Personal protective equipment (PPE) is intended to provide adequate protection against hazards when performing specific activities. This type of equipment protects you from risks that may endanger your health and/or safety.

Examples: work gloves, (bike) helmets, wrist guards, knee pads, sunglasses, dust masks, safety shoes, safety goggles, etc.

Whenever it is mandatory to wear PPE, the employer shall provide it.

The employer must prevent or limit dangers and risks to the safety and health of employees as much as possible at the source.

(Amateur) sports participants, do-it-yourselfers and non-professional users decide for themselves whether or not to use PPE. However, such users often lack the required knowledge to estimate the dangers and risks associated with their activities.

The following factors are important when choosing PPE:

  • the seriousness of the danger;
  • the frequency of exposure to the danger;
  • the nature of the place in which the activity is carried out;
  • the efficiency of the PPE.

Regulations

The general terms and safety regulations for PPE are prescribed in the Code of Economic Law, Book IX on products and services safety. Regulation (EU) 2016/425 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 9 March 2016 on personal protective equipment and repealing Council Directive 89/686/EEC specifies the specific requirements and procedures. This regulation has been in force since 21 April 2018.

Any PPE launched prior to 21 April 2019 (end of the transition phase) and which complies with the repealed Royal Decree of 31 December 1992 on the supply of personal protective equipment may continue to be supplied on the market.

The regulation does not apply to the following personal protective equipment:

  • specifically designed for the military forces or for law enforcement;
  • designed for self-defence, except for PPE intended for sports activities;
  • designed for private use for protection against:
    • non-extreme weather conditions;
    • moisture and water when washing dishes.
  • designed to be used exclusively on ships or aircraft subject to the appropriate international treaties which apply in the member states;
  • designed to protect the user's head, face and eyes, and covered by regulation No 22 in the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe on common requirements for the approval of protective helmets and their visors for drivers and passengers of motorbikes and mopeds;
  • PPE to which another specific regulation applies.

The Commission has compiled both a guide for the interpretation of the regulation and a document on the implementation of article 47 in the regulation, the validity of an EC-type examination certificate and products in the stocks of manufacturer.

Obligations for manufacturers

As a manufacturer, you must ensure that the PPE that you place on the market meets the essential health and safety requirements.

In addition, all PPE brought onto the market must:

  • be traceable (both the product and the manufacturer);
  • carry the CE marking; and
  • be accompanied by the EU declaration of conformity (or a link) and the instructions in the language of the linguistic region in which the PPE is to be placed on the market.

Depending on the type of design, a number of procedures must be followed before the PPE may be placed on the market. The most important differences in terms of procedures are as follows:

  • PPE for risk category I:
    • apply the internal production inspection;
  • PPE for a risk category other than I and III (risk category II):
    • submit the product to an EU-type audit by a registered body, followed by conformity with the type based on internal production inspection;
  • PPE for risk category III:
    • submit the product to an EU-type audit by a registered body, followed by conformity with the type based on either internal production inspection and supervised checks, or on production quality assurance.

Obligations for importers

Before placing a PPE on the market, the importer must ensure that:

  • the manufacturer has conducted the conformity assessment procedure;
  • the manufacturer has compiled the technical documentation; 
  • the PPE carries the CE marking;
  • the PPE is accompanied by the required documents; and
  • the PPE is traceable (both the product and the manufacturer).

In addition, the importer must:

  • attach their name, corporate name or registered trademark and postal address to the PPE, or if this is impossible, to its packaging, or in a document provided with the PPE;
  • ensure that the PPE is provided with the instructions and other information in the language of the relevant linguistic area where the PPE is to be placed on the market;
  • ensure that storage and transport conditions do not compromise the conformity of the PPE;
  • keep a copy of the EU declaration of conformity for the market surveillance authorities and ensure that technical documentation can be submitted to the authorities upon request over a period of ten years after the PPE is placed on the market;
  • upon a duly substantiated request from an authorised national authority, provide said authority with all the necessary information and documentation to demonstrate the conformity of the PPE, in a language easily understandable by the authority. Upon request from the authority, cooperate in all measures taken to eliminate the risks of the PPE placed on the market.

Obligations for distributors

Before placing PPE on the market, distributors have an obligation to:

  • check if PPE carries the CE marking;
  • check it is accompanied by the required documents and the instructions and other information in the language of the linguistic region where the PPE is to be placed on the market.

Furthermore, distributors must:

  • ensure that storage and transport conditions do not compromise the conformity of the PPE;
  • upon a duly substantiated request from an authorised national authority, provide said authority with all the necessary information and documentation to demonstrate the conformity of the PPE, in a language easily understandable by the authority. Upon request from the authority, cooperate in all measures taken to eliminate the risks of the PPE placed on the market.

Details of the obligations of the economic operators and conformity procedures can be found in the regulation 2016/425.

Last update
26 May 2021

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