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A guide to PPE and employee rights during coronavirus

The current coronavirus (Covid-19) crisis has highlighted the importance of health and safety measures at work and specifically the provision of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).

What can I expect from my employer?

Every employer is under a duty to take reasonable steps to protect the health of their workers who are at potential risk of contracting Covid-19 whilst engaged in work duties.

The employer is obliged to carry out a risk assessment of the job being done, which in the present climate should include an assessment in relation to the risk of contracting Covid-19. They should consider firstly how the need for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) can be minimised through mechanisms such as social distancing (ensuring all workers work at least 2 m apart), physical barriers separating employees, or reducing the numbers of employees working at any time.

If after these measures, there is still deemed to be a remaining risk, the employer should consider what PPE can be provided to further reduce the risk.

What is PPE?

PPE is equipment that will protect the user against health and safety risks at work. It can include items such as gloves, eye protection, and overalls.

Under the Personal Protective Equipment Regulations (Northern Ireland) 1993, every employee is entitled to be provided with suitable and adequate PPE, depending upon the nature of the job being done and the risks presented.

What are the requirements for suitable and adequate PPE?

It is essential that the PPE provided by the employer is suitable and adequate to protect against the risk. This should include the following:

  • It should be correctly fitted, to take into account any impairment and body shape.
  • It should be convenient to access
  • It should be stored correctly to prevent contamination eg in a dry/ clean area.
  • There should be an adequate supply for all employees.
  • There should be suitable systems in place for disposal of used PPE to prevent contamination.

PPE to protect against COVID-19

In terms of the present Coronavirus pandemic, health and safety measures and PPE could include the following, depending upon the job being performed by the employee:

  • Adequate provision of hand sanitizers to maintain levels of cleanliness.
  • Adequate facilities for hand washing to include soap and hand drying equipment.
  • Protective gloves.
  • Protective face masks
  • Protective overalls/ aprons

There have unfortunately been examples of employees who have felt vulnerable and exposed to infection and injury due to concerns about the lack of safety measures and PPE put in place by their employer. Your employer is under a duty to take reasonable steps to protect you.

Contact Thompsons NI

If you have concerns about the safety provisions put in place by your employer and are concerned that as a result you have been infected/ injured and require legal advice please contact Oonagh McClure or Joanne Kerr on 02890 890450 for a free, no-obligation consultation.

Thompsons NI continues to provide a full service to both existing and new clients.

View Thompsons Solicitors coronavirus (COVID-19) update here: