Failure to provide protective safety equipment flaunts law, says TUC


According to a new study by the Trades Union Congress (TUC), many firms are unlawfully forcing their employees to buy and replace their own protective safety equipment.

Accident at Work Personal Protective Equipment

The study found that more than 20% of its respondents are being made to pay for personal protective equipment (PPE), which covers clothing, helmets and goggles meant to protect against injury, electrical hazards, chemicals, heat and infection.

TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber said it is "an absolute scandal" that so many employers are behaving illegally.

By law, all employers are obliged to ensure that staff PPE is maintained in an efficient state, in efficient working order and in good repair. In this context, 'maintained' includes cleaning and/or replacement of PPE. It is also illegal for employers to charge their workers for equipment.

However, even where the demands of a job make the use of PPE essential, 11.6% of individuals told union researchers that their employers did not supply or pay for protective safety equipment. Meanwhile 8.9% said they were forced to replace damaged PPE at their own cost.

More than 15% of women surveyed said they had to pay for some or all of their own PPE, compared to 10.5% of men, while over 60% of employees whose PPE required regular cleaning said their employers did not pay those costs.

Mr Barber said employers' PPE failings affect a wide range of industries. "[They] range from construction to catering. Even when equipment is provided it is often expected that the worker cleans it or replaces it if damaged."

Mr Barber stressed that although protective safety equipment is essential to protecting workers from injury or disease, the law is often ignored.

"As a result many workers – often those in low-paid service jobs like catering and cleaning – are having to fork out from their own pocket, or go without. This must stop. With the government's cutback of proactive inspections in the workplace this abuse can only grow."

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