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Provision and use of personal protective equipment

Obligations for employers and workers

Personal protective equipment (PPE) is intended to improve the safety of workers at work and to protect their health. Here you will find important information on the provision and use of PPE.

Who is actually required to provide PPE? Who selects it and according to what criteria? Who is responsible for its cleaning and storage? Answers to these questions can be found in the "Ordinance on Safety and Health Protection when Using Personal Protective Equipment at Work" (PPE Usage Ordinance; PSA-BV).

The PPE Usage Ordinance

The PPE Usage Ordinance - or PSA-BV for short - of 20 December 1996 implements the European "Directive 89/656/EEC on the minimum health and safety requirements for the use by workers of personal protective equipment at the workplace" into German law. It regulates the

  • selection,
  • provision,
  • maintenance,
  • repair,
  • replacement and
  • storage of PPE

by the employer in all areas of work. In addition, it requires the employer to train workers on the handling of PPE. The PPE Usage Ordinance does not apply in workplaces that are subject to the Federal Mining Act (BBergG).

PPE: always subordinate

The employer's statutory duty to provide PPE stems from the Safety and Health at Work Act (ArbSchG). PPE constitutes a measure pursuant to Section 3 of this Act, which obliges the employer to take all necessary measures of occupational safety and health. In doing so, the employer must take account of all circumstances that influence the safety and health of workers at work. The employer decides which measures are necessary for this based on the risk assessment (Section 5, ArbSchG). As part of this process, they must first examine all technical and organisational measures. Only when these options are exhausted must the employer implement individual protective measures, which also include PPE.

In this respect, the use of PPE is always a suitable measure if the hazards cannot be avoided or sufficiently restricted through technical or organisational solutions. Conversely, technical and organisational measures always take priority over PPE. Any necessary PPE, such as protective clothing, protective footwear or protective gloves, must always be provided for free by the employer.

The use of PPE gives rise to obligations for both the employer and the workers.

Employers' obligations

The PPE selected and provided to workers by the employer must meet the requirements of the Ordinance on the Making Available of Personal Protective Equipment on the Market (8th ProdSV).

For each item of PPE provided, the employer must keep the necessary information for its use available in comprehensible form and language, e.g. in the form of operating instructions.

The employer must provide workers with training on the safe use of the PPE. These training sessions are based on the manufacturer's information. In addition, in the case of PPE intended to protect against potentially fatal health hazards or lasting health damage (Category III PPE), practical exercises must be conducted in addition to the training. This applies, for example, to respirators/breathing apparatus, fall-preventing PPE, PPE for rescuing people from heights and depths, or diving equipment.

Workers' obligations

Workers are required to

  • use the PPE,
  • carry out a visual inspection and functional test before every use and
  • immediately report any observed defects to the employer or its representative.