New PPE Regulation – the safety manager’s role
Twenty years on since the PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) Directive was implemented, it is now in the process of being superseded by a new PPE Regulation (EU) 2016/425. As well as reflecting new technology and processes for developing and bringing PPE to the market, the new Regulation has been shaped to enhance consumer safety and ensure fair competition between companies.
According to BSI guidance, at present the key changes of the new standard are:
- PPE Directive will be replaced by a Regulation.
- A number of types of protection will move from category II (intermediate) to category III (complex).
- There will be a requirement to supply a declaration of conformity with every item of PPE that is placed on the market.
- A five-year certificate of validity is being suggested, bringing the Regulation in line with similar European requirements such as the Medical Devices Directive.
When the current Directive is re-issued as a Regulation in 2018, personal protective equipment will be defined as:
(a) 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;
(b) interchangeable components for equipment referred to in point (a) which are essential for its protective function (e.g. filters);
(c) connexion systems for equipment referred to in point (a) that are not held or worn by a person, that are designed to connect that equipment to an external device or to a reliable anchorage point, that are not designed to be permanently fixed and that do not require fastening works before use.
The PPE Regulation does not apply to PPE:
(a) specifically designed for use by the armed forces or in the maintenance of law and order;
(b) designed to be used for self-defence, with the exception of PPE intended for sporting activities;
(c) designed for private use to protect against: (i) atmospheric conditions that are not of an extreme nature, (ii) damp and water during dishwashing;
(d) used on seagoing vessels or aircraft;
(e) helmets and their visors for drivers and passengers of motor cycles and mopeds.
The Regulation was adopted on 12 February 2016 and published in the Official Journal 20 days later. This starts the two-year transition period for Member States and Notified Bodies to prepare for the introduction of the new Regulation.
BSI advises that the PPE Regulation is mandatory – covering any type of product that falls within its scope. “If you are therefore in the PPE industry, it is a legal requirement to comply,” it says. “All manufacturers of PPE need to be aware of what existing certifications they currently hold and when they will expire now the Regulation transition period has started. So, it is therefore important to keep up to date with these changes and prepare for the impact on your business. This would also apply to importers and distributors.”
The new Regulation should not be confused with the Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) at Work Regulations 1992, which cover the employer’s responsibility as to the suitability, provision, maintenance, instruction and use of PPE. Employers must select suitable PPE for the task in question, provide it free of charge, maintain and replace it as necessary, and provide information, instruction and training on the PPE provided to ensure it is worn properly.
However, safety managers do have a role to play in ensuring that their suppliers of PPE meet the new requirements, and so must be aware of the changes. Businesses must purchase their PPE from a registered safety supplier.
In terms of employees’ responsibilities, there must also be a proper system to allow employees to report defects or loss of PPE. Employees are obliged to take reasonable care of the PPE provided, and, under the UK’s Health and Safety at Work etc. Act, the employee has a duty to use the PPE.