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PPE Vertical Group 10 meets at SATRA

Examining the coordinating work of Vertical Groups.

The European Directive 89/686 for personal protective equipment (PPE) covers products designed to offer protection to the wearer’s feet, such as safety footwear. The primary purpose of the directive is to break down barriers to trade within the EU by harmonising safety standards. This has gone a long way towards standardising test and certification procedures, and allows a product tested and certified in one country to be sold throughout Europe. The now familiar CE symbol is affixed by the manufacturer to declare conformity, and thereby permit free movement of goods. However, there is still some way to go and, although all member states are now working to the same base document (such as EN ISO 20345 in the case of safety footwear), these documents are not perfect – they still include many ambiguities.

As part of the European certification procedures that support CE marking to the PPE Directive, there is a requirement for Notified Bodies (see the box 'Notified Bodies') to coordinate their activities, so that where possible any differences in interpretations can be discussed and a common approach agreed. The main mechanism for this coordination activity is through committees that are commonly referred to as 'Vertical Groups' (VGs). The role of these VGs is to promote communication and coordination between the various Notified Bodies that carry out test and certification activities throughout Europe, in an effort to reduce any inconsistencies.

Notified Bodies
Notified Bodies are EU-based organisations which, on the basis of their ability to carry out the examinations and tests required for CE marking of PPE, have been appointed by the government of that country and notified to the European Commission. SATRA is a Notified Body for most types of PPE, including safety footwear.

There is a VG for each main product sector – for instance, VG1 covers head protection and VG10 covers foot and leg protection, and these deal with issues specific to a particular product. Issues that relate to more than one product sector are discussed by a 'Horizontal Group', which coordinates the activities of the VGs. In general, development of a recommended solution to a problem is a two-stage process that starts with the generation of a 'proposal for enquiry sheet' which, after a period of discussion and comment, is usually progressed to a 'recommendation for use sheet' (RfU). If the question is felt to be unnecessary or no answer can be found, no RfU sheet will be produced.

To date, VG10 has produced over 200 RfU sheets. The decisions made by the VGs are not binding, although there is some pressure on the Notified Bodies to treat them as such. These decisions are merely recommended solutions to a particular problem. Each Notified Body is at liberty to decide whether or not it agrees with a particular recommended solution. However, where appropriate, these recommended solutions will be circulated to the relevant CEN Technical committee, so that they can be taken into consideration when a product standard is revised. Therefore, they provide a possible insight into future development of a product standard. In order to make sure our knowledge and experience is always kept fully up-to-date, SATRA attends all such meetings covered by our Notified Body scope. VG10 is currently chaired by SATRA, with the most recent meeting having been held at SATRA’s Kettering headquarters on 25th May.

Photograph above shows The VG10 committee at SATRA. From left: Pete Doughty, Carlos Marco Vale, Miroslava Dostalova, Paul Williamson, Paulina Chessy, Daniel Best and Ellen Wassmann. Jean-Claude Cannot was also present for the meeting.

Publishing Data

This article was originally published on page 8 of the July/August 2016 issue of SATRA Bulletin.

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