Monday, 8 September 2014

Product Testing and Safety Standards in the PPE Market

For detailed information about safety standards on specific types of PPE, see our Buyers Guides >

Buying workwear and PPE can be a difficult and time consuming task. Not only must you find your way through the myriad of products available to find the exact product to meet the exact requirements of your workplace, but increasingly you must also be alert for fake or 'knock-off' products. In the fashion world these forgeries are poor quality and tacky at worst. In the workwear and PPE markets they are potentially life threatening. Unfortunately the counterfeiters get better at this all the time, so how can you be sure that the products you are buying have been tested and are certified to EU standards?

The first and easiest way to manage this risk is to source from reputable companies. Look for an established distributor who has a good standing and customer base. If unsure, ask other buyers who they feel confident buying from.

Secondly, legislation is in place that requires all PPE to be designed, manufactured, tested, marked and packaged in line with European Norms (EN's or standard practices) which are appropriate to the hazards and conditions they are designed to protect against.

Published legislation requires that each product is:

1/ Tested to standardised test procedure for the hazards that it guards against. Testing must be carried out using calibrated equipment, by an authorised testing house. Information or test results provided by the manufacturer is not acceptable as it cannot be guaranteed to be impartial.

2/ Clearly marked with the CE mark and the relevant EN code and information about the level or type of hazard it is designed for (this is usually displayed as a standardised abbreviation or pictogram). If it is not possible to mark the product, this information will instead be displayed on the packaging. The manufacturer will also be listed using a pre-allocated code character and the code number of the certifying body must also be shown.

3/ Includes a leaflet about or information on the outer packaging describing the uses for which the product is intended, with clear instructions on the correct use of the product.

4/ Suitably packaged in a way that protects the product in a fully functional condition.

5/ Re-tested on a regular basis to ensure the continued safety and effectiveness of the product.

You will sometimes see national standards used on products, such as the BS mark. These standards are still applicable so long as they fall in, or exceed, the European Norm.

CE marking alone is not enough to prove that a product is suitable for a particular requirement, only that it meets basic requirements. For more detailed information about specific products and types of PPE, see the Buyers Guides on our website, which guide you through the safety standards and features of a wide range of PPE.

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