PPE – Is it enough?

According to the OHS Act, any employees working in a situation where they may be exposed to risk or potential risk are required to wear personal protective equipment (PPE). Examples of PPE include safety shoes, hard hats, gloves, aprons, eye protection, ear protection.

If PPE is used as one element of the risk control programme (it must not be the sole measure used to reduce exposure), it must be:

  • suitable for the substance used and work activity
  • fit properly (which would mean face fit testing for respiratory protective equipment)
  • disposed of properly or cleaned
  • stored properly
  • maintained if it is non-disposable.

Under the various regulations regarding carcinogens, employers have a duty to provide employees who may be exposed to a hazardous substance with information, instruction and training on the possible risks to health, and the precautions and control measures they should take.

This should cover specific signs and symptoms to be aware of. Employees should be advised to report any problems and taught how to conduct self examinations for symptoms linked to the carcinogen they are using.

The effect of some carcinogens can be increased by other factors such as smoking or drinking, so it could be beneficial to provide information on healthy lifestyles, such as giving up smoking, eating healthily and being more active.


It is important to identify any hazards in the workplace, assess the associated risks, and take
appropriate steps to remove or minimise them.
The employer must, as far as is reasonably practicable, make employees aware of any health and safety hazards
attached to any work that they do.
The employer must also provide, and ensure that employees use, the necessary precautionary measures associated with these hazards.

Hazard = a source of or exposure to danger, that can cause injury, illness or death. Hazards are generally considered to be unsafe conditions or unsafe acts.

Hazard Classification

For your interest, a more complex perspective classifies hazards according to the following categories:

  • Physical hazards: such as noise, vibrations, temperature, humidity, dust levels, electricity, lighting, radiation, working at heights, unguarded machinery, moving machinery parts, items that cause slipping or tripping, etc.
  • Chemical hazards: such as gases, chemical dusts, liquids, fumes, mists, vapours.
  • Biological hazards: such as blood-borne infections, viruses, bacteria, fungi, insect bites, faeces, poisonous plants and animals.
  • Ergonomic hazards: such as poorly adjusted workstations and chairs, poor posture, use of force, repetitive actions.
  • Psycho-social hazards: such as work pressure, job security, job satisfaction, management style, health issues, personal stress.


By law, the employer may not permit any employee to work “unless such an employee uses the required safety equipment or facility provided”

Occupational Health and Safety Act (1993), General Safety Regulations see GSR 2(6) below.

It is therefore the responsibility of the employee to obey health and safety rules and procedures.

An extract from the Occupational Health and Safety Act (1993), General Safety Regulations – retrieved June 09, 2009 :

(2) Personal safety equipment and facilities

Examples of PPE include safety shoes, hard hats, gloves, aprons, eye protection, ear protection.

  1. Subject to the provisions of paragraphs (f), (g), (h) and (i) of regulation 5 of the General Administrative Regulations published under Government Notice R. 2206 of 5 October 1984, every employer and every user of machinery shall make an evaluation of the risk attached to any condition or situation which may arise from the activities of such employer or user, as the case may be, and to which persons at a workplace or in the course of their employment or in connection with the use of machinery are exposed, and he shall take such steps as may under the circumstances be necessary to make such condition or situation safe. (Replaced by GAR, 1994 by Government Notice R. 17403 of 6 September, 1996.)
  2. Where it is not practicable to safeguard the condition or situation contemplated in subregulation (1), the employer or user of machinery, as the case may be, shall take steps to reduce the risk as much as is practicable, and shall provide free of charge and maintain in a good and clean condition such safety equipment and facilities as may be necessary to ensure that any person exposed to any such condition or situation at a workplace or in the course of his employment or on premises where machinery is used is rendered safe.
  3. Taking into account the nature of the hazard that is to be countered, and without derogating from the general duties imposed on employers and users of machinery by subregulations (1) and (2), the safety equipment and facilities contemplated in subregulation (2) shall include, as may be necessary —

    a. suitable goggles, spectacles, face shields, welding shields, visors, hard hats, protective helmets, caps, gloves, gauntlets, aprons, jackets, capes, sleeves, leggings, spats, gaiters, protective footwear, protective overalls, or any similar safety equipment or facility of a type that will effectively prevent bodily injury;

    b. waterproof clothing, high-visibility clothing, chemical-resistant clothing, low temperature clothing, chain mail garments, waders, fire retardant or flame-proof clothing, ice-jackets, or any similar safety equipment of a type that will effectively protect the wearer thereof against harm;

    c. belts, harnesses, nets, fall arresters, life lines, safety hooks, or any similar equipment of a type that will effectively protect persons against falls;

    d. mats, barriers, locking-out devices, safety signs, or any similar facility that will effectively prevent slipping, unsafe entry or unsafe conditions;

    e. protective ointments, ear-muffs, ear-plugs, respirators, breathing apparatus, masks; air lines, hoods, helmets, or any similar safety equipment or facility of a type that will effectively protect against harm;

    f. suitable insulating material underfoot where persons work on a floor made of metal stone, concrete or other similar material; and

    g. generally, such safety equipment or facilities as may be necessary to render the persons concerned safe.
  4. An employer or a user of machinery, as the case may be, shall take steps to ensure that no safety equipment or facility provided as required by this or any other regulation is removed from a workplace or from premises where machinery is used, except for purposes of cleaning, repair, maintenance, modification, mending or replacement, and no person shall remove any such safety equipment or facility from a workplace or premises where machinery is used, except for the aforesaid purposes.
  5. An employer shall instruct his employees in the proper use, maintenance and limitations of the safety equipment and facilities provided.
  6. An employer shall not require or permit any employee to work unless such an employee uses the required safety equipment or facility provided in terms of this or any other regulation.
  7. The provisions of this regulation shall not be construed as derogating from the provisions of any specific regulation prescribing specific safety equipment or facilities.

A continuous risk assessment should be conducted on a continuous basis in the work environment. It is a powerful and important form of assessment and should take place continually, as an integral part of day to day management. In continuous HIRA, the emphasis is on day to day hazard awareness, through HIRA, and immediate risk treatment.

In developing hazard awareness, memory joggers such as inspection checklists, pre-use checklists, and critical part and paths checklists, can be produced from management controls that are a product of issue-based HIRA. Planned Task Observations could also be conducted on an ongoing basis.

It is performed at an operational level, where the system, process and activities are monitored on a continuous basis by the operational floor management and first line supervisors. It must not be sophisticated and should mainly be conducted by first line supervisors.

Formal training in this regard is essential. The main emphasis is on “hazard awareness through hazard identification”.

Tinus Boshoff – The South African Labour Guide

Pairing with Partners in the Community

Employers can and should partner with community organizations. For example local fitness clubs and provide reduced memberships, local farmers markets that promote fresh fruits and vegetables, partner with a Dr. office that might help set up screenings and flu shots in your office. Small to medium sized companies can really benefit from such partnerships.



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