Does our business in Western Australia have to provide all personal protective equipment (PPE) to a worker at no cost?
For instance, if a truck driver requires new work boots, can the company put a limit on the cost, e.g. keep it to the lower cost?
Should the cost of driving glasses with hardened/toughened lenses be met by the company?
As an employer, you will have an obligation to PPE to your employees where it is required to effectively reduce the risk of injury or harm in the workplace. However, PPE will generally not extend to ‘all clothing’ but instead relates primarily to boots, gloves, high-visibility clothing, etc.
To determine what PPE to provide to your employees, you will first need to identify the risks your employees face by undertaking a risk assessment. In Western Australia, Regulation 3.32 of the Occupational Safety and Health Regulations 1996 (the Regulations) provides that an employer must first consider whether the identifiable risks in the workplace may be eliminated by means other than the provision of PPE.
If, however, the risks cannot be practicably reduced through other means, appropriate PPE that would reduce the identified risks will need to be provided in accordance with Australian Safety Standards (the titles of which are included at Regulation 3.33).
As an employer, you have an obligation to provide PPE that will minimise the risks present in the workplace that were identified in the risk assessment and a further obligation to ensure that the PPE provided meets the relevant Australia Safety Standards. You will be in breach of your obligations if you place a limit on costs for PPE that results in these obligations being unable to be satisfied.
You will also need to ensure that the award or agreement that applies to you and your employees does not make express provision for PPE. If it does so, you will need to ensure that you comply with those requirements on top of your statutory obligations.