What is protective workwear?
When it comes to workwear, we refer to clothing created to protect everyday clothes from wear and dirt. It helps create a consistent image for 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” 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 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 protects 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 meet all the essential requirements for free circulation and marketing within the European Community.
The CE marking must be visibly, legibly, and indelibly placed on all garments.
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 a European Notified Body verifies the regularity and documentation of the device and issues a certification certificate. In the case of Category III PPE, due to the critical protection function, they must provide 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 conducted. If not successful, the PPE must be modified, replaced, or eliminated. Conversely, the PPE may continue to be marketed.
Another peculiarity of 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 analyse the characteristics of his/her company, identify any risks, and provide 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 organise 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. They are responsible for taking care of their PPE and providing for their hygiene and maintenance. They are also required to undergo education and/or training programs if the employer deems it necessary. If PPE arrives damaged, the worker should report it to the owner for 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.