More than one in five workers are being forced by employers to pay for personal protection equipment (PPE) out of their own pocket in flagrant breach of the law, the TUC said today.
The law requires employers to provide all PPE - including protective clothing, hard hats, goggles and waterproofs - free of charge to employees, as well as ensuring it is kept in good working order and repair.
But 11.6 per cent of respondents to a TUC survey said that although they needed PPE for work their bosses completely failed to provide it.
And a further 8.9 per cent were made to pay to replace damaged PPE - despite employers' legal mandate to do so.
In total more than one in five respondents to the survey said that they had to pay for providing or replacing all or some of the necessary equipment.
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 PPE compared with 10.5 per cent of men.
TUC general secretary Brendan Barber (pictured)said: "The fact that so many employers are flouting the law is an absolute scandal.
"Far too many workers are being forced to provide their own safety protection - whether footwear, boiler suits, overalls or gloves - and this abuse is widespread across a wide range of industries ranging from construction to catering.
"Even when equipment is provided it is often expected that the worker cleans it or replaces it if damaged.
"This must stop. With the government's cutback of proactive inspections in the workplace this abuse can only grow."
And construction union Ucatt general secretary Steve Murphy added: "Unfortunately in construction businesses and employment agencies try to cut costs by forcing workers to purchase their own PPE.
"This is both illegal and has serious safety implications."