Failing to provide your employees with Respiratory Protective Equipment could mean your business is breaking the law. Here is all you need to know about RPE and what you must do to remain compliant.
RPE is a vital part of employee safety in many job roles. If you are working in an environment where you are likely to breathe in dust, fumes, or fibers. RPE is popularly used in construction work, excavation work, and in the removal of asbestos containing materials. If you work in these areas and your employer does not provide you with RPE, they could be violating the law.
What is RPE?
Respiratory Protective Equipment is a branch of safety clothing which comes under the banner of Personal Protective Equipment. A respirator mask fits over the face snugly, without leaving gaps between your air supply and the outside atmosphere. This allows employees to protect their airways when they are working with dangerous materials or fibers.
A great example of Respiratory Protective Equipment are the masks civilians were made to wear during Covid-19. This does not necessarily include the fabric masks sold in shops, but the dust mask-style RPE masks which Europe forced residents to wear. These were medically sound, allowed air in, and contained a filter which picked out all the bad bits from the air.
Who Requires RPE?
RPE requirements differ depending on where in the world you live. In the UK, for example, the Health and Safety Executive governs the use of these RPE masks in the workplace. They ascertain that full respiratory masks are the best to use, and also mention that these are reusable. The respiratory masks mentioned here are made from plastic and come with straps so that you can affix it to your face. This works using replaceable filters which catch bacteria, dust, and more.
As to who requires RPE gear, the list is long and full of industries. Some of those who ought to wear RPE at work include the following professions.
- Pharmacists may occasionally wear one
- Asbestos removal specialists
- Those working in old buildings
- Builders/brick layers
- Anyone who handles chemicals or small fibers
The University College of London says the mask should be suitable for the wearer, task, and environment. The RPE should not interfere with the employee’s ability to complete their work.
Is Your Workplace Obligated to Provide Respiratory Protective Equipment?
The law in most places states that the employer has the responsibility for providing health and safety equipment in the workplace. RPE comes under the banner of personal protective equipment, and thus is the responsibility of your employer. If your boss does not provide you with it, and if the conditions are significantly bad for your airways, then your boss is non-compliant.
What if your Workplace is Non-Compliant with RPE?
If your workplace is not complying with regulations on RPE in the workplace, then they may be in breach of the law. You can report their conduct to your local health and safety governing body. Check with your local authority to find out where that is.short url: