Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is equipment that will protect the user against health or safety risks at work. It can include items such as safety helmets, gloves, eye protection, high-visibility clothing, safety footwear and safety harnesses. It also includes respiratory protective equipment (RPE).
New EU Regulations, which have been in force since 21st April 2018, means that PPE can only be manufactured according to the specifications set out in the new laws. However the UK is still within the permitted one year transition period, which means that personal protective equipment may continue to be manufactured under the old rules (the Personal Protective Equipment Regulations 2002) until 20th April 2019, or it can be manufactured under the standards set out in EU Regulation 2016/425. From 21st April 2019, only PPE manufactured under EU Regulation 2016/425 can be legally placed on the market.
EU Regulation 2016/425 will continue to apply even after Brexit
In very simple terms, all existing EU laws will still be incorporated into UK laws even post-Brexit. It may then choose to change or annul them, but even if it chooses to do so, it can be assumed that this process will take time; hence companies should work on the assumption that compliance with EU regulations will be mandatory. It’s also worth noting that there is a distinct possibility that the UK will choose to stay in compliance with many of the EU’s rules (or will strike a trade deal which requires it) and therefore it arguably makes a lot of sense to keep tabs on any and all developments in this area. Even if the UK does not do so, EU laws require sellers outside the EU (and EEA) to conform to EU standards if they wish to sell products into the EU.
The key difference between the PPE Regulations 2002 and EU Regulation 2016/425
Arguably the single biggest difference between the old PPE Regulations 2002 and EU Regulation 2016/425 is that the former applied only to PPE manufacturers whereas the latter applies to the whole distribution chain, in other words anyone and everyone involved in the manufacture, distribution and supply of PPE is now bound to take all reasonable steps to ensure that the PPE they touch is compliant with requirements. This requirement does not extend to purchasers; however employers are still bound by the Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992, which remain in force as they currently stand. This obliges companies to ensure that employees with a responsibility for specifying, sourcing and/or purchasing PPE are able and empowered to undertake their role to an appropriate level. Additionally, health and safety legislation requires employers to ensure that their employees have suitable PPE for their role and, if necessary, are given training on how to use it.
Regulations change but certificates may stay the same
While the new regulation brings a number of changes to the old PPE Regulations, existing EC type-examination certificates may remain valid up until 2024, unless there is some specific reason why they become invalidated. One possible reason for invalidation could be that the product becomes reclassified. For example, the EU regulation has upgraded both lifejackets and hearing protection from Category II (Intermediate PPE) to Category III (Complex PPE) and further reclassifications may take place in the future.