If your employer cannot control your exposure to chemicals by any other means they should provide, free of charge, gloves, masks, overalls or other personal protective equipment (PPE). See workSMART’s Hazards at Work section and the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 1999 (COSHH).
PPE should fit you properly and be the right type for the chemical you are using. Your employer must train you in how to use PPE correctly, and must make sure that PPE is stored and maintained properly and replaced when necessary.
You must not be charged for PPE.
A TUC survey published in 2012 revealed that even though the law requires employers to supply
PPE to their staff free of charge, more than 1 in 5 workers are being forced to pay for it out of their own pocket.
Construction union UCATT has issued a warning against the dangers of counterfeit/fake PPE and warns construction workers to make sure all the equipment issued to them is genuine. UCATT is also calling for an end to the practice of selling PPE through vending machines on site, because PPE should be provided for free and should also be risk-assessed.
Remember that latex gloves themselves are a major cause of allergic contact dermatitis.
The relevant regulations are the Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992.
Regulation 4 states:
except where and to the extent that such risk has been adequately controlled by other means which are equally or more effective.
The accompanying guidance states:
Employers should, therefore, provide appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) and training in its usage to their employees wherever there is a risk to health and safety that cannot be adequately controlled by other means.
In order to provide PPE for their employees, employers must do more than simply have the equipment on the premises. The employees must have the equipment readily available, or at the very least have clear instructions on where they can obtain it.
By virtue of Section 9 of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974, no charge can be made to the worker for the provision of PPE which is used only at work. Section 9 of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 states: “No employer shall levy or permit to be levied on any employee of his any charge in respect of anything done or provided in pursuance of any specific requirement of the relevant statutory provisions”. Section 9 applies to these Regulations because they impose a ‘specific requirement’ – i.e. to provide PPE.