PPE and the importance of workplace risk assessments

Published: 29 March 2020 Health & safety

The most contentious issues amongst radiographers and other health professionals over past weeks has been the lack of protective personal equipment (PPE) at work, and what PPE is most appropriate.

Each working situation (and department) is slightly different but our advice to members is that they must not put themselves, their patients, their colleagues, or their families in danger by working in an unsafe way.

Every workplace must have appropriate health and safety risk assessments for all areas of work. These should identify if PPE is required to reduce the risk of infection and, if required, what that PPE should consist of.

If risk assessments have not been carried out, or they do not take into consideration the developing Covid-19 situation, SoR members have been advised to raise the issue with their manager immediately. 

If an employer fails to carry out a risk assessment, or refuses to do so, they are acting illegally.

The main health and safety law in the UK is the Health and Safety at Work, etc Act 1974 (HSWA). It stresses that management must organise health and safety in the workplace. This means the employer have to provide the people and resources that will make workplaces safe.

The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 set out what employers are required to do to comply with the general duties under the HSWA.

The absolute duty to undertake suitable and sufficient risk assessments underpins the whole framework of health and safety management in the workplace, and its importance cannot be over-emphasised.

Most duties set out in the Regulations are on employers, or self-employed people, but Regulation 14 also imposes duties on employees to work safely (as required by Sections 7 and 8 of the 1974 Act).

This includes the duty to inform their employer if they reasonably consider something representing a serious and immediate danger to health and safety, or any matter which they would reasonably consider represented a shortcoming in the employer’s protection arrangements for health and safety.