All employers are required to provide personal protective equipment (PPE) to employees whenever there are risks to health and safety that cannot be controlled or prevented by other means. Wherever possible, the first solution should always be to avoid a dangerous situation, but in certain cases this will not be an option. PPE includes protective clothing, helmets, and goggles, as well as any other equipment which will protect the body from injury. This equipment must be supplied by the employer to the employee free of charge based on the hazards present in the workplace. This also includes agency workers and contractors if they are legally considered as employees.

Some building firms have recently been found to be selling PPE to sub-contractors through on-site vending machines, a practice considered illegal by the Union of Construction, Allied Trades and Technicians (UCATT) in relation to the Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992.

As well as contravening the regulations, UCATT are also worried about the dangers associated with sourcing PPE from an on-site vending machine. With workers coming in all shapes and sizes, it is likely that purchasing equipment from a limited stock and without the correct supervision could lead to contractors wearing ill-fitting equipment, which can be almost as dangerous as wearing no equipment at all.

Employers are not only required to provide PPE free of charge, but should also ensure that adequate training is given so that everyone knows in which situations to use the different pieces of equipment and how to wear it safely.

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