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Protecting legs from strimmers

Manufacturers can CE-mark leg guards­­ for working with strimmers after assessment against the PPE Regulation's requirements.

Using high power strimmers is potentially hazardous. The machines themselves can be dangerous if the rotating or cutting parts come into contact with the human body, even though they should be designed in a way that minimises the potential for accidental contact. These machines are also capable of picking up small stones and other debris and projecting them at high speed. These high-speed missiles can impact on bystanders but the most likely victim is the machine operator. Potential injuries include bruising, abrasion and laceration.

The feet and lower leg area of the operator are considered to be at most risk of being hit by flying debris. Although wearing safety footwear that complies with EN 20345 should provide adequate protection against most impacts to the feet, the lower leg remains vulnerable, so some form of leg protector is advised.

Leg guards that protect against the hazards associated with strimming are usually regarded as intermediate or category II PPE, although they are sometimes sold as simple PPE. Where supplied as category II PPE, they will need to be type examined according to Module B of Resolution (EU) 2016/425 before being placed on the market in the EU. SATRA also recommends that all users of strimmers wear protective goggles or a helmet fitted with a suitable face mask.

There are no specific British or European Standards covering personal protective equipment (PPE) for strimming activities. However, it is possible for manufacturers to get products CE marked by assessment directly against the health and safety requirements in the PPE Regulation. In particular, SATRA considers that protection is required against two basic injury-causing mechanisms:

To assess resistance to impacts from small sharp objects, SATRA utilises the impact cut test specified in EN ISO 13998 (the standard for protective clothing against cuts and stabs with hand knives). This test procedure specifies two levels of impact cut performance, namely 2.45 joules or 4.9 joules. No penetration by the test blade is permitted.

Protection against blunt impacts is based on the blunt impact test described in EN 13061 (the standard for soccer shin guards), but utilising different anvils for the knee and shin areas. An impact energy of 2.5 joules is applied and the transmitted forces recorded at the knee and shin should not exceed 6kN and 5kN respectively.

Other properties such as innocuousness, ergonomics and sizing are assessed using EN ISO 13688:2013 'Protective clothing – general requirements'.

­­­­SATRA considers that the testing described in this article can be used to show compliance with the basic health and safety requirements of the PPE Regulation. The manufacturer will also have to produce a technical file plus information for users for examination.

Further information on SATRA's PPE certification and testing services is available at www.satra.com/ppe

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Please email ppe@satra.com for information about leg guard testing and type-examination.