Exploring PPE, regulation compliance and preventing occupational footwear injuries

Graham Clements, Certification Manager for PPE at BSI explores PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) and how to prevent footwear injuries in the workplace.

Ensuring that employees are safe at work must be a high priority for all organisations, regardless of industry. According to the Labour Force Survey1, 555,000 injuries occurred at work between 2017-2018. Whilst this can have a considerable impact on businesses, ultimately organisations have a responsibility to look after their people.

Most incidents in the workplace can be prevented if the correct level of protection is provided. Protective footwear is just one of the most common types of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and an important part of self-protection in the workplace. Footwear incidents can range from a blister due to illfitting work boots, to heavy objects falling onto the feet. Keeping feet at the right temperature is another consideration, particularly in extreme environments or when working outdoors. There is an ever-rising need for organisations to comply with health and safety regulations; therefore, professionals need to explore the use of PPE. However, with so many different types of protective footwear on the market – each with its own use and application, how do organisations invest in the right protection?

What is PPE?

PPE encompasses hundreds of products that stretch from head to toe, from protective clothing, helmets, hearing and respiratory protection to body armour and boots. From a legal and regulatory perspective, PPE is defined more specifically as:

  • Equipment 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
  • Interchangeable components for equipment referred to in point (a) that are essential for its protective function
  • Connection systems for equipment referred to in point (a) that are not held or worn by a person, that are designed to connect that equipment to an external device or to a reliable anchorage point, that are not designed to be permanently fixed, and that do not require fastening works before use

    To keep employees safe in the workplace and reduce health risks, protective footwear has to comply with all the requirements of the PPE Regulation and carry the CE marking to be sold legally in the EU.

    Some types of footwear are classified as Complex PPE, this means that in addition to satisfying the initial requirements of the PPE Directive, the manufacturer must also demonstrate annually to a Notified Body such as BSI, that the product continues to comply with the requirements of the standard it was initially tested against. A notified body is an independent organisation designated by an EU country to assess the conformity of certain products before being placed on the market. These bodies carry out tasks related to conformity assessment procedures set out in the applicable EU legislation, when a third party is required.

    What is the PPE Regulation?

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    The PPE Regulation (EU) 2016/425 recently superseded the PPE Directive, which was revised in order to reflect current technologies and processes for developing and bringing PPE to the market. The regulation replaced the PPE Directive on 12 February 2016 and was published in a document called the Official Journal. The new regulation applied from 21 April 2018, with a one-year transition period until 21 April 2019. All PPE manufactured now will need to comply with the new Regulation.