Personal protective equipment is worn or held by a person as protection against risks that threaten their health or safety. Personal protective equipment should be used only when the risk cannot otherwise be limited and so are always the final step in taking action.. In practice there are many situations where recourse protection is not possible or where with technical solutions risks cannot be controlled effectively. In those situations, personal protective equipment have to be used, eventually in addition to or in combination with other measures.
Personal protective equipment must be suitable for the risks against which they provide protection, without themselves to form an additional risk or to increase the risk. In addition, personal protective equipment are adapted to the working conditions and the individual characteristics of the user. Furthermore, they may not cause additional discomfort or irritation.
The user must be able to rely on personal protective equipment: this is why the quality of PPE is important. Working with poor protective equipment creates a dangerous false sense of security. Personal protective equipment should only be used if they meet the quality criteria that have been agreed upon within the European Community. These appointments are laid down in Directive 89/686/EEC.
Products that comply with these guidelines, are identified by the CE mark (CE = Conformité Européenne). This indicates, that the means at least meet the minimum essential requirements in the field of safety and health. For most of the personal protective equipment, these essential requirements are developed to harmonized EN-standards. These provide further information regarding the specific technical requirements, performance, and the level of protection provided by the protective equipment.
In addition to the quality of personal protective equipment, a proper application, selection and use is also of importance. Regarding this, arrangements have also been made in the European context which have been processed in the Council Directive 89/656/EEC.
Information on the legislation on quality, choice, application and use of personal protective equipment can be found on this page.