What is protective workwear?
When it comes to workwear, we refer to clothing created to protect everyday clothes from wear and dirt. And, above all, to create a consistent image of the company’s members. Creating a work uniform also means enhancing it with the company logo, making the uniform an effective marketing tool.
Workwear becomes protective clothing when it helps to protect the user from any risks related to the industrial sector they belong to, thus becoming a real protection tool. A single garment can protect against one or more hazards, depending on the characteristics of the fabric and design, and according to the standards that regulate it.
Technically, this type of workwear is classified as Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). According to the “Regulation (EU) 2016/425 of 9 March 2016 on personal protective equipment” a PPE is “equipment designed and manufactured to be worn or held by a person for protection against one or more risks to that person’s health or safety”. This means, for example, visors, face masks, safety shoes, gloves, heatproof clothing, low temperatures protective clothing, high visibility clothing, anti-static clothes, etc.
Unlike corporate clothing, which the company chooses whether to use or not, PPE is compulsory when health risks cannot be avoided or sufficiently reduced by technical preventive measures, collective protection methods, or system-of-work processes.
The “Regulation (EU) 2016/425 of 9 March 2016 on personal protective equipment” in addition to defining the PPE, classifies it into 3 categories according to the risks that might be faced in the workplace:
Personal Protective Equipment Category I includes all PPE that protects against minor risks, which do not cause serious injuries. Examples could be disposable hairnets and surgical gowns, fleece sweaters or “basic” trousers.
Category II refers to all PPE that does not belong to the other two categories and that protect against medium-level risks.
Finally, Category III includes devices with a complex design that protect against risks possibly leading to death or serious injury. Practical examples are fireproof clothing, cold store workwear, electric arc protection clothing, etc.
To identify which category a PPE belongs to, simply look at the label of the garment, where, in addition to the generic characteristics of each garment (size, fabric, washing symbols, etc.), the category to which it belongs and the standards that regulate it must be specified with relative pictograms.
Other characteristics of PPE (CE marking)
Another important feature of safety clothing is the CE (European Conformity) marking.
This mark indicates that the devices have all the essential requirements for their free circulation and marketing in the European Community.
The CE marking must be placed on all garments in a visible, legible and indelible way.
Depending on the category to which it belongs, it is affixed by the manufacturer or by a Notified Body.
For Category I PPE, the manufacturer certifies that the item in question is CE compliant. However, it is different for Category II and Category III, where is a European Notified Body which verifies the regularity and documentation of the device, and issues a certification certificate. Eventually, the Category III PPE, due to the important protection function that they must guarantee, are subjected to periodic inspections, with or without prior notice, by an external audit team. This group of experts may decide to carry out technical tests, either internally or externally to the manufacturer, to verify the quality and protective effectiveness of the device. The audit team must then send the manufacturer a report on the visit and any tests carried out.If not successful, the PPE must be modified, replaced or eliminated. Conversely, the PPE may continue to be marketed.
Another peculiarity of the PPE is that they are all provided with a leaflet to be consulted before use, specifying their characteristics and their proper use.
What the employer must do
The employer is required to analyze the characteristics of his/her company, identifying any risks and providing proper PPE for his/her employees, especially in the case of extremely dangerous work, periodically replacing or subjecting them to maintenance. If any change in company dynamics happens, the owner is required to reassess the risks and provide workers with adequate PPE.
He/She is also required to verify that the PPE is used only for the intended uses and to organize education and/or training programs if the company’s needs require so.
What workers must do
Workers must use the PPE provided by the employer correctly by consulting the package leaflet in advance. It is their responsibility to take care of the PPE, providing for their hygiene and maintenance. They are also required to undergo education and/or training programs if the employer deems it necessary. If a PPE is delivered damaged, the worker shall report it to the owner, who must provide a replacement.
Personal Protective Equipment is an essential tool for working safely. For this reason, it is important to know their characteristics, obligations and their correct use.
On this website, you can find all the PPE that can contribute to your safety at work.