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With decisions on legal changes affecting the manufacture and use of PPE set to come into play before 2020, Tim Wood reports from the Health & Safety Event on how expected

changes might impact on your day-to-day business. A wander around the new Health & Safety Event at Birmingham’s NEC reveals a lot of what we already know about the health and safety industry: much of it, on the exterior, relates to personal protective equipment (PPE). And with PPE playing such a huge role in funding the advancement of the health and safety industry in terms of training and education, it was no surprise to see such a keen interest in it at the show. Despite an early slot, day one of the show saw a packed conference theatre for a presentation by Ansell’s Ann Van Den Borre on upcoming changes to the legal framework concerning PPE, which we might see coming into play on exhibition stands in future.

least 2018 before we see the revisions affecting product purchase.

Perhaps most important, in terms of developing worker safety, is the proposed upgrade of a number of category two products to category three. Category three covers products that can prevent or protect from potentially mortal injuries, so we will see items like life jackets, chainsaw guards and stab vests make the transition.


While it might not have been surprising to see so many PPE manufacturers out in force, it was alarming to hear that, despite drastic changes to the market over the past two and a half decades, there have been no revisions to the PPE Directive, published in 1989 by the European Council (EC), which is applied in the HSE’s PPE at Work Regulations (1992). That directive lays out the minimum health and safety requirements expected of employers for PPE provision at work, and is reasonably comprehensive. However, the fact that it has remained the same, despite the industry and the products on offer being far more advanced than in the nineties, suggests that the majority of progress has been driven privately.

With legislation now playing catch up, it’s worth noting the changes we can expect to see. Any changes to the PPE Directive, including alignment with the New Legislative Framework, aren’t expected to be confirmed until 2016, and manufacturers will have a two-year grace period to become compliant. So, realistically, it will be at



Moving this type of item into category three means that it will be harder for manufacturers to get their products to pass EC standards and on the market. Products in category three are also subject to stricter monitoring throughout their lifetime so, in theory, will be a wiser purchase.

Monitoring is also expected to improve as revisions to the EC Type Examination Certificate for the directive will mean that the certificate is only valid for five years. Currently, the certification is unlimited once achieved. All this depends on a decision between the EU Parliament and Council, and the matter has been ongoing since 2012, so it wouldn’t be a surprise if changes don’t materialise until later than expected.

But, while we might not be able to expect rapid change, we can expect change nonetheless. And, if it means improved worker safety, it can only be a good thing.

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