Our latest technical questions and answers

March 2022

Hundreds of people contact our health and safety helpline, seeking advice on topics ranging from working at height to hazardous substances, public safety to PPE, risk assessments to regulations.

These queries are answered by our friendly team of experts.

We recognise that many of the issues raised will be of interest to our wider membership. So, in the second of a new series, here are edited versions of some of the latest questions and answers.

Changes to PPE regulations

Question Can you clarify the upcoming changes to the personal protection equipment (PPE) regulations?

Answer The following information taken from the ‘interim guidance for the Personal Protective at Work (Amendment) Regulations 2022’ may be useful.

What this means for employers

The Personal Protective at Work Regulations 1992 place a duty on every employer in Great Britain to ensure that suitable PPE is provided to ‘employees’ who may be exposed to a risk to their health or safety while at work.

The Personal Protective at Work (Amendment) Regulations 2022 extends this duty to limb (b) workers and comes into force on 6 April 2022. Employers need to carefully consider whether the change to UK law applies to them and their workforce and make the necessary preparations to comply.

What this means for limb (b) workers

If a risk assessment indicates that a limb (b) worker requires PPE to carry out their work activities, the employer must carry out a PPE suitability assessment and provide the PPE free of charge as they do for employees.

The employer will be responsible for the maintenance, storage and replacement of any PPE they provide. As a worker, you will be required to use the PPE properly following training and instruction from your employer. If the PPE you provide is lost or becomes defective, you should report that to your employer.

Definitions of limb (a) and limb (b) workers

In the UK, section 230(3) of the Employment Rights Act 1996’s definition of a worker has two limbs.

  • Limb (a) describes those with a contract of employment. This group are employees under the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and are already in scope of the 1992 Regulations.
  • Limb (b) describes workers who generally have a more casual employment relationship and work under a contract for service – they do not currently come under the scope of the 1992 Regulations.

The 2022 Amendment Regulations draw on this definition of worker and capture both employees and limb (b) workers.

Worker means ‘an individual who has entered into or works under:

  • a contract of employment; or
  • any other contract, whether express or implied and (if it is express) whether oral or in writing, whereby the individual undertakes to do or perform personally any work or services for another party to the contract whose status is not by virtue of the contract that of a client or customer of any profession or business undertaking carried on by the individual.

And any references to a worker’s contract shall be construed accordingly.

General duties of limb (b) workers

Generally, workers who come under limb (b):

  • carry out casual or irregular work for one or more organisations
  • after one month of continuous service, receive holiday pay but not other employment rights such as the minimum period of statutory notice
  • only carry out work if they choose to
  • have a contract or other arrangement to do work or services personally for a reward (the contract doesn’t have to be written) and only have a limited right to send someone else to do the work, for example swapping shifts with someone on a pre-approved list (subcontracting)
  • are not in business for themselves (they do not advertise services directly to customers who can then also book their services directly).

As every employment relationship will be specific to the individual and employer, the precise status of any worker can ultimately only be determined by a court or tribunal.

Please note, these changes do not apply to those who have a ‘self-employed’ status’.

Read more on the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) website, find background information, and check out the Personal Protective Equipment at Work (Amendment) Regulations 2022. You can also contact the HSE directly.

Starting out as an independent OSH consultant

Question I have many years’ experience in agriculture and would like to do more to support farmers, by getting involved in independent consultancy, raising awareness, offering advice and guidance, supporting with legal obligations, and offering training for employees and employers. How do I become an independent health and safety consultant?

Answer Anyone can set themselves up as a health and safety adviser/consultant in the UK. This is because the relevant legislation, regulation 7 of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 (as amended), simply states: “Every employer shall ... appoint one or more competent persons to assist him in undertaking the measures he needs to take to comply with the requirements and prohibitions imposed upon him by or under the relevant statutory provisions.”

Regarding what makes a person competent, the legislation says: “A person shall be regarded as competent … where he has sufficient training and experience or knowledge and other qualities.”

Read the regulations in full.

The HSE website offers the following information on the meaning of competency.

“Competence can be described as the combination of training, skills, experience and knowledge that a person has and their ability to apply them to perform a task safely. Other factors, such as attitude and physical ability, can also affect someone’s competence.”

As the level of competence required will depend on the complexity of the situation, it is therefore up to the client to decide what level of skills, knowledge, experience, etc they believe the consultant needs to be considered competent in the circumstances.

In terms of suitable qualifications, IOSH has a list of the ones that meet the academic requirements for each member grade.

You can join relevant IOSH industry groups, such as our Consultancy and Rural Industries groups. They bring together members with a shared interest or specialist area, to network and exchange information.

There are plenty of consultancy resources on the IOSH Career Hub, another free member benefit, and you could post on IOSH’s career forum to seek suggestions from your peers.

Hard hat exemptions

Question Are there any exemptions for employees wearing hard hats? A worker at my company is refusing to wear one, saying he is exempt due to religious reasons. Please can you clarify the legal requirement.

Answer There is an exemption for turban-wearing Sikhs but not for any other religious purpose. The following information, on exemptions to the wearing of head protection for specific religious groups, is from the HSE’s FAQ section, relating to ‘construction general – personal protective equipment’.

“Section 11(1) of the Employment Act 1989[3] as amended by Section 6 of the Deregulation Act 2015[4] exempts turban-wearing Sikhs from any legal requirement to wear a safety helmet in a workplace, including a construction site. The exemption applies only to head protection and turban-wearing Sikhs should wear other required personal protective equipment. This exemption applies to any turban-wearing Sikh eg visitors, employees; there is no such exemption for Sikhs who choose not to wear a turban or for other religious groups.

Check out the HSE’s FAQs about head protection and read more about the exemption.

Preventing manual handling related injuries

Question My company stores and transports furniture. We introduced handling aides after some members of the delivery team complained of back ache. However, some of the furniture is very heavy and, while this is carried infrequently, most of the handling aides can’t be used when taking items upstairs. Deliveries are always carried out by two people and, if someone has hurt themselves, we put them on light duties temporarily. What else can we do?

Answer Although this type of furniture is only carried once or twice a week, you still need to assess the task. If handling aides can't be used, then perhaps you can increase the number of people lifting the furniture.

Ensure suitable training is provided for the task being performed. You may need to invite a training provider to site to make the course relevant to the furniture being carried.

If someone is placed on light/restricted duties having sustained an injury at work, this may be reportable under RIDDOR.

Got a technical question?

The above questions and responses mostly relate to UK law, so please contact the helpline or your own regulatory body for information relevant to your country.

Call the IOSH health and safety helpline on +44 (0)116 257 3199 or send an email.

If you have any questions relating to your IOSH membership, please call +44 (0)116 350 0800 or email our Customer Service Centre.

Read our previous q&a article.

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Ali Barlow
Content Officer +44 (0)116 257 3117
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