As an employer you are responsible for the health, safety and welfare of all of your employees, and this includes ensuring that they have the necessary PPE to do their jobs safely. For employees with a disability, the Equality Act (2010) also applies, meaning that you also have a specific duty to make ‘reasonable adjustments to ensure accessible PPE.
Not only is this a legal requirement, but it does also make good business sense to provide accessible PPE.
A UK labour force survey for 2020 shows that there are around 4.4 million people with declared disabilities in work and as experienced and skilled workers get older, they could acquire a disability, changing your responsibilities as an employer.
Accessibility tip 1: find solutions for individuals…
With PPE, there are some specific issues to consider. Whilst it is obvious that a one size fits all approach won’t cover all disabilities – e.g. someone struggling with hearing loss will need different workplace adjustments than, say, someone who has epilepsy - there is an important rule of thumb that will make your workplace safer which is to ensure that you have a specific conversation with each employee about possible PPE adjustments, rather than making assumptions about what might be suitable.
This is because you may not be aware of hidden disabilities and disclosure rates of disabilities in the workplace are low – according to some UK disability organisations it stands at only 3%. So, you may well have staff in your workplace with hidden disabilities where simple PPE adjustments could improve their ability to focus and perform duties safely in the workplace.
In addition to having these conversations, the UK Government website also has some useful tips on adjustments that you can discuss with employees. These include measures such as an audio-visual fire alarm for a deaf employee or supporting someone with social anxiety disorder by offering them their own workstation instead of moving them about in different locations each day. For more information, you can visit the website below: