you must first carefully consider the different hazards in your particular workplace.

Health & Safety at workHealth & Safety Law

All workers have a right to work in places where risks to their health and safety are properly controlled. Health and safety is about stopping you getting hurt at work or ill through work. Your employer is responsible for health and safety, but you must help.

What employers must do for you
1 Decide what could harm you in your job and the precautions to stop it. This is part of risk assessment.
2 In a way you can understand, explain how risks will be controlled and tell you who is responsible for this.
3 Consult and work with you and your health and safety representatives in protecting everyone from harm in the workplace.
4 Free of charge, give you the health and safety training you need to do your job.
5 Free of charge, provide you with any equipment and protective clothing you need, and ensure it is properly looked after.
6 Provide toilets, washing facilities and drinking water.
7 Provide adequate first-aid facilities.
8 Report major injuries and fatalities at work to our Incident Contact Centre: 0845 300 9923. Report other injuries, diseases and dangerous incidents online at
9 Have insurance that covers you in case you get hurt at work or ill through work. Display a hard copy or electronic copy of the current insurance certificate where you can easily read it.
10 Work with any other employers or contractors sharing the workplace or providing employees (such as agency workers), so that everyone’s health and safety is protected.

What you must do
1 Follow the training you have received when using any work items your employer has given you. 2 Take reasonable care of your own and other people’s health and safety.
3 Co-operate with your employer on health and safety.
4 Tell someone (your employer, supervisor, or health and safety representative) if you think the work or inadequate precautions are putting anyone’s health and safety at serious risk.

If there is a problem
1 If you are worried about health and safety in your workplace, talk to your employer, supervisor, or health and safety representative.
2 You can also look at our website for general information about health and safety at work.
3 If, after talking with your employer, you are still worried, you can find the address of your local enforcing authority for health and safety and the Employment Medical Advisory Service via HSE’s website:

Fire safety
You can get advice on fire safety from the Fire and Rescue Services or your workplace fire officer.

Employment rights
Find out more about your employment rights at:
Personal Protection Equipment at work regulations 1992

Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992

Employers have basic duties concerning the provision and use of personal protective equipment (PPE) at work and this document, explains what you need to do to meet the requirements of the Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992 (as amended).

What is PPE?
PPE is defined in the Regulations as ‘all equipment (including clothing affording protection against the weather) which is intended to be worn or held by a person at work and which protects him against one or more risks to his health or safety’, eg safety helmets, gloves, eye protection, highvisibility clothing, safety footwear and safety harnesses.

Hearing protection and respiratory protective equipment provided for most work situations are not covered by these Regulations because other regulations apply to them. However, these items need to be compatible with any other PPE provided.

Cycle helmets or crash helmets worn by employees on the roads are not covered by the Regulations. Motorcycle helmets are legally required for motorcyclists under road traffic legislation.

What do the Regulations require?
The main requirement of the PPE at Work Regulations 1992 is that personal protective equipment is to be supplied and used at work wherever there are risks to health and safety that cannot be adequately controlled in other ways.
The Regulations also require that PPE:
• is properly assessed before use to ensure it is suitable;
• is maintained and stored properly;
• is provided with instructions on how to use it safely; and
• is used correctly by employees.

Can I charge for providing PPE?
An employer cannot ask for money from an employee for PPE, whether it is returnable or not. This includes agency workers if they are legally regarded as your employees. If employment has been terminated and the employee keeps the PPE without the employer’s permission, then, as long as it has been made clear in the contract of employment, the employer may be able to deduct the cost of the replacement from any wages owed.

Assessing suitable PPE
To allow the right type of PPE to be chosen, carefully consider the different hazards in the workplace. This will enable you to assess which types of PPE are suitable to protect against the hazard and for the job to be done.

