The Legalities of Personal Protective Equipment

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Posted: 5th April 2019 by
Lawyer Monthly
Last updated 10th April 2019
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Regardless of the industry that your business operates within, you will be familiar with Personal Protective Equipment otherwise known as PPE.

Earlier this year, the PPE Directive 89/686/EEC was replaced by the Regulation 2016/425 in a bid to improve health and safety at work.

It can’t be denied that the western world has witnessed many changes regarding working practices — with an abundance of innovative technology paving the way for new methods of production; both in machinery and employee workwear. Because of this, changes were required and expected to occur around PPE after it first came into action over two decades ago.

Many business owners will be questioning what this means for their organisation and what changes this could pose to their overall operations both in the UK and across the European Union (EU). Opposed to the former directive, the new regulation is a binding legislative act that must be applied in its entirety across the EU without requiring separate national legislation.

This new regulation that was put into action on 21st April 2018 will involve the entire supply chain. Previously, the PPE Directive was completely focused on manufacturers who placed products into the market, but this is no more. As a result of this, anyone who is part of the supply or distribution chain must abide by PPE and meet the standard requirements that have been set out — while also having an understanding that only products that meet the standards will be made available on the market.

What are the main standards?

  • Duty to take action in relation to non-conforming PPE.
  • Labelling requirements.
  • Providing instructions and cooperating with the national authority.
  • Making sure PPE complies with the essential health and safety requirements.
  • Making sure technical documentation has be drawn up.
  • When compliance has been demonstrated the EU declaration of conformity has been drawn up and a CE mark affixed.
  • Retention of documents for ten years.
  • Sample testing.

It’s essential to become understanding of what will be expected when the Regulation is the only legislation that applies despite there being a one-year transition period (ending on the 21st April 2019) where both the former Directive and current Regulation are both applicable to businesses. However, any EC type-examination certificates and approvals issued under the Directive will remain valid until the 21st April 2023 unless they have an earlier expiry date.

What are the different categories associated with Personal Protective Equipment?

There are three main categories associated with PPE which determine the necessity of the workwear.

Category I (simple design) – where workers assess the level of protection needed against minimal risks. This could include the use of garden gloves, footwear or ski goggles for example.

Category II (neither simple or complex) – clothing within this category do not fall in either Category I or Category III and can include the likes of dry and wet suits.

Category III (complex design) – any item that falls under this section is complex in design and is intended to protect workers against mortal dangers and any irreversible harm that could impact a person’s health. To give you an idea, this could potentially include harnesses and respiratory equipment.

Your workers must be compliant with PPE – how do you ensure this? 

Figures have suggested that 98% of employees have seen colleagues not wearing PPE when they were supposed to, with a further 30% saying this happens on a regular basis. This highlights that it’s no secret that employers have a duty to ensure personal protection across their workplace – but are workers showing a willingness to wear such clothing?

There are many statistics that highlight the importance of PPE. Did you know that 9% of all injuries are head injuries because 84% of such occurrences have not been wearing the proper headwear?  Or that 50% of construction workers experience a serious injury during their career? If workers wore proper safety eyewear, injury could be reduced by up to 90%.

As well as this, 25% of all workplace injuries involve a person’s fingers and hands which could be reduced by 60% if safety gloves are worn. 25% of employees are exposed to noise that are higher than the recommended level too, but such damage can be reduced 99% by wearing the right type of hearing protection.

Excuses varied as to why employees were not wearing the appropriate tailored workwear with some suggesting that it looked unattractive, made them too hot, was a poor fit and was not very practical which should most definitely not be the case for such corporate workwear.

It’s evident that workers across all industries need to be better educated on PPE and how it can protect them any physical threat. However, businesses must also take away from this article that workers feel uncomfortable in the PPE workwear that has been distributed to them – you must strike a balance between safety requirements and comfort to ensure that staff wear such equipment when needed.

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