An employer must provide suitable overalls to protect employees from certain workplace hazards that cannot be eliminated or isolated. Such hazards could include sparks and hot particles, molten metal splashes, direct flame, radiant heat, solvents, acids, alkalis, oil, grease, blood and body fluids, asbestos fibres, and other hazardous substances. High-visibility overalls may be appropriate where people are exposed to hazards from moving traffic, or from moving plant or equipment under the control of an onboard operator.
Overalls must be of a suitable design and material for the hazard. For example, overalls to protect from sparks and hot particles should be made of a flame-resistant fabric and should not have wrist or leg turn-ups that could catch sparks.
Safety suppliers offer a wide range of general and special-purpose overalls, including disposable overalls for processes such as asbestos removal.
Employers need to make suitable arrangements for the laundering and replacement of overalls when they become soiled or contaminated. For particular significant hazards, e.g. working with lead, it is recommended that overalls are commercially laundered by specialist launderers, in order to prevent workers exposing family members to these hazards by bringing soiled overalls home to wash.
It is also recommended that employers provide a place where workers can keep their own clothing free of debris that may be present in the atmosphere or which could be transferred from the soiled overalls. An example is providing each worker with two lockers - one to keep clean clothes in, and one to keep work overalls in.
Another function of overalls is to protect the user's clothing from dirt, soiling and wear and tear. It is not necessarily a requirement under the Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992 for employers to provide overalls for this purpose, although many do so. The employer's policy on providing overalls should be stated in the employee's employment agreement.
Employees are allowed to provide their own protective clothing if that is their preference. However, the employer must be satisfied that the employee's protective clothing is suitable to protect them from the workplace hazards.
Employers are not permitted to pay employees extra money or an allowance instead of supplying personal protective clothing; nor are employers permitted to require new employees to provide their own personal protective clothing as a condition of employment.
For further information on the standards for industrial overalls, see:
- Standard AS/NZS 4501.2:2006 Occupational Protective Clothing: General Requirements. This standard provides basic requirements for protective clothing.
- Standard AS/NZS 4501.1: 2008 Occupational Protective Clothing: Guidelines on the Selection, Use, Care and Maintenance of Protective Clothing.
- Standard AS/NZS 4602:1999 High visibility safety garments. Specifies requirements for high-visibility clothing suitable for daytime wear, night-time wear when it will be seen by retroflected light, or wear under both conditions.
- Standard AS/NZS 1906.4:1997 Retroreflective Materials and Devices for Road Traffic Control Purposes - High Visibility Materials for Safety Garments. Specifies the photometric, colorimetric and physical property requirements for high visibility materials for outdoor daytime use, and retroreflective materials for use at night or in other dark conditions, for the manufacture or incorporation into industrial safety garments designed to be worn in situations where the wearer needs to be highly visible.
For further information on the legal requirements for personal protective clothing, see: http://www.business.govt.nz/healthandsafetygroup/information-guidance/all-guidance-items/distaster-recovery-personal-protective-equipment-ppe/ppe.pdf