Ask your supplier for advice on the different types of PPE available and how suitable they are for different tasks. It may be necessary in a few particularly difficult cases to obtain advice from specialist sources and from the PPE manufacturer. Another useful source of information is the British Safety Industry Federation (

Consider the following when assessing whether PPE is suitable:
• Is it appropriate for the risks involved and the conditions at the place where exposure to the risk may occur? For example, eye protection designed for providing protection against agricultural pesticides will not offer adequate face protection for someone using an angle grinder to cut steel or stone.
• Does it prevent or adequately control the risks involved without increasing the overall level of risk?
• Can it be adjusted to fit the wearer correctly?
• Has the state of health of those who will be wearing it been taken into account?
• What are the needs of the job and the demands it places on the wearer? For example, the length of time the PPE needs to be worn, the physical effort required to do the job and the requirements for visibility and communication.
• If more than one item of PPE is being worn, are they compatible? For example, does a particular type of respirator make it difficult to get eye protection to fit properly?

The hazards and types of PPE
Hazards: chemical or metal splash, dust, projectiles, gas and vapour, radiation.
Options: safety spectacles, goggles, face shields, visors.
Hazards: impact from falling or flying objects, risk of head bumping, hair entanglement.
Options: a range of helmets and bump caps.
Hazards: dust, vapour, gas, oxygen-deficient atmospheres.
Options: disposable filtering face piece or respirator, half- or full-face respirators, air-fed helmets, breathing apparatus.
Protecting the body
Hazards: temperature extremes, adverse weather, chemical or metal splash, spray from pressure leaks or spray guns, impact or penetration, contaminated dust, excessive wear or entanglement of own clothing.
Options: conventional or disposable overalls, boiler suits, specialist protective clothing, eg chain-mail aprons, high-visibility clothing.
Hands and arms
Hazards: abrasion, temperature extremes, cuts and punctures, impact, chemicals, electric shock, skin infection, disease or contamination.
Options: gloves, gauntlets, mitts, wrist cuffs, armlets.
Feet and legs
Hazards: wet, electrostatic build-up, slipping, cuts and punctures, falling objects, metal and chemical splash, abrasion.
Options: safety boots and shoes with protective toe caps and penetration-resistant mid-sole, gaiters, leggings, spats.

• Make sure anyone using PPE is aware of why it is needed, when it is to be used, repaired or replaced and its limitations.
• Train and instruct people how to use it properly and make sure they are doing this.
• Because PPE is the last resort after other methods of protection have been considered, it is important that users wear it all the time they are exposed to the risk. Never allow exemptions for those jobs which take ‘just a few minutes’.
• Check regularly that PPE is being used and investigate fully any reasons why it is not. Safety signs can be useful reminders to wear PPE.

Make sure equipment is:
• well looked after and properly stored when it is not being used, for example in a dry, clean cupboard, or in the case of smaller items, such as eye protection, in a box or case;
• kept clean and in good repair - follow the manufacturer’s maintenance schedule (including recommended replacement periods and shelf lives). Simple maintenance can be carried out by the trained wearer, but more intricate repairs should only be done by specialists.

Make sure suitable replacement PPE is always readily available.

CE marking
Ensure any PPE you buy is ‘CE’ marked and complies with the requirements of the Personal Protective Equipment Regulations 2002. The CE marking signifies that the PPE satisfies certain basic safety requirements and in some cases will have been tested and certified by an independent body.

Other regulations
The PPE at Work Regulations do not apply where the following six sets of regulations require the provision and use of PPE against these hazards. For example, gloves used to prevent dangerous chemicals penetrating the skin would be covered by the Control of Substances Hazardous to
Health Regulations 2002 (as amended). The regulations are:
• The Control of Lead at Work Regulations 2002.
• The Ionising Radiations Regulations 1999.
• The Control of Asbestos at Work Regulations 2002.
• The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 (as amended).
• The Noise at Work Regulations 1989.
• The Construction (Head Protection) Regulations 1989. 

Key points to remember
Are there ways (other than PPE) in which the risk can be adequately controlled, eg engineering controls? If not, check that:
• PPE is provided;
• it offers adequate protection for its intended use;
• those using it are adequately trained in its safe use;
• it is properly maintained and any defects are reported;
• it is returned to its proper storage after use.

