Personal Protective Equipment ("PPE") – Duty to provide PPE increases from April 2022
What are the changes?
From 6 April 2022, businesses will be required to provide all workers with the necessary PPE to undertake their role. Under the amendments to the Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992, the provisions regarding PPE will expand and cover workers, in addition to employees. The change has arisen after it was highlighted by the COVID-19 pandemic that workers were receiving less favourable treatment than employees.
What is a "worker"?
A worker is defined under section 230(3) of the Employment Rights Act 1996 as:
"an individual who has entered into or works under (or, where the employment has ceased, worked under):
(a) a contract of employment, or
(b) any other contract, whether express or implied and (if it is express) whether oral or in writing, whereby the individual undertakes to do or perform personally any work or services for another party to the contract whose status is not by virtue of the contract that of a client or customer of any profession or business undertaking carried on by the individual".
PPE requirements for businesses
There will be an increase in risk assessments regarding tasks performed by workers. Once undertaken, if it is determined that a worker is engaged in activities, which will likely expose them to health and safety risks, which cannot be controlled to an acceptable level of risk, businesses will be required to provide suitable PPE equipment and/or clothing. Workers, as with employers, will receive PPE free of charge, with all costs, the storage and maintenance of PPE the responsibility of the business.
Businesses who fail to comply with their duty can face various punishments, ranging from enforcement notices, increased risk of personal injury claims against them, and for the most serious breaches, criminal prosecution.
Considerations for employers
Most of our clients over the past two years have treated employees and workers equally when it has come to PPE. For those, this change should have little impact on their day-to-day operations. Other employers that have taken a more discerning approach should now take time to consider the employment status of those they contract to undertake work on their behalf and ensure that both employees and workers are afforded the appropriate PPE for their roles.