The health and safety of employees is vital and businesses have a responsibility to ensure their workers are safe from risks in the work place. In 1989 the European Council founded the Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) Directive, which related to occupational safety across Europe, and was implemented into UK law in 1992. PPE is described as “All equipment (including clothing affording protection against the weather) which is intended to be worn or held by a person at work which protects them against one or more risks to their health and safety”. PPE can include equipment such as hard hats, high visibility jackets, goggles, safety footwear, gloves, harnesses, life jackets and respirators etc.
PPE was intended to be used when there are health and safety risks which could not be adequately controlled in other ways. The directive requires PPE to be:
Supplied by the employer
Properly assessed before use
Maintained and stored properly
Provided with instructions
Used correctly by employees
Changes to regulations
The PPE directive is now over 20 years old and, with changing technologies, processes and laws, it is vital that the format be updated to suit current needs. The directive needs to enhance consumer safety and ensure fair competition between companies as well as bringing it into line with other Directives that have undergone changes in recent years. The most important change in PPE is that the directive will be re-implemented as a regulation. This means the changes will act as a binding legislative act which must be applied in its entirety across the EU, removing the need, or choice, for separate national legislation. The changes to the regulations were adopted in February 2016, published in March 2016 and became Office Journal-listed on the 21st of April 2016. This signals the two year transition period for Member States and Notified Bodies to prepare for the introduction of the new Regulation in 2018. Some of the main changes in PPE include:
Moving hearing protection from Category II to Category III PPE
Moving life jackets from Category II to Category III PPE
Issuing a Declaration of Conformity with each PPE or at least a link to where it can be obtained
A compulsory maximum five-year certificate validity
Responsibilities outlined for importers and distributors
Bespoke PPE covered in the Regulation.
What to consider
Many types of organisations will be affected by the changes in PPE, from manufactures, to distributers, importers and any business which requires PPE in their workplace. Once the regulation transition period beings, all PPE manufacturers need to be aware of what existing certifications they currently hold, when they will expire, any other changes and the impact they will have on their business.
Before placing PPE on the market, importers need to guarantee they are compliant with the new regulations and ensure the correct procedures have been carried out by the manufacturers. Prior to making new PPE available to the market, distributors need to act with due care in relation to the regulations and verify the PPE meets specific standards – such as containing the CE logo and including instructions in the appropriate language.
On top of this, distributors have a responsibility to store, or transport, the PPE in a way which will not jeopardise its capability to serve its purpose. Once all this has been completed, businesses will need to update their PPE with the changes to certify they are acting within the legislation and ensuring its staff is fully equipped for their own safety.
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