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Control measure

Personal protective equipment (PPE)

Control measure knowledge

Personal protective equipment (PPE) is equipment that will protect the user against health or safety risks. It can include items such as helmets, gloves, eye protection, high-visibility clothing and safety footwear. Equipment such as Chemical Protective Suits (CPC), Respiratory Protective Equipment (RPE) and safety harnesses are considered PPE and are covered in more detail elsewhere in guidance.   PPE should be regarded as a last resort where risks to health and safety cannot be adequately controlled in other ways. Service risk assessments should define the specific PPE required for an activity to avoid unsuitable selection.

If more than one item of PPE is to be worn, they must be compatible with each other and adequately control the risks when used together. PPE must be maintained in good working order and properly stored when not in use. Employees must make proper use of PPE in accordance with training received and report any loss, damage, destruction or fault.

During protracted incidents and when making up equipment personnel may be inclined to relax PPE; incident commanders should be vigilant and base any decision to downgrade the need for PPE on an assessment of residual risk.

When PPE has become dirty, contaminated or damaged it may not perform to the standard required by the appropriate specification. PPE should only be worn if it has been subject to appropriate cleaning or decontamination and testing processes.

See: Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992

For further information on respiratory protective equipment see, National Operational Guidance: Operations - Respiratory Protective Equipment

Strategic actions

Fire and rescue services must:
  • Provide employees with suitable personal protective equipment that fits the wearer correctly and adequately controls identified risks

  • Ensure that personal protective equipment and respiratory protective equipment worn simultaneously is compatible and does not negatively impact other safety measures
  • Provide appropriate accommodation for personal protective equipment when not in use

Fire and rescue services should:
  • Specify the level of PPE for hazards identified through risk assessment and communicate to personnel

  • Have suitable arrangements for the cleaning and maintenance of PPE in accordance with the manufacturer's instructions

  • Ensure that there are suitable arrangements to support the replenishment of PPE

Tactical actions

Incident commanders should:
  • Ensure that all personnel wear the level of PPE identified by service risk assessments, procedures and training

  • Ensure the appropriate PPE is maintained throughout the incident based on an assessment of risk

  • Check the condition and serviceability of PPE when assessing operational readiness for redeployment

  • Recognise the potential contamination of equipment and PPE and follow service procedures