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Update on revisions to the European PPE Directive

The European Commission is significantly altering its existing personal protective equipment legislation.

by Peter Doughty

The Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) Directive 89/686/EEC was drawn up in 1989 and, apart from some minor revisions early on, it has remained unchanged since that time. However, several years ago an impact study and public consultation was carried out to consider a potential revision to the Directive. This resulted in a positive outcome and, since that time, work on a new PPE Regulation has been ongoing. A trilogue between representatives of the European Council, Parliament and Commission on final draft proposals was completed at the end of 2015.

During this development period, a number of changes have been proposed. Some of these have prompted lobbying from interested parties, which has resulted in several of the proposed revisions being subsequently altered.

This article is intended to identify some of the potential implications to members supplying the European market with safety footwear. It should be stressed, however, that there is still some way to go before the proposed legislation is finally implemented.

A new regulation

The majority of core health and safety requirements and procedures will remain the same, although there are likely to be some changes to a few non-footwear-related areas. One major legislative change is that the PPE Directive will be replaced by a regulation that will apply directly in all member states without transposition into national legislation. While the practical impact on suppliers will be relatively minor, a number of amendments relevant to PPE will be implemented at the same time, including scope changes and certification requirements.

The scope of the regulation will be extended to cover items intended to provide protection to private users from heat (for instance, oven gloves). Commercial users were already covered.

The new regulation will introduce definitions and adapted conformity assessment procedures for made-to-measure and individually adapted PPE. This will be of particular interest to manufacturers of orthopaedic safety footwear.

Image © RGL Services

PPE which protects against high-pressure cutting – including footwear – has been moved into category III of the regulation

A number of types of protection have been moved from category II (intermediate) to category III (complex). These include protection against cutting by hand-held chainsaws and equipment protecting against high-pressure cutting. Both of these types of protection could be footwear-related, and manufacturers will be subject to the strictest conformity procedures (EU type-examination plus monitoring of ongoing production conformity). Other product types which move from category II to category III, but are less relevant to footwear manufacturers, include equipment offering protection from drowning, bullet wounds, knife stabs and harmful noise.

A key change is the introduction of time-limited EU type-examination certificates. These will be valid for a maximum of five years, after which they will need to undergo a revalidation procedure in order to be extended. To ensure sufficient time for any required renewal, the regulation specifies the application must be submitted to the Notified Body no later than six months prior to the expiry date of the certificate. A simplified renewal procedure is also included which is applied when there has been no change to the product or the state of the art such as the harmonised standard. The regulation also specifies in more detail than the directive the information that must be contained on the certificate.

The proposed regulation is likely to be finalised and published in early 2016. It is expected that it will not be applied until two years after first publication, and there will then be a one-year transition period after which all new applications will have to be made under the new regulation. EC type-examination certificates to the current PPE Directive will then become invalid at whichever date comes first – either at the stated expiry date or five years after application of the regulation.

As the regulation progresses through the European system, SATRA Bulletin readers will be kept up-to-date with developments. It is clear, though, that shoemakers currently still have some time before new legislation is enacted.

How can we help?

Please email for further information on proposed revisions to the European PPE Directive.

Publishing Data

This article was originally published on page 34 of the February 2016 issue of SATRA Bulletin.

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