Further reading
Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992. Guidance on Regulations L25 HSE Books 2005 ISBN 0 7176 6139 3

COSHH a brief guide to the Regulations: What you need to know about the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 (COSHH) Leaflet. INDG136(rev3) HSE Books 2005 (single copy free or priced packs of 10 ISBN 0 7176 2982 1)

Lead and you: A guide to working safely with lead Leaflet INDG305(rev1) HSE Books 1998 (single copy free or priced packs of 15 ISBN 0 7176 1523 5)

Noise at work: Advice for employers Leaflet INDG362 HSE Books 2002 (single copy free or priced packs of 10 ISBN 0 7176 2539 7)

Selecting protective gloves for work with chemicals: Guidance for employers and health and safety specialists Leaflet INDG330 HSE Books 2000 (single copy free or priced packs of 15 ISBN 0 7176 1827 7)

Selection of suitable respiratory protective equipment for work with asbestos Leaflet INDG288(rev1) HSE Books 2003 (single copy free or priced packs of 5 ISBN 0 7176 2220 7)
Safety Posters

Safety Helmets

Safety Helmets must be Worn 

Head Protection
You must provide head protection for your employees if: Objects might fall from above and strike them on the head. They might bump their heads against fixed objects, such as exposed pipes or beams. They work near exposed electrical conductors.

Safety Helmets
Head Protection Criteria
In general, protective helmets, or hard hats, should: Resist penetration by objects, Absorb the shock of a blow, Be water resistant and slow burning, Come with instructions explaining proper adjustment and replacement of the suspension and head band, and Comply with EN Standards. 


 Respiratory Masks

What is RPE?
RPE is a type of personal protective equipment (PPE). It is designed to protect the wearer against inhaling hazardous substances in the workplace. RPE is divided into two main types:
Respirators (filtering devices), use filters to remove contaminants in the workplace air. Filter selection and use requires due care and attention to ensure the safety of wearers. Respirators should never be used in situations with reduced oxygen levels.
Breathing apparatus (BA), needs a supply of air from a clean source (e.g. an air cylinder or air compressor). BA may be used in situations with reduced oxygen levels.
Both types are available with a range of facepieces: masks, hoods, helmets, visors and blouses.



Workwear That Works Guide
Hazardous substances can be present in the workplace in different physical states, including:
Gases such as chlorine and ammonia.
Liquids such as solvents, petrols and paints.
Solids and dusts such as slate, powdered chemicals, flour, cement dust, silica and wood dust. Solids that produce dangerous gases with moisture (e.g. cyanide, phosphide) or that give off vapours (e.g. phenol, metaldehyde, naphthalene, iodine).
Fumes arising from welding, soldering and burning metals. Fibres such as asbestos, glass wool, rockwool and refractory ceramic fibres.
Mists and sprays such as battery acid mist from re-charging or from tasks such as paint spraying. Vapours generated by petrol, solvents, thinners or products like paints and varnishes.
Breathing in hazardous substances can cause ill health. In some cases it can lead to early death.

Eye Protection

Eye Protection





Acetylene-burning, Acetylene-cutting, Acetylenewelding
Chemical handling
Electric (arc) welding
Furnace operations
Grinding - light
Grinding - heavy
Molten metals
Spot welding

Workwear That Works Guide


Sparks, harmful rays, molten metal, flying particles.
Splash, acid burns, fumes.
Flying particles.
Sparks, intense rays, molten metal.
Glare, heat, molten metal.
Flying particles.
Flying particles.
Chemical splash, glass.
Flying particles.
Heat, glare, sparks, splash.
Flying particles, sparks

Eye and Face Protection Criteria
Protect against specific hazard(s) encountered by employees
Comfortable to wear
Must not restrict vision or movement
Durable and easy to clean and disinfect
Must not interfere with the function of other required PPE
Eye Protection for Employees Who Wear Eyeglasses
Prescription spectacles, with side shields and protective lenses meeting requirements Of BHSRs Goggles that can fit comfortably over corrective eyeglasses without disturbing their alignment Goggles that incorporate corrective lenses mounted behind protective lenses
Face Shields
Do not protect employees from impact hazards
Use face shields in combination with goggles or safety spectacles when you must protect your employees from impact hazards, even in the absence of dust or potential splashes

Safety Clothing

Protective Clothing
Body Protection
Workplace hazards that could injure your employees’ bodies include the following:
Intense heat. Splashes of hot metals and other hot liquids. Impacts from tools, machinery, and materials. Cuts. Hazardous chemicals. Contact with potentially infectious materials, like blood. Radiation.  















