Personal Protective Equipment

Specialised clothing such as goggles, gloves, helmets or masks that are intended to protect the wearer from inherent hazards have a broad spectrum of applications from heavy machinery environments to sports.

These hazards may include biohazards, heat, physical, electrical, heat, chemicals or airborne.

EU Legislation on PPE

Until the publication of the Personal Protective Equipment Regulation  2016/425/EU on March 9, 2016 the subsequent two year transition period, the Personal Protective Directive 89/686/EEC was the reigning legal framework for medical devices. While the Personal Protective Regulation 2016/425 repealed the PPE Directive 89/686/EEC with effect from 21 April 2018, equipment that has a valid EC-type examination Certificate issued according to the old Directive may still be placed on the market until the expiration date of corresponding EC-type examination certificate (no later than 21 April 2023). From April 21st, 2018, the PPE Regulation 2016/ 425/EU became fully applicable in the EU as the main legal framework for personal protective equipment.

Any product placed and made available on the EU market (either through e-commerce or traditional retail) must comply with the Personal Protective Equipment Regulation 2016/425.

Non-EU based manufacturers should appoint European Authorized Representative (EAR). (A manufacturer is defined as any natural or legal person who manufactures PPE or has it designed or manufactured, and markets it under his name or trademark.)

Higher-risk PPE (Category II & III) will require the intervention of a Notified Body to obtain the CE Mark.

Products which fail to comply may be subject to public notification (RAPEX), withdrawal requirements, warehousing fees, fines or total destruction of the products.

The new Regulation (EU) 2016/ 425 (PPE Regulation) of the European Parliament and of the Council on the harmonisation of the laws of the Member States relating personal protective equipment is fully entered into force on the 21st of April 2018 replacing the Personal Protective Directive 89/686/EEC. The PPE Regulation comes into full effect from 21st April 2019.

The PPE Regulation ensures that all personal protective equipment provides a high level of protection of the health and safety of users.

Therefore, the PPE Regulation lays down common standards to provide adequate protection against the risks which is intended to protect.

  • Chapter I: General Provisions (art.1-7)
  • Chapter II: Obligations of Economic Operators (art.8-13)
  • Chapter III: Conformity of PPE (art.14-17)
  • Chapter IV: Conformity Assessment (art.18-19)
  • Chapter V: Notification of Conformity Assessment bodies (art.20-36)
  • Chapter VI: Union Market Surveillance, Control of PPE entering the Union Market and Union Safeguard Procedure (art.37-41)
  • Chapter VII: Delegated and implementing acts (art.42-44)
  • Chapter VIII: Transitional and Final Provisions (art.45-48)
  • Annex I: Risk categories of PPE
  • Annex II: Essential Health and Safety requirements
  • Annex III: Technical Documentation for PPE
  • Annex IV: Internal Production control
  • Annex V: EU Type-examination
  • Annex VI Conformity to type based on Internal Production Control
  • Annex VII: Conformity to type based on internal production control plus supervised product check at random intervals
  • Annex VIII: Conformity to type based on Quality Assurance of the Production Process
  • Annex IX: EU Declaration of Conformity
  • Annex X: Correlation table

Per the Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) Regulation (EU) 2016/425, PPE is defined as:

  • Equipment designed and manufactured to be worn or held by a person for protection against risks to that person’s health or safety;
  • Interchangeable components for equipment referred to in point (a) which are essential for its protective function (e.g. filters);
  • Connection systems for equipment referred to in point (a) that are not held or worn by a person, that are designed to connect that equipment to an external device or to a reliable anchorage point, that are not designed to be permanently fixed and that do not require fastening works before use.

The PPE Regulation applies to all sorts of PPE being placed on the EU market except for those:

  • Specifically designed for use by the armed forces or in the maintenance of law and order;
  • Designed to be used for self-defence, with the exception of PPE intended for sporting activities;
  • Designed for private use to protect against:
  • Atmospheric conditions that are not of an extreme nature,
  • Damp and water during dishwashing;
  • Exclusively used on seagoing vessels or aircraft;
  • Designed to protect head, face or eye as helmets and their visors used by drivers and passengers of motorcycles and mopeds.

