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In Australian workplaces, we’re fortunate to have strict rules and regulations concerning our safety and wellbeing. But that’s not to say that every workplace follows every rule, or every worker is protected from harm in every instance.

PPE (personal protective equipment) became a more commonly understood acronym during the pandemic, but for workers across many industries, the term was already commonplace.

In this article, we discuss the importance of PPE and what your rights are if you’re not provided with adequate personal protective equipment in your job.

What is PPE?

PPE is equipment specifically designed to protect people from potential workplace hazards. It includes things like helmets, gloves, goggles, masks and respirators, high-vis clothing, earplugs, and safety footwear. PPE protects workers from the various risks they might be exposed to in their work environment.

Everybody has the right to a safe workplace, and employers have a legal responsibility to provide the appropriate PPE for their workers as well as ensure its proper use.

Diseases and injuries: Common industries where PPE plays an important role


  • Respiratory hazards: adequate dust masks and respirators safeguard against inhalation of harmful particles, such as silica dust, welding fumes and asbestos. There are also many lesser-known toxins that can be silent killers on worksites.
  • Falls from heights: PPE such as harnesses, safety helmets and non-slip footwear protect against head injuries and falls.
  • Impact injuries: hard hats, safety goggles and steel-capped boots shield against falling objects and debris.

Mining & Tunnelling

  • Respiratory diseases: PPE like adequate dust masks and respirators help protect miners and tunnellers from inhaling harmful dust and chemicals, preventing conditions like coal workers' pneumoconiosis (black lung) and silicosis.
  • Industrial deafness/noise-induced hearing loss: earplugs or earmuffs help reduce exposure to excessive noise levels generated by mining and tunnelling machinery.


  • Infectious diseases: gloves, masks, gowns, and face shields provide a barrier against exposure to pathogens, protecting healthcare workers from infections like COVID-19, hepatitis, and other infectious diseases.
  • Needlestick injuries: gloves, puncture-resistant sharps containers, and safety devices minimise the risk of accidental needlestick injuries and bloodborne pathogen transmission.


  • Chemical exposures: PPE such as chemical-resistant gloves, goggles and aprons protect against skin contact and eye injuries caused by hazardous substances.
  • Machinery-related injuries: safety helmets, safety glasses and protective clothing reduce the risk of head injuries, eye injuries, and cuts from moving machinery parts.
  • Ergonomic injuries: PPE like back braces and wrist supports help prevent musculoskeletal disorders caused by repetitive tasks, heavy lifting and poor ergonomics.
  • Carcinogen risks: using appropriate respiratory protection to avoid inhalation of carcinogens such as wood dust, benzene, formaldehyde and diesel exhaust.


  • Pesticide exposure: PPE, including gloves, coveralls, and respirators, minimise direct contact and inhalation of pesticides, reducing the risk of poisoning and respiratory illnesses.
  • Animal-related injuries: safety boots, gloves, and protective clothing protect against bites, kicks, scratches, and diseases transmitted by animals.
  • Dust exposure: PPE, like adequate respiratory protection, protects farm workers from hay dust and mould spores, causing conditions such as hypersensitive pneumonitis (farmer’s lungs).

What are the benefits of wearing appropriate PPE?

Wearing appropriate PPE has several advantages for workers, including:

  1. Protection against dangerous hazards: PPE protects workers from the many potential hazards they may be exposed to (as mentioned above) and prevents injuries.
  2. Compliance with relevant safety regulations: in many industries, wearing PPE is mandatory to comply with rules and regulations and ensure workplace safety.
  3. Increased productivity: workers who feel safe and protected are more productive, leading to increased efficiency and worker satisfaction (not to mention profitability for the employer).
  4. Reduced medical expenses: by preventing injuries and illnesses, appropriate PPE can reduce medical costs for both employers and workers.

What should you do if you’re injured or exposed at work?

Your employer has a duty of care to take all reasonable steps to ensure your safety and wellbeing, so if you think that your employer is not meeting these standards, we recommend seeking legal advice from an expert employment lawyer.

And if you’ve been injured or have become ill due to exposure to harmful dust, chemicals or other hazards such as the ones listed in this article, we strongly recommend seeking legal advice from an expert work injury lawyer or disease exposure lawyer.

Dedicated workers' compensation claim lawyers

Our specialist work injury lawyers are here to help. If you've suffered an injury at work that has affected your physical or psychological wellbeing, we can help you get back on track so you can focus on getting better. Find out how we can assist you with your work injury claim.

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