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Personal protective equipment means products designed and manufactured to be worn or held by a person for protection against one or more risks to that person's health or safety at work, at home or during leisure activities.

Definition of personal protective equipment and its categories

The term personal protective equipment refers to:

  • equipment designed and manufactured to be held or worn by a person for protection against one or several dangers to their health and safety;
  • interchangeable components for equipment, which are essential to its protective function;
  • connection systems for equipment not held or worn, which are designed to connect this equipment with an external device or to a reliable external connection point and are not designed for permanent attachment and which prior to use do not demand attachment.

Categories of risks against which users are protected by personal protective equipment are also determined for personal protective equipment.

Category I includes exclusively the following minimum risks:

  • superficial mechanical injury;
  • contact with cleaning materials of weak action or prolonged contact with water;
  • contact with hot surfaces not exceeding 50 °C;
  • damage to the eyes due to exposure to sunlight (other than during observation of the sun);
  • atmospheric conditions that are not of an extreme nature.

Category II includes risks that are not indicated in categories I and III.

Category III includes exclusively the risks that may cause very serious consequences such as death or irreversible damage to health relating to the following:

  • substances and mixtures which are hazardous to health;
  • atmospheres with oxygen deficiency;
  • harmful biological agents;
  • ionising radiation;
  • high-temperature environments the effects of which are comparable to those of an air temperature of at least 100 °C;
  • low-temperature environments the effects of which are comparable to those of an air temperature of – 50 °C or less;
  • falling from a height;
  • electric shock and live working;
  • drowning;
  • cuts by hand-held chainsaws;
  • high-pressure jets;
  • bullet wounds or knife stab wounds;
  • harmful noise.

Accessibility of products in the European Union market

As the moment of placing a product in the market is when the product must fulfil all valid legal requirements, it is important that manufacturers and importers are able to provide evidence to substantiate that validity. Despite the fact that personal protective equipment is stocked by the manufacturer, individual products can be considered as placed on the market when they are actually offered for distribution, consumption or use.

The Guide on placing products on the market is used by the European Commission to explain the transition from the former directive to the valid regulation on personal protective equipment in connection to placement on the market.