Workwear That Works Guide

Types of Body Protection
Surgical gowns
Full body suits

Materials for Protective Clothing
Paper-Like Fibre.
Disposable suits made of this material provide protection against dust and splashes.
Treated Wool and Cotton. Adapts well to changing workplace temperatures. Comfortable and fire resistant. Protects against dust, abrasions, and rough and irritating surfaces.
Duck. Protects employees against cuts and bruises while they handle heavy, sharp, or rough materials.
Leather. Often used against dry heat and flame.
Rubber, Rubberized Fabrics, Neoprene, and Plastics. Provides protection against certain acids and other chemicals.

High Visibility

High VisibilityHi Vis Vest
High visibility clothing
The Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992 require many factors to be taken into account to ensure that the correct clothing is chosen for a particular task.
Is it suitable for the risk?
Choice of clothing should take into account ambient and artificial lighting conditions at the workplace, and the effect of conditions such as fog and snow. For some jobs an HV waistcoat, for example, may be all that is needed, but those workers who are particularly at risk, eg from moving vehicles (marshallers or maintenance workers), may need full body HV clothing so that they are as visible as possible to the driver. HV clothing should provide adequate protection both during the day and at night, as well as in adverse weather. As a rule: the darker the conditions or worksite, the greater the amount of HV clothing required. To be effective HV clothing should be of a colour that will allow the wearer to stand out against the ambient background found in the working environment. In practice the best colours for this purpose are likely to be day-glo, or fluorescent yellow. Where necessary the clothing should also incorporate retroreflective material to make the wearer visible when seen in headlights in poor lighting conditions or during darkness. This may require reflective strips at or below waist level on waistcoats or jackets, or strips on trousers.
Is it suitable for the job?
People working in warehouses may find that some types of loose fitting tabard may snag on moving machinery parts. Also HV coats may be too warm in summer months, in which case, waistcoats or overalls with the appropriate HV qualities could be supplied. Remember: PPE must always be suitable for the work; if the way of working changes - check that the PPE is still suitable.
Is it suitable for the wearer?
HV clothing should be comfortable and fit the wearer properly. It should cause the minimum of restriction in the wearers movement.
Is it compatible with other forms of PPE?
If two or more types of PPE are worn, they should not interfere with each other. Therefore, in the case of aircraft servicing staff for example, protective clothing for chemical spills should also provide the necessary level of conspicuity. Similarly, wet or cold weather clothing should have suitable HV qualities or be capable of being worn under HV garments.
Are there any standards which the clothing should meet?
HV clothing should be manufactured to a recognised standard. The new British Standard for high visibility warning clothing is BS EN 471. This is a harmonised European standard produced with the legal requirements for PPE in mind. Clothing which conforms to the standard is marked with a pictogram like this:
Hi Vis Vest Diagram
The first number (X) indicates the class of conspicuity, this depends on the minimum area of conspicuous materials that are incorporated into the clothing, with Class 3 being the best and Class 1 the lowest; the second number (Y) indicates the retroreflection performance with Class 2 being more visible than Class 1 when seen in headlights during darkness. The standard gives specifications for coveralls, jackets, waistcoats, tabards, trousers and harnesses.

From July 1995, new clothing must be 'CE' marked to show it meets the new European rules on the manufacture of PPE. Remember: the CE mark only means that the clothing meets the standard. It does not mean it can be used in all situations. HV clothing must be suitable for the actual conditions of use.

Safety Gloves

Protective GlovesSafety Gloves 
Hand and Arm Protection
• When engineering and work practice controls fail to eliminate the risk of injury to your employees’ hands or arms, protective gloves are the primary means of protecting their hands
• When the risk of injury includes the arm, protective sleeves, often attached to the gloves, may be appropriate
• Nature of the hazard(s) and the operation to be performed will determine your selection of gloves

Types of Gloves

• Durable work gloves made of metal mesh, leather or canvas
• Fabric and coated fabric gloves
• Chemical and liquid resistant gloves
• Insulating rubber gloves
Asbestos gloves and asbestos linings are prohibited.

