The importance of PPE: are we taking health and safety for granted?

15 September 2016

All construction site managers will know that one of the most important things is keeping their workers safe. Thanks to the HSE, here in the UK, we have certain standards that must be met in order for a site to be legal. It is the employer’s duty to provide the use of personal protective equipment (PPE). This includes anything that will safeguard workers, such as high-visibility clothing, safety footwear and harnesses, protective eye-wear, helmets and gloves.

The HSE explains how PPE should be a last resort when it comes to health and safety. Where health and safety cannot be controlled sufficiently, the Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992 state PPE is to be supplied. All of the equipment should be provided with instructions on how to use everything correctly and safely, assessed to assure it is fit for its purpose, stored properly, and employees are taught how to use and wear it. All PPE’s must be provided free of charge by the employers, too.

The HSE put these rules and regulations in place in order to keep our workers safe at all times. Whether some of the guidelines seem extreme, or not, are simply opinions of a serious matter. In the UK, we are lucky to have such principles that other parts of the world are still hoping for.

Currently, on Egypt’s Alexandria Shipyard, 26 workers are awaiting their trial which is held tomorrow, the 16th of September, following their arrest. The labourers staged a sit-in back in May, this year, to protest a call for bonus payments, to allow workers to receive promised promotions and for 36 temporary workers to be made permanent. However, because the military courts do not allow appeals, they would need to seek presidential input. The defendants could be sentenced to up to three year’s imprisonment.

Not just this, the management’s disregard to health and safety procedures were highlighted when a 27-year-old worker, Mohammed Gad, was electrocuted and killed onsite. Prior to this tragedy, he and his workmates were said to have spent their time demanding safety boots and occupational health and safety but were constantly ignored by the higher authorities.

In the UK, employees have the right to stop working and leave the work area if they have reasonable concerns about their safety. Also, by law, they are not to be disciplined if they rightly contact the Health and Safety Executive, or other local authorities, if the employer refuses to listen to the concerns.

In an ideal world, strict health and safety procedures that we have, in the UK, that include PPE’s, would exist across the globe and on every construction site. Of course, positive ethical changes within workers is on the rise and don’t go unnoticed, and even the smallest step forward is better than no step forward at all.