Bob Wells of the BSI explains what organisations need to know about the imminent PPE changes to protect European workers against work hazards.
10 March 2016 | By Bob Wells
The Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) Directive 89/686/EEC is a fundamental piece of European legislation on occupational safety that can best be described as covering any device or appliance designed to be worn or held by someone for protection against one or more simultaneous health and safety hazards.
1. What's changing?
The directive was first adopted by the European Council on 21 December 1989 and was implemented into UK law as the Personal Protective Equipment (EC Directive) Regulations 1992 (SI 1992/3139) - known as the 'Principal Regulations'. These regulations were made on 10th December 1992 and came into effect on 1st January 1993.
That directive is now over 20 years old, so in order to reflect current technologies and processes for developing and bringing PPE to the market it has been superseded by the PPE Regulation.
2. Who needs to know?
Any health and safety professional or facilities manager procuring PPE needs to be aware of the changes to ensure that equipment meets the new regulation. It is also worth being aware that although the previous directive focused on manufacturers placing products in the market, the new regulation involves the whole supply chain. This means that distributors - or anyone in the supply chain - should take appropriate measures to make sure that PPE meets the requirements. The new regulation has been developed to enhance consumer safety and ensure fair competition between companies.
3. What's happening now?
The new rules have now been adopted by the European Commission. The next phase requires the regulations to be published in the Official Journal of the EU. A number of changes are taking place, including:
- Moving hearing protection from Category 2 to Category 3 PPE;
- Changing life jackets from Category 2 to Category 3 PPE;
- Issuing a Declaration of Conformity with each PPE, or at least a link to where it can be obtained;
- Specific reference to PPE worn while using high-pressure cutting equipment; and
- Bringing the regulation in line with similar European requirements such as the Medical Devices Directive by having a five-year certificate validity.
4. What's next?
All manufacturers of PPE need to be aware that any existing certifications they currently hold will expire after the regulation comes into force at the end of 2018. Therefore it is important to keep abreast of the coming changes and prepare in advance. When procuring PPE products consider the following:
- Look at existing product ranges and make sure that they are to the latest product specifications;
- If you are placing products that will change category such as life jackets or hearing protection etc. onto the market, be aware of what the change in classification will mean; and
- If you are a distributor, be aware that there are parts of the regulation that will have direct implications for you.
5. What about counterfeit goods?
There is some fantastic protection available on the market, however, there are also numerous products that aren't up to scratch. PPE is vital for safety, so it's important that the protection within a workplace meets or exceeds the standards. The new regulation will help to prevent companies from being able to sell substandard products without being accountable.
Under the regulation, any company selling these products will have to keep records of any products that are manufactured and make sure products meet the required standards.
Organisations must be confident that a product will do what it claims.
The BSI Kitemark is a voluntary, independent, third-party certification that gives a higher level of assurance that a product will do what it claims. It helps to differentiate well-made PPE protection products from those of a lower standard - or indeed counterfeit goods. To achieve the BSI Kitemark, a manufacturer must have a comprehensive quality management system based on ISO 9001, or a recognised factory production control system combined with initial product type-testing and regularly undergo continuing audits. The certification process demonstrates that the product has been manufactured using a verified quality system, and the products and processes are assessed on a continuing basis.
It also provides verification that the product meets the standard, as it requires regular factory visits, typically twice a year, and an ongoing product audit. Certification to, and display of, the independent BSI Kitemark provides a much stronger statement of product quality than a CE mark, giving manufacturers the ability to differentiate their products - and giving customers a genuine assurance of product quality and fitness for purpose. BSI continues to work with manufacturers who achieve CE marking and also choose to go for certification with a BSI Kitemark to differentiate their products and use this mark as a demonstration of quality and trust.
PPE might seem like a complex business, but by preparing for these changes now, organisations can be better equipped to handle the impact of the legislation. With the ever-rising need to comply with health and safety regulations, and an increasing number of people working in dangerous environments, no organisation can afford to ignore it..
Bob Wells is global head of personal safety at the BSI