A recently published TUC survey has found that employers are forcing one in four employees to pay for their own personal protective equipment (PPE), despite health and safety regulations to the contrary.

The equipment includes protective clothing, helmets and goggles designed to protect workers from injury, electrical hazards, heat, chemicals and infection.

More than one in 10 (11.6 per cent) of those who responded to the TUC questionnaire said that although their work required them to wear safety equipment of some kind, their employer failed to provide or pay for this.

A further 8.9 per cent were made to pay for any replacement equipment if the original was damaged. In total more than one in five (20 per cent) of respondents to the survey said that they had to pay for providing or replacing all or some of the PPE they needed for their work.

Women workers were even less likely than men to have their safety equipment provided, with more than 15 per cent having to provide all or some of their own attire - usually foot protection or overalls - compared to 10.5 per cent of men.

Even when the employer provided the equipment, the worker usually had to clean the equipment themselves or pay for it to be cleaned. Of those whose equipment needed cleaning, more than three in five (60 per cent) claimed that their employer made no arrangements for providing, or paying the cost of, cleaning.

This is despite the fact that it is illegal for employers to charge for any safety equipment. The law also says that every employer has to ensure that any equipment they provide to their employees is maintained (including replaced or cleaned as appropriate) in an efficient state, in efficient working order and in good repair.

In all, 2,684 people responded to an online TUC questionnaire between March and June 2012. Of these 2,502 were users of PPE.

The most common forms of protection used by those who responded to the survey were footwear (84 per cent), gloves (72 per cent) and overalls or aprons (50 per cent).