Free PPE For All?


One of the innovations of the Health and Safety at Work Act of 1974 was the introduction of a new absolute requirement not only for the employer to provide personal protective equipment, but also for this to be provided free of charge.

This obligation is supported by more specific requirements which appear in the Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992 as amended.

The requirement applies to all PPE which is required to meet any legal requirements. “All equipment designed to be worn or held by a person at work to protect against one or more risks in addition to any ordinary uniform or clothing”

However, what about the new breed of self-employed, people who may technically be self-employed but in reality they are working for one main organization who tells them what to do and when to do it.

Since the pandemic hit, more and more workers have become part of the gig economy, paying for their own PPE. A recent case has been taken forward by the Independent Workers’ Union of Great Britain in relation to employment law, which includes PPE. The union has won a legal review against the government that employees in the gig economy should be covered by the same H&S law as other employees.

The gig economy usually involves workers on zero hours contracts, with no fixed or set hours. They can decide when they want to work. Overall, this method of working has higher numbers of younger people. Workers may feel more obliged to work longer shifts, extra hours, as sometimes the software which provides their bookings has subtle methods of persuading them to take that extra job.

In a surprise ruling by the review panel, the judge ruled that workers in the gig economy must be provided the PPE they need by the organization they work for. This also includes PPE needed to protect wearers from COVID.

“Where it is essential that PPE is hygienic and free from risk to health, the employer and self-employed must ensure it is provided for individual use”

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