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Dress to protect

19 March 2020

To protect staff, employers need to understand the risks on site. Here, Peter Dumigan gives an insight into the certification of protective wear.

THE PERSONAL Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992 stipulate that: Every employer shall ensure that suitable personal protective equipment is provided to his employees who may be exposed to a risk to their health or safety while at work except where and to the extent that such risk has been adequately controlled by other means which are equally or more effective.

What does this mean for workwear?

In the context of workwear and, depending on the job in hand, workwear PPE generally includes safety glasses, face shields, hard hats, safety shoes, insulating (rubber) gloves and base-, mid-, and outer-layer clothing more commonly known as Protective Wear.

Protective Wear vs Workwear – a matter of life and death

In terms of clothing, there’s a big difference between conventional Workwear and specialist Protective Wear. Over the years, workwear has evolved to make your working day more comfortable and efficient, with built-in functionality for tools and fixings, as well as protection against cold, rain and the effects of warm weather. 

Protective Wear, which can have one or more CE (European Conformity) marks, has been designed and developed to protect the wearer from serious risks such as heat, flames, mechanical hazards electric arcs, hazardous chemicals – and the weather!. In effect, clothing that can mean the difference between life and death for the wearer.

Protective Wear has to be certified against Regulation (EU) 2016/425, which determines the fundamental safety and protection requirements with which clothing has to comply. 

The certification process is the independent testing and accreditation of the functionality and performance of a product against a pre-determined set of standards and technical specifications that are set to ensure a user’s safety and security. 

It’s a complex process that requires a considerable amount of investment in time, resources and money on the part of the product developer who, on successful completion, is required to affix the CE mark to the product as a visible indication of conformity with the fundamental accreditation requirements.

Risk environments and CE protection categories.

In order to meet the protective requirements of a specific risk area, protective wear is divided into three categories - the higher the category number, the higher the level of protection.

Category I covers exposure to minimal risks, and for this category there are CE standards such as EN 343 (rain protection) and EN 14058 (cold protection). 

Category II includes exposure to medium risks, for instance EN 20471 for high visibility clothing. 

Category III covers exposure to serious risks, which include major hazards such as electric arcs and molten metal splashes or liquid chemicals. 

CE protection categories for ProtecWork Protective Wear

EN 14404 - Knee protection.

This standard stipulates the size, force distribution, penetration resistance and user testing of kneepads. “We use Type 2 knee protectors in our products” says Peter. “The knee protection is integrated with the trousers, which means that wherever you go, your knees are always protected. The knee protectors and the trousers are co-certified, ensuring safe and secure protection”.

EN 342 - Protective clothing against cold.

EN 342 specifies the requirements and performance of clothing designed to protect against cooling of the body in cold environments. Wearing several layers is a great way of increasing insulation and enhancing protection against the cold. A layered outfit also makes it easy to adjust to rapid temperature changes. Remember that sweating should be avoided during continuous cold exposure, since moisture absorption will progressively reduce insulation.

EN 343 - Protective clothing against rain.

Rain doesn’t only make you wet, but also cold, hampering your work performance. EN 343 specifies the performance and requirements of clothing protecting against rain and vapour. The standard defines the water penetration resistance of the garment’s fabric and seams and water vapour resistance. 

EN ISO 20471 - High visibility clothing.

EN ISO 20471 specifies requirements for clothing capable of signaling the user’s presence visually. Performance requirements are included for color and retro reflection as well as for minimum areas and for the disposition of fluorescent and reflective materials. 

EN ISO 11611 - Protective clothing for use in welding and allied processes.

EN 11611 specifies material performance and design requirements for clothing developed to protect against heat and flame and welding - both lower levels of spatter (splashes of molten metal) and radiant heat, also more hazardous welding techniques and situations which produce higher levels of spatter and radiant heat. 

EN 13034 - Protective clothing against liquid chemicals.

EN 13034 targets situations in which the wearer relatively easily can step out from the risk environment and quickly remove the garment. Typical professions include truck drivers who drive gasoline transports and service technicians who occasionally handles lubricants, acids etc. For tougher environments with higher risks, higher protection garments are required.

EN ISO 11612 - Protective clothing against heat and flame.

EN 11612 specifies performance for clothing designed to protect from heat and/or flame (not including protection for firefighters and welders). The standard indicates protection against ignition from various heat sources – flames, molten splashes and contact heat for instance. To ensure full protection, the head, neck, hands and feet must be covered with other approved protective clothing. 

EN ISO 14116 - Protective clothing against flame.

EN 14116 specifies the performance of protective clothing for workers exposed to occasional brief contact with open flames with no other thermal risks. 

EN 1149-5 - Protective clothing electrostatic properties.

EN 1149-5 specifies material performance and design requirements for protective clothing with electrostatic properties. These protective clothes are designed to avoid the risk of incendiary discharge (the formation of sparks), when for example an elbow or a knee is brushed against a wall or similar surface/object. 

IEC 61482-2 - Protective clothing against the thermal hazards of an electric arc.

IEC 61482-2 specifies requirements for clothing protecting against the thermal hazards of an electric arc. These clothes belong to the Risk III category, which defines garments used in high-risk environments, and are certified to eliminate second-degree burns in the event of an electric arc flash (flashover).

EN 388 - Protective gloves against mechanical risks.

This standard applies to all kinds of protective gloves in respect of physical and mechanical aggressions caused by abrasion, blade cut, tear, puncture and, if applicable, impact. 

EN407 - Protective gloves against thermal risks.

This standard specifies thermal performance for protective gloves against heat and/or fire. 

EN 511 - Protective gloves against cold.

This standard applies to any gloves to protect the hands against convective and contact cold down to –50 °C. 

Avoid Injury

“One of the best ways to improve your level of protection is to wear layers – base-, mid- and top-layers” says Peter. “A fundamental requirement of such a layering system is, of course, is of course that all the garments are CE-certified. The main benefit of wearing layers is that the air gap formed between different garments provides increased protection”. 

Understand the risks – choose the right level of effective protection

Working in high-risk environments involves, as the name implies, high-risk levels. 

So it’s vital that you choose the right protective wear to ensure your safety and well-being on site.

Peter Dumigan is managing director of the Hultafors Group UK that owns Snickers Workwear. For more information, visit www.snickersworkwear.co.uk