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27.1 Introduction to personal protective equipment (PPE)

This section offers guidance for persons conducting a business or undertaking (PCBUs) on the requirements for providing PPE for road and roadside workers.

PPE can be used if there is still risk remaining after all other reasonably practicable control measures have been put in place.

For road and roadside work, standard PPE requirements may include:

  • hard hat or helmet
  • eye protection
  • protective clothing (such as wet weather clothing)
  • gloves
  • protective or steel toed boots
  • hi-visibility clothing
  • hearing protection
  • sunscreen.

Additional PPE (depending on the risks present) include:

  • face shields or masks
  • respiratory protective equipment. For more information, see Respiratory Protective Equipment (RPE)
  • personal proximity warning devices (especially if there is a lot of mobile plant operating at the worksite)
  • PPE required for work with electricity or gas services.

PCBUs should engage with workers when deciding what is the most appropriate PPE for their task and working environment.

27.2 Who can provide PPE

A PCBU who directs the carrying out of work at a workplace must provide PPE to workers carrying out the work unless PPE has been provided by another PCBU in the contracting chain.

The worker can also choose to provide their own PPE but only if they genuinely volunteer to do so for their comfort or convenience. If the worker chooses to provide their own PPE, the PCBU must still make sure the PPE will provide appropriate protection for the worker.

PCBUs cannot pass on the cost of providing PPE (in full or part) to their workers.

27.3 Providing replacement PPE

PCBUs must provide workers with replacement PPE free-of-charge as and when needed.

PPE must be clean, hygienic, and in good working order. PCBUs should make sure that PPE is maintained, repaired, or replaced so that it continues to minimise risk to the worker who uses it. It should be replaced whenever it becomes worn out, is no longer providing adequate protection, or is past its use-by date.

Replacing PPE should be assessed based on need – annual replacement of PPE may not be sufficient.

Adding PPE allowances to workers’ pay to cover future PPE expenses is not recommended. It is not reasonable to expect a worker to keep money aside from each pay period for future PPE purchases. There is a risk workers may wear PPE past its use-by date, especially if they have not accrued enough allowance to cover an expensive item.

27.4 PPE must be fit for purpose

Any PPE, including high-visibility clothing, must meet basic PPE requirements for fit, function and performance, and be reasonably comfortable to wear.

Workers should receive training in how to wear, use, clean, and store their PPE correctly. For more information, see Personal protective equipment – a guide for businesses

27.5 Make sure PPE does not create new risks

When assessing PPE needs, discuss with your workers what new risks the proposed PPE may create and how you can eliminate or minimise those risks. The following are examples of risks associated with different types of PPE:

Hearing protection

Some types of hearing protection can affect workers' situational awareness (for example, preventing them from hearing approaching vehicles).

There are types of hearing protection that can protect workers hearing without compromising situational awareness.

Heavy or thick clothing

Heavy or thick clothing may cause workers to overheat, affect their mobility, or create entanglement risks.

Talk with your workers about alternative clothing options (such as lighter more breathable fabrics or closer fitting options).

Long sleeves and trousers

Long sleeves and trousers can provide good protection from a number of hazards, including:

  • bitumen spray
  • dust
  • small flying objects such as gravel chips
  • sharp objects
  • chemicals
  • electricity. 

However, having blanket site rules requiring long sleeves and trousers may lead to unnecessary discomfort for workers (especially during summer months).

Consider if short sleeves and shorts can be worn safely (with the use of sunscreen when needed), and only require long sleeves and trousers for tasks where they are providing specific protection.

You could also consider if alternative protection (for example, chaps and gaiters) may be appropriate.

27.6 Worker duties and PPE

Workers have duty to follow the PCBU’s reasonable instruction and requirements regarding PPE, such as:

  • what and when it should be worn
  • how it should be cared for and stored.

Workers should tell their manager as soon as there are any issues with the PPE (such as when it is no longer fitting properly or has broken).

27.7 More information on PPE