There are defined three categories of equipment based on the risk against which the equipment is intended to protect users.

Category I – Minimal risk

In this category, the PPE is designed to protect people from minimal risks:

  • Superficial mechanical injury;
  • Contact with cleaning materials of weak action or prolonged contact with water;
  • Contact with hot surfaces not exceeding 50°C;
  • Damage to the eyes due to exposure to sunlight (other than during observation of the sun);
  • Atmospheric conditions that are not of an extreme nature.

Category II – Intermediate Risk

This category covers risks other than those defined by neither Category I nor Category III.

Category III – Serious Risk

The PPE designed to protect people from risks that may cause very serious consequences such as death or irreversible damage to health:

  • Substances and mixtures which are hazardous to health (carcinogenic, mutagenic, reprotoxic, toxic, irritant or sensitizing)
  • Atmospheres with oxygen deficiency
  • Ionising radiation
  • High-temperature environments, the effects of which are comparable to those of an air temperature of at least 100°C
  • Low-temperature environments, the effects of which are comparable to those of an air temperature of -50°C or less
  • Falling from a height
  • Electric shock and live working
  • Harmful biological agents
  • Drowning
  • Cuts by hand-held chain-saws
  • High-pressure jets
  • Bullet wounds or knife stabs
  • Harmful noise

Each risk category of PPE must comply with clearly defined conformity assessment modules prior to being placed on the market. PPE covered by categories II and III requires the product to be certified by a Notified Body (NB). The Notified Body will issue an EU type-examination certificate following successful evaluation of a manufacturer’s technical file and independent testing report.

Essential Requirements

PPE shall meet certain health and safety requirements (Annex II) to not endanger person and properties as those:

  • General requirements applicable to all PPE, such as ergonomics, absence of inherent risks and other nuisance factor and manufacturer’s instructions and information
  • Requirements specific to certain types of PPE, such as PPE subject to ageing or PPE for intervention in very dangerous situations
  • Requirements specific to particular risks, such as protection against mechanical impact or in liquids or against ionising and non-ionising radiation.

PPE which is in conformity with harmonized standards or parts thereof the references of which have been published in the Official Journal of the European Union shall be presumed to be in conformity with the essential health and safety requirements set out in Annex II covered by those standards or parts thereof.

Technical Documentation

The manufacturer compiles the technical documentation, which makes it possible to assess whether the PPE equipment complies with the requirements of the Regulation. It contains at least the elements set out in the Annex III.

Non-compliant products enter the EU Market everyday – whether manufacturer knowingly does so or due to a lack of control from the EU importer/distributor on the compliance requirements of products.

Each Competent Authorities of Member State focus on conducting systematic surveillance of products which are being made available on the market. This can include pulling products off of shelves, stopping products at customs or even deploying bots online to identify non-EU based e-commerce shops which mention that they ship to the EU Market. In the case that a product is found to be non-complaint, the main consequences include, but are not limited to:

  • Being publicly reported to the RAPEX,
  • Warehousing Fees,
  • Requested Withdrawal,
  • Mandated Withdrawal,
  • Product Recall (from end-users and/or the market),
  • Complete ban on marketing of the product,
  • Destruction of the product,
  • Fines,
  • Revocation of the CE Marking.

The professionalism and expertise of the appointed Authorized Representative in dealing with various Competent Authorities and handling post-market surveillance case play a vital role in the successful recovery of your brand in the EU Market.

It is the responsibility of the manufacturer to continue to collect information related to use of their products after they have been made available to consumers as well as to ensure that they continue to be compliant as the legislation applicable to their products evolves. Post-marketing surveillance activities include, but are not limited to:

  • Staying up-to-date on new requirements or legislative changes,
  • Continual updating of the technical file as modifications are made to the product,
  • Reporting of any incidents related to the product use,
  • Removal of non-compliant batches from EU economics operators and end-user,
  • Keeping technical file available for 10 years after the last batch entered the EU market.

Working with a professional Authorized Representative will help to ensure that the necessary actions are taken to ensure continued compliance and proper post-market surveillance.

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