Appendix 4

Personal protective equipment (PPE)

1. Limitations of PPE

PPE must be considered only as a last line of protection, used in addition to other measures when adequate control cannot be achieved by other means. This means, for instance, that it is not appropriate to use a dust respirator instead of suitable LEV, or a chemical cartridge respirator instead of a fume cupboard.

PPE is not an effective or reliable control measure on its own because

(a)           the correct PPE has to be selected for the task and for the wearer

(b)           it has to fit properly and be compatible with any other PPE that is worn

(c)           it must be properly donned and worn

(d)          it may be uncomfortable to wear and interfere with the task

(e)           it must be properly stored and maintained if it is to stay in good condition

(f)            it can fail to danger (e.g. gloves can develop leaks, “breakthrough” of respirator cartridges can occur)

(g)           it provides no protection for those nearby, if they are not also wearing PPE.

2. Respiratory protective equipment (RPE)

Inhalation exposure is the most important route for entry of many hazardous substances. Although there should always be other control measures, RPE may also be needed in some applications.

RPE can be divided into two types: tight-fitting (masks) and loose-fitting (ventilated helmets, visors or hoods). In the University, RPE is mainly used for protection against dusts and both types are in use.

(a)           Tight-fitting respirators (masks) can only provide adequate protection if there is a good seal against the wearer’s face. The fit will be affected by a beard or stubble in the region of the seal and some masks cannot be worn with spectacles.

The most commonly-used tight fitting RPE is the disposable filtering face piece respirator (“dust mask”). This is used to protect against fine dusts, such as wood dust, MDF dust, or laboratory animal allergens. These respirators must conform to EN 149: 2001 and be CE marked. Three categories are available:

(i)     low efficiency, FFPI (Protection Factor 4)

(ii)     medium efficiency, FFP2 (Protection Factor 10)

(iii)     high efficiency, FFP3 (Protection Factor 20)

Only FFP2 and FFP3 respirators are recommended as these give the highest levels of protection. Surgical masks and nuisance dust masks are not classed as RPE and must not be used as a control measure.

Where tight fitting respirators (including disposable respirators) are used as a control measure, then a face fit test must be carried out to confirm that the mask provides adequate protection. The fit test confirms that a particular size and type of respirator provides a proper fit, and therefore proper protection, for each individual undergoing the test. The individual must continue to use the size and type of mask for which they have been successfully fit tested. If they use more than one type of mask, then more than one fit test will be required. Departments are responsible for identifying who needs a fit test, ensuring that they attend for the test and for keeping the records of the fit test (they should be kept for the duration of the individual’s employment).

Fit testing must be carried out by a competent contractor (respirator suppliers are often able to arrange this service) or performed in-house by suitably-trained and competent staff. Departments should consult their Area or Divisional Safety Officer for further advice on respirator fit testing.

(b)     Loose fitting respirators (ventilated helmets, visors, or hoods) use a fan-assisted flow of filtered air to provide protection. Because they do not rely on a tight fit, they are the only RPE that is appropriate for those with beards, or facial hair that would interfere with a mask’s face seal.

These respirators must conform to EN 12941 and be CE marked. Three categories are available:

(i)     TH1 (Protection Factor 10)

(ii)     TH2 (Protection Factor 20)

(iii)     TH3 (Protection Factor 40)

Note that TH2 and TH3 respirators provide considerable protection against high exposures and no fit test is required.

3. Skin protection

Some substances are hazardous by skin contact, either directly (e.g. corrosive substances like concentrated acids) or because of systemic effects following absorption through the skin (e.g. organic mercury compounds). Some substances (e.g. phenol and hydrofluoric acid) can have both local and systemic effects. Safety data sheets, hazard warning labels and EH 40 (in which some substances are given Sk notations) can provide more information about these hazards.

 Disposable gloves are commonly provided to protect against skin contact with hazardous substances. They must be carefully chosen to suit the activity and the substance in question. The manufacturer’s advice must be obtained and followed, especially on the suitability of the glove for particular chemicals and the permissible exposure time to the chemical before it “breaks through” the glove material.

While the use of powdered latex gloves is prohibited in the University the use of any non-powdered latex gloves must be the subject of a written COSHH assessment. Latex disposable gloves are commonly used and relatively cheap, but their use is no longer justified without a proper risk assessment because of the increasingly high incidence of latex allergy in the UK population. Latex glove use should be reserved for those tasks where great manual dexterity is required, or (rarely) where their chemical resistance is superior to that of alternatives such as nitrile. Latex gloves must not be used for general tasks (e.g. cleaning, food handling, or maintenance) where other gloves can be substituted.

4. Eye protection

Eye protection is dealt with in detail in the appendix to UPS S8/10.

The COSHH assessment should identify appropriate eye protection (safety spectacles, goggles or face shield) for the task. While safety spectacles are commonly worn (and are compulsory in laboratories) they do not provide adequate protection where there is a high risk of chemical splash to the eyes or face.