Personal protective equipment regulations

The following directives explain that employers must provide their workers with personal protective equipment (PPE) and that this equipment must meet a list of "essential requirements".

Directive 89/686/EEC - personal protective equipment

of 21 December 1989 on the approximation of the laws of the Member States relating to personal protective equipment.

Directive 89/686/EEC is repealed with effect from 21 April 2018 by Regulation (EU) 2016/425 .


The aim of the Directive is to ensure the free movement of personal protective equipment (PPE) within the Community market by completely harmonizing the essential safety requirements to which it must conform.


The Directives defines "essential requirements" which PPE must satisfy at the time of manufacture and before it is placed on the market: the general requirements applicable to all PPE; the additional requirements specific to certain types of PPE; and also the additional requirements specific to particular risks.

The Directive details both Essential Health and Safety Requirements (EHSRs) for PPE and the conformity assessment procedures, which for products protecting against more serious risk may require the intervention of a so-called 'Notified Body". Notified Bodies are institutes appointed by the Member States and which are to be at the service of the manufacturer wherever the Directive requests for third party intervention (EC type examination, approval and monitoring of quality assurance systems).

The CE marking in this field was introduced by Directive 93/68/EC. Furthermore, Regulation (EC) No 765/2008  sets out the requirements for accreditation and market surveillance relating to the marketing of products."

Source: European Agency for Health and Safety at Work 

Directive 89/656/EEC - use of personal protective equipment

of 30 November 1989 on the minimum health and safety requirements for the use by workers of personal protective equipment at the workplace (third individual directive within the meaning of Article 16 (1) of Directive 89/391/EEC)


This Directive lays down minimum requirements for personal protective equipment (PPE) used by workers at work.


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).


Personal protective equipment must be used when the risks cannot be avoided or sufficiently limited by technical means of collective protection or procedures of work organization.

Employers' obligations

Personal protective equipment must comply with the relevant Community provisions on design and manufacture with respect to safety and health.

All personal protective equipment must

  • be appropriate for the risks involved, without itself leading to any increased risk
  • correspond to existing conditions at the workplace
  • take account of ergonomic requirements and the worker's state of health
  • fit the wearer correctly after any necessary adjustment.

The employer must provide the appropriate equipment free of charge and must ensure that it is in good working order and hygienic condition.

Where the presence of more than one risk makes it necessary for a worker to wear simultaneously more than one item of personal protective equipment, such equipment must be compatible.

Personal protective equipment is, in principle, intended for personal use. If the circumstances require personal protective equipment to be worn by more than one person, appropriate measures shall be taken to ensure that such use does not create any health or hygiene problem for the different users.

Before choosing personal protective equipment, the employer is required to assess whether the personal protective equipment he intends to use satisfies the requirements of this Directive.

Member States shall ensure that general rules are established for the use of personal protective equipment and/or covering cases and situations where the employer must provide such equipment. There must be prior consultation with employers' and workers' organisations.

Employer shall organize training and demonstrate the use of PPE. Workers shall be informed of all measures to be taken. Consultation and participation shall take place on the matters covered by this Directive.

Moreover, the provisions of Directive 89/391/EEC - "the Framework Directive" - are fully applicable without prejudice to more restrictive and/or specific provisions contained in this Directive.

Source: European Agency for Health and Safety at Work