Protective footwear, which aims to protect the wearer against extreme or hazardous conditions, falls under the category of Personal Protective Equipment, or PPE, which also includes such products as gloves, helmets, etc. Regulation of PPE sold in the UK begins at the European Agency for Health and Safety at Work. Regulation (EU) 2016/425 of this agency states that any PPE that passes the standards for any European Member state can be sold in any other member state.
Within the United Kingdom, all workplace health and safety policy is in the purview of an agency called the Health and Safety Executive or HSE, which ensures that every workplace, from an office to a building site, is a safe place to work. Their authority extends to everything from noise levels to radiation exposure, as well as personal protective equipment.
The HSE guidance on PPE prescribes businesses and users to choose products that are CE marked in accordance with the Personal Protective Equipment Regulations 2002. The CE or European Conformity mark, can be used for protective footwear that has passed the relevant tests, which confirm its ability to provide standard levels of protection for the wearer. In fact, protective footwear intended for the workplace cannot be sold in the UK without a CE mark.
Unfortunately, the standards and requirements surrounding protective footwear and the CE mark in general, are complex and subject to change. The old European standard for PPE required that manufacturers show conformity with the basic health and safety requirements, or BHSRs.
However, the old European standards have been either superseded or incorporated into international standards known as ISO’s. The use of ISO’s means that products conforming to an ISO standard are likely to be accepted into the standard systems of countries outside of Europe, which means that manufacturers can spend less time and money on testing.
The UK has a set of standards that all PPE must conform to in order to receive the CE mark, which makes the products eligible to be sold in the UK as work wear.
The names of various standards in the UK all start with either:
These standards are almost identical to their counterparts in other European countries, the only exceptions being that they will be written in English, and usually have a UK-specific foreword or appendix. This foreword or appendix will explain any small technical differences that apply in the UK and are not included in the international standard.
The following is a list of protective footwear that requires a CE mark (category II or III, see below) to be sold in the UK:
The procedure to obtain a CE mark depends on the category of the intended use of the protective footwear.
PPE in this category is designed to offer only minimal protection for the user against dangers that are slow and will cause minimal harm. The user is expected to be able to self-assess any dangers and take appropriate action in good time.
An example of protective footwear in this category would be footwear designed for use in bad weather. Category I PPE is not typically intended to protect the user against workplace hazards.
Protective footwear that falls in this category has the CE mark self-applied by the manufacturer. It does not need to be independently tested. However, a document containing the full technical specifications of the product must be available for inspection.
PPE in this category is designed to protect the wearer against normal hazards that should be expected in the workplace.
The manufacturer of category II PPE must submit samples of their product to a certified inspection body who are able to test the protective footwear against the standard tests and, upon verifying compliance with relevant standards, award it CE II label.
PPE in this category protects the wearer against hazards that may cause death or serious injury, or where the danger cannot be identified in sufficient time. An example of this sort of danger is electrocution, which is both sudden and potentially lethal.
The manufacturer of category III PPE must satisfy the requirements applying for category II PPE, and additionally implement procedures during the manufacturing process that ensure their product continues to conform to the standards.
The HSE requires that all PPE, including protective footwear, is tested at an approved inspection body. These bodies will ensure that the products meet all the necessary requirements by using the standardized test procedures, and are able to award a CE mark for categories II and III.
In order to ensure that your product is and remains compliant with the relevant standards, you must subject it to appropriate testing before sending it to the inspection body.
You must also ensure that your product continues to meet the strict BS ISO standards for category III protective footwear, by implementing strict quality control and inspection throughout the entire production process.
QIMA is able to provide full quality control and inspection services at every stage of your manufacturing and shipping process to guarantee your product remains category III compliant.
Get in contact with our team of specialists, and we can ensure that your PPE gets to market and stays there.
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