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BSIF In Action: Ballistic trousers being sold without a CE mark

28 January 2016

Ballistic trousers cannot be offered for sale as safety equipment within Europe unless they are CE marked. There is, however, currently no product standard to which they can be certified.

Ballistic trousers are worn by many workers in the waste management, refuse collection and recycling industries. They usually comprise workwear trousers with additional panels of heavier duty cut resistant material sewn to the areas on the outside of the trouser legs. Their purpose is to reduce the potential for workers to be injured by sharp objects or broken glass, etc in the bags of waste materials they are handling.

However, if a manufacturer or supplier claims ‘protection’ for these products, or offers them for sale with any ‘safety’ connotation, they become PPE, and as such must be CE marked. To gain a CE mark a manufacturer needs to demonstrate that their product meets the Basic Health & Safety Requirements (BHSR’s) of the PPE Directive. This can either be done by submitting the product for testing to an appropriate EN standard, or if no relevant standard exists, manufacturers can write a ‘Technical File’ for their product which demonstrates its compliance, and seek to have it CE marked by this route. As there are no relevant European Standards for ballistic trousers at present the only option would be the Technical File route.

It should be noted here that distributors also carry responsibility to ensure that the products they sell are correctly CE marked. In the eyes of the European Commission, an importer who brings a product into the EU carries the responsibility of the manufacturer, and a distributor who markets a product under his own brand or name also carries manufacturer’s responsibilities.

Because of this extra requirement it is quite common for these products to be sold without any reference to safety equipment, but the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) are becoming increasingly concerned that, while a user’s or specifier’s expectations are that they will provide some protection against sharp objects, there is actually no official requirement for them to do so. Therefore there is no means of regulating them or assessing their performance, which could actually be very poor. HSE are consulting with the BSIF and its members to find the best way forward to bring some regulation to this product within a reasonable time period.