Personal protective equipment, clothing and footwear

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The employer is obliged to provide the employee with free personal protective equipment that protects against the effects of hazardous and harmful to health factors of the working environment, and to inform him about the methods of using these means. The employer is also obliged to provide the employee with work clothes and footwear free of charge. On the other hand, the employee is obliged to use the assigned personal protective equipment as well as work clothing and footwear in accordance with their intended use.

Personal protection measures and their use

Personal protective equipment is understood as any equipment worn or held by an employee to protect against one or more hazards that may affect his health or safety at work. They should be used in situations where the risks cannot be avoided or cannot be sufficiently reduced by collective protection measures or appropriate work organization. Personal protective equipment provided by the employer should protect the employee against the effects of hazardous and harmful factors that occur in the work environment.

Personal protection measures are, among others helmets, gloves, hearing protection, goggles, protective clothing and footwear.

However, personal protective equipment does not include:

  • first aid and rescue equipment;
  • personal protective equipment used on the basis of the provisions of the Road Traffic Law;
  • ordinary workwear and uniforms that are not specifically intended to ensure the safety and health of the worker;
  • portable devices for detecting and signaling threats and violations of public order;
  • personal protective equipment used by the military, police and other law enforcement services;
  • sports equipment;
  • self-defense or deterrent measures.

The types of personal protective equipment, the use of which at specific workplaces is necessary, are determined by the employer in consultation with employees' representatives. Regulations on equipping employees with personal protective equipment should be introduced to the work regulations or other internal company acts, e.g. to the employer's order on the allocation of protective clothing and footwear.

Personal protective equipment provided to employees should:

  • be appropriate to the existing risk and not create an increased risk of itself;
  • take into account the conditions at the workplace;
  • take into account the requirements of ergonomics and the health condition of the employee;
  • be properly adjusted to the user - after making the necessary adjustments.

It is not allowed to pay an equivalent in exchange for the employee's personal protective equipment. The employee is obliged to use personal protective equipment provided by the employer. The employer, in turn, cannot allow the employee to work without personal protective equipment intended for use in a given position.

In addition, the employer is obliged to ensure that the personal protective equipment used has protective and functional properties, and in particular that it is used and maintained in accordance with the manufacturer's recommendations specified in the relevant instructions.Personal protective equipment should be used in accordance with their intended purpose. Manufacturers shall accompany such measures with instructions and information in a language that can be understood by consumers and other end-users, as determined by the Member State concerned. Such instructions and information as well as any labels must be clear, understandable and legible.

Personal protective equipment has use-by dates specified by the manufacturer. If they have lost their protective function due to the expiry of such a deadline or have been damaged, the employer is obliged to immediately equip employees with means fulfilling this function.

Example 1.

Who should inspect personal protective equipment?

Personal protective equipment should be used in situations where the risks cannot be avoided or cannot be adequately mitigated by other means. During the use of these assets, the employer is mainly responsible for supervising their technical condition. In order to ensure effective supervision, it is advisable to carry out an inspection of the condition of personal protective equipment each time by an appropriately trained user immediately prior to their use. Periodic inspection of these measures is also recommended, carried out by a competent, specially trained person in the workplace or directly by the manufacturer.

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Personal protective equipment should be intended for personal use. However, in exceptional cases, they may be used by more than one person, provided that measures are taken which preclude any adverse effects of such use on the health or hygiene of users.

The obligations of the employer include washing, maintenance, repair, dedusting and decontamination of personal protective equipment. The employer is also obliged to ensure that the products contaminated with chemical or radioactive agents or biologically infectious materials as a result of their use in the work process, are stored only in a place designated by him. It is unacceptable to entrust an employee with washing, maintenance, dedusting and decontamination of personal protective equipment that has been contaminated with chemical or radioactive agents or with biologically infectious materials.

Using work clothes and footwear for their intended purpose

The employee is obliged to use the work clothing and footwear provided to him, in accordance with their intended purpose. The employer may not allow the employee to work without work clothing and footwear intended for use in a given position.

Work clothes and footwear are assigned to employees employed in positions where their own clothing may be damaged or significantly soiled. They are also granted due to technological, sanitary, epidemiological or occupational health and safety requirements.

The employer is obliged to provide the employee with work clothing and footwear in accordance with the requirements set out in the Polish Standards. Both clothing and work shoes are the property of the employer. The employer determines the type of work clothing and footwear, the expected periods of use, which should be adapted to the working conditions, the type and level of risks at a given position, the degree of soiling and damage to clothing and footwear, as well as hygienic and sanitary requirements.

The type of work clothes and footwear which must be used on individual positions is determined by the employer in consultation with the employees' representatives. The provisions in this regard should be specified in the work regulations. On the other hand, employers who are not obliged to establish work regulations should regulate these issues in another internal act.

If the employee does not fulfill the obligation to use the work clothes and footwear assigned to him by the employer, he cannot be allowed to work.

The employer may establish workstations where employees may use their own clothing and footwear with their consent, provided that this does not violate the principles of occupational health and safety. The possibility of using footwear and own clothing does not apply to workstations where work related to the direct operation of machines and other technical devices or work that causes intense soiling or contamination of work clothing and footwear with chemical or radioactive agents or biologically infectious materials is performed. Employees who use their own work clothes and footwear are entitled to a cash equivalent from the employer. Each employer is obliged to provide his employees with personal protective equipment, clothing and footwear with protective and functional properties, free of charge. It should also ensure their proper washing, maintenance, repair, dedusting and disinfection. The types of personal protective equipment, work clothing and footwear, the use of which is necessary in certain positions, are determined by the employer. It also defines the expected period of their use. The employer may not allow the employee to work without personal protective equipment, work clothing and footwear intended for use at a given workplace.