Kit to protect
27 November 2019
There are many risks on site and protective workwear can offer an important defence from working hazards. Here, Peter Dumigan looks at what's on offer.
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?
Workwear as a form of PPE generally includes safety glasses, face shields, hard hats, safety shoes, insulating (rubber) gloves plus clothing more commonly known as Protective Wear.
As working clothes go, 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 is significantly more specialist and has been developed to protect the wearer from serious risks such as heat, flames, mechanical hazards electric arcs, hazardous chemicals – and even the weather! In effect, it’s a type of 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 product certification process for this regulation includes the independent testing and accreditation of a product’s functionality and performance. This is carried out against a pre-determined set of standards and technical specifications that are designed to ensure a user’s safety and security.
It’s a complex process that requires a considerable 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.
The types of testing vary from one certification to another. For protective wear, the higher the protection category, the more complex is the testing process, which for protective wear, primarily focuses on garment fabrics.
For instance, Snickers Workwear’s new, ergonomically designed ProtekWork clothing manufactured for welding and allied processes is tested to measure the ability of the garment to protect against ignition from various heat sources, such as open flames, molten iron splash and contact heat.
The ProtekWork clothing that safeguards against the thermal hazards of an electric arc is tested and certified to eliminate second-degree burns in the event of an electric arc flash.
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 for our products” says Peter Dumigan. “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.
“Working in high-risk environments involves, as the name implies, high-risk levels”, says Peter Dumigan. “So it’s vital that you – the buyer - carry out a proper risk assessment from which you’ll be able to choose the right protective wear to ensure the safety and well-being of your employees on site”.
“To be able to properly identify what protection you need, you have to know what risks you, your employees or your workmates face. Importantly, each working situation will have its own required minimum protection depending on the risk situation.
“Never assume that a Category I garment will protect against the more serious hazards and risks defined in Category III. It wont and you’ll be putting your employees at serious risk if you think it will.
“That means understanding the hazards and risks of a specific working environment or knowing the risk level before starting work and therefore providing appropriate clothing and PPE accessories”.
Peter Dumigan is managing director of the Hultafors Group UK, owners of Snickers Workwear. For more information check out www.snickersworkwear.co.uk