Standards for PPE are minimum requirements only and no more

“Our product meets the most stringent standard”. A statement that I often hear when personal protective equipment (PPE) is being sold. That appears to be a reassuring statement, but if you were to know exactly what it entails, you might want a solution that is much better than “the most stringent standard”.

Standards: the minimum requirements a product must satisfy

To guarantee that PPE offers particular guaranteed protection, here in Europe we have standards, the EN standards, which were established by a group of experts from the market: users, clients, manufacturers and potentially legislators. These standards describe the minimum requirements a product is required to satisfy. If the product achieves those values, it may be sold in the EU under that standard.

Standard says nothing about quality

As the person buying this product, you therefore have certain assurances, which will also pose a considerable challenge to you right away. Many manufacturers and tradespeople will tell you that they have the best product because it meets the most stringent or highest standard, but that doesn’t say anything about the quality at all. The only guarantee you have is that it satisfies the minimum requirements in the standard. No more than that.

The challenge to recognise these products

A group of manufacturers is going one step further. With them, the basic principle is not that their product must meet a standard. They are mainly concerned about providing a product that protects the health of users as effectively as possible, and it goes without saying that by satisfying this requirement, it is also meeting the standard. But the challenge to you now is to recognise these products.

Buying PPE from a webshop

Whatever the case, it is important to obtain reliable information and independent advice from an expert. Buying PPE from a catalogue, special offers leaflet or webshop is useful if you need to make a repeat purchase, but not if you are looking for new PPE. Especially not if it’s PPE that must protect you against a potential risk of permanent injury (CE Cat.3), such as fall protection.

Experts will always ask you questions

Whenever someone claims that his or her PPE is the best, it is good to be a bit critical for a moment and to continue asking questions. Experts in PPE will always ask you questions about the nature of the work, the risk, the exposure time etc. Only then will they give you well-founded and well-considered advice. With everyone else who doesn’t do that, you need to ask yourself whether you are well-protected.

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