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The benefits and limitations of PPE

The emphasis of health and safety regulation is on the avoidance of risk rather than protecting workers with personal protective equipment alone. The use of ear defenders and eye goggles are essential but they should not be relied upon. It is preferable to take steps to remove the hazard in the first place.


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New systems of work should be explored which do not result in objects being thrown towards the eyes or in loud noises being produced.

Protecting employees from hearing loss

According to the Health and Safety Executive, which is the body that oversees and enforces health and safety legislation in the UK, PPE is essential equipment. Its purpose is to protect workers from health or safety hazards presented by their work tasks. PPE includes safety helmets for head protection, safety goggles for eye protection and ear defenders. It also includes high-visibility clothing and safety harnesses. Some specialist equipment, such as respiratory protective equipment (RPE), is classed as PPE.

A comprehensive risk assessment should underpin all health and safety policies and procedures. If you do not understand the hazards that employees face, you cannot do anything about them.


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In the case of hearing loss, the preference would be to replace the tool or machinery that is creating the noise with a quieter version. Safe systems of work should limit each employee’s exposure time to the loud noise. Finally, they also need PPE in the form of ear defenders.

Supporting systems, such as hearing surveillance, are also required to detect any health issues and spot where protection has failed.

Other occupational hazards

Hearing loss is by no means the only occupational hazard that workers face these days. Some workers are at risk of violence at work and of cold and heat stress.

There are steps that an employer can take to protect the health and safety of their workforce. Some employees may face confrontational situations and a body worn camera can be invaluable in this sort of scenario. It provides valuable evidence and protection. Cameras from suppliers such as, are a great asset to the security services sector.

Cold and heat stress is a hazard for firemen, petrochemical and cold store workers. Suitable PPE would include compressed air fed garments and gold-plated visors. Simply providing PPE is not enough. It must be allocated and maintained correctly.