Metal Mesh, Leather, or Canvas Gloves
Sturdy gloves made from metal mesh, leather, or canvas provide protection from cuts, burns, and sustained heat.
Leather Gloves
• Protect against sparks, moderate heat, blows, chips, and rough objects
• Welders in particular need the durability of higher-quality leather gloves
Aluminized Gloves
• Provide reflective and insulating protection against heat
• Usually used for welding, furnace, and foundry work
• Require an insert made of synthetic materials that protect against heat and cold
• Asbestos inserts are prohibited
Aramid Fibre Gloves
• Aramid is a synthetic material that protects against heat and cold
• Many glove manufacturers use aramid fibre to make gloves that are cut- and abrasive-resistant and wear well
Other Synthetic Materials
• Several manufacturers make gloves with other synthetic fabrics that offer protection against heat and cold
• Cut- and abrasive-resistant and may withstand some diluted acids
• Do not stand up well against alkalis and solvents

Fabric and Coated Fabric Gloves
• Gloves made of cotton or other fabric protect against dirt, slivers, chafing, and abrasion but do not provide sufficient protection to be used with rough, sharp or heavy materials
• Cotton flannel gloves coated with plastic transform fabric gloves into general-purpose hand protection offering slipresistant qualities • Coated fabric gloves are used for tasks ranging from handling bricks and wire rope to handling chemical containers in laboratory operations
• For protection against chemical exposure hazards, always check with the manufacturer to determine the gloves’ effectiveness against the specific chemicals and conditions in the workplace

Chemical and Liquid-Resistant Gloves
• Gloves made of rubber (latex, nitrile, or butyl), plastic, or synthetic rubber-like material such as neoprene protect workers from burns, irritation, and dermatitis caused by contact with oils, greases, solvents, and other chemicals
• Use of rubber gloves also reduces the risk of exposure to blood and other potentially infectious substances

Common Gloves Used for Chemical Protection
Butyl Rubber Gloves
• Protect against nitric acid, sulfuric acid, hydrofluoric acid, red fuming nitric acid, rocket fuels, and peroxide
• Resist oxidation and ozone corrosion.
• Resist abrasion and remain flexible at low temperatures.
Natural Latex or Rubber Gloves
• Comfortable wear and pliability along with their protective qualities make them a popular general purpose glove
• Resist abrasions caused by sandblasting, grinding, and polishing and protect workers’ hands from most water solutions of acids, alkalis, salts, and ketones
• Hypoallergenic gloves, glove liners, and powderless gloves possible alternatives for those allergic to latex
• Neoprene Gloves • Good pliability, finger dexterity, high density, and tear resistance
• Provide protection from hydraulic fluids, gasoline, alcohols, organic acids, and alkalis
Nitrile Rubber Gloves
• Provide protection from chlorinated solvents such as trichloroethylene and perchloroethylene
• Intended for jobs requiring dexterity and sensitivity, yet stand up to heavy use even after prolonged exposure that cause other gloves to deteriorate
• Resist abrasion, puncturing, snagging, and tearing

Safety Footwear

Safety FootwearSafety Boots

Foot and Leg Protection
Some of the potential hazards that would require foot and leg protection include:
• Heavy objects such as barrels or tools that might roll onto or fall on employees’ feet
• Sharp objects such as nails or spikes that might pierce the soles or uppers of ordinary shoes
• Molten metal that might splash on feet or legs
• Hot or wet surfaces
• Slippery surfaces

Foot and Leg Protection Choices
Leggings. Protect lower legs and feet from heat hazards, like molten metal or welding sparks. Safety snaps allow leggings to be removed quickly.
Metatarsal Guards. Strapped to outside of shoes to protect instep area from impact and compression. Made of aluminium, steel, fibre or plastic.
Toe Guards. Fit over the toes of regular shoes to protect only the toes from impact and compression. Made of steel, aluminium, or plastic.
Combination Foot and Shin Guards. May be used in combination with toe guards when greater protection is needed.
Safety Shoes. These have impact-resistant toes and heat-resistant soles that protect against hot work surfaces common in roofing, paving, and hot metal industries.
• May have metal insoles to protect against puncture wounds
• May be designed to be electrically conductive for use in explosive atmospheres • May be designed to be electrically nonconductive to protect from workplace electrical hazards


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