Personal protective equipment

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Shelf with personal protective equipment

Personal protective equipment ( PPE ) is a collective term for items that must be worn during all work and activities which, due to their hazardous nature, could cause injuries or damage to health and which cannot be prevented by other measures (technical or organizational).


In addition to the technical (hazard avoidance) and organizational measures (separating the exposure to danger from people or at least limiting it in time), the personal measures (personal protective equipment and instruction ) are among the classic measures of occupational safety and health protection ( TOP principle of occupational safety). However, the technical and organizational measures are to be applied primarily with regard to the PPE.

Personal protective equipment is used in the entire commercial sector, in rescue organizations and even in government organizations such as the police and the military. But they can also be essential tools in leisure time or during sport (e.g. helmet , life jacket or protective goggles ). They must meet the basic requirements of Annex II of Directive 89/686 / EEC, at the latest from April 21, 2019 the basic requirements of Regulation 2016/425 / EU. Harmonized standards that have been published by the European Commission specify specific requirements for the respective products.


The PPE can be divided into different categories. These show the risks that the PPE should protect against. The higher the category, the more demanding are the conformity assessment procedures that a manufacturer must carry out.

Category I.

Final list, protection against:

  • superficial mechanical injuries
  • Contact with mildly aggressive cleaning agents or prolonged contact with water;
  • Contact with hot surfaces, the temperature of which does not exceed 50 ° C;
  • Damage to the eyes from exposure to the sun (except when observing the sun);
  • Weather conditions that are not of an extreme nature.

Category II

This includes all PPE that cannot be classified in either Category I or III, examples:

  • Standard protection for mechanical risks (e.g. bicycle helmets, work gloves, safety shoes)
  • Buoyancy aids such as B. armbands

Category III

Final list, protection against:

  • substances and mixtures hazardous to health;
  • Oxygen deficient atmospheres;
  • harmful biological agents;
  • ionizing radiation;
  • warm environment that has the same effects as an environment with an air temperature of 100 ° C or more;
  • cold environment that has an impact comparable to that of an environment with an air temperature of - 50 ° C or less;
  • Falls from a height;
  • Electric shock and work on live parts;
  • Drown;
  • Cuts from hand-held chainsaws;
  • High pressure jet;
  • Injuries from projectiles or knife wounds;
  • harmful noise.

Categorization and tools for it

The categorization of personal protective equipment was carried out by the European Directive 89/686 / EEC until April 20, 2018. This directive has been repealed since April 21, 2018 and has been replaced by Regulation 2016/425 / EU. The so-called PPE guidelines of the European Commission interpret the regulation or explain it in more detail and, in some cases, make product-specific classifications into the categories.

As an aid, the PPE Portrait Project in connection with the Ebola virus and the COVID-19 pandemic calls for a portrait on the PPE to make the wearer appear more human.

Special PPE

There are a number of specific PPE available. These can be found under the category: Personal protective equipment .

Combination of personal protective equipment

At many workplaces, different types of PPE must be used at the same time, as protection against multiple influences and / or for multiple areas of the body is necessary. The protective effect of the PPE must not interfere with one another. As part of the risk assessment, the employer must assess the compatibility of the PPE and the risk that can arise from combining several PPE. A compilation of existing knowledge can be helpful. The information provided by the manufacturer and the testing and certification bodies must also be taken into account .

Normative and legal references

Requirements for personal protective equipment

In the Federal Republic of Germany which served Product Safety Act (ProdSG) and the Eighth Ordinance to the Product Safety Act (Regulation on the provision of personal protective equipment on the market) (8 ProdSV) the implementation of Directive 89/686 / EEC of the Council of 21 December 1989 Approximation of the laws of the member states for personal protective equipment (OJ L 399 of 30 December 1989, pp. 18–38) in German law; they contain corresponding provisions on personal protective equipment. The 8th ProdSV was based on § 120e paragraph 1 GewO in the version of the announcement of January 1, 1987 Federal Law Gazette I p. 425 in connection with Art. 129 GG - in this regard meanwhile replaced by § 8 paragraph 1 of the ProdSG - by the Federal Minister for work and social order in agreement with the Federal Minister for Economic Affairs . The national implementation measures communicated by the member states regarding the Council Directive 89/686 / EEC of December 21, 1989 on the approximation of the laws of the member states relating to personal protective equipment are compiled in a collection in EUR-Lex , all of which are carried out by the member states as part of the implementation of the Information on this page transmitted to national law under Union law is the sole responsibility of the Member States (it may therefore be out of date, incomplete or incorrect).

The Regulation (EU) 2016/425 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 9 March 2016, personal protective equipment and repealing Council Directive 89/686 / EEC apply from April 21, 2018 in full and controls together with the PSA Implementation Act (in Germany) placing personal protective equipment on the market.

Regulations for the use of personal protective equipment

In the Federal Republic of Germany , the PPE Usage Ordinance (PSA-BV) serves in conjunction with the Occupational Safety and Health Act (ArbSchG), as well as - for the area of mining law  - the General Federal Mining Ordinance (ABBergV) (in particular its Section 18 in conjunction with Section 3 (1) sentence 5 no. 1 in conjunction with § 2 paragraph 1 sentence 1 and 2), the implementation of Directive 89/656 / EEC of the Council of 30 November 1989 personal on minimum requirements for safety and health when using protective equipment by workers at work (OJ EG No. L 393 p. 18); they contain the relevant provisions on the use of personal protective equipment. The PSA-BV was issued by the Federal Government on the basis of Section 19 (in conjunction with Section 18 ) of the ArbSchG of August 7, 1996 ( Federal Law Gazette I p. 1246 ). National implementation measures communicated by the member states relating to Council Directive 89/656 / EEC of 30 November 1989 on the minimum requirements for safety and health protection for the use of personal protective equipment by workers at work (third individual directive within the meaning of Article 16 (1) of Directive 89 / 391 / EEC) are compiled in a collection in EUR-Lex , whereby all information transmitted by the Member States in the context of the implementation of Union law into national law on this page is the sole responsibility of the Member States (they may therefore be out of date, incomplete or incorrect ).


  • Hans-Peter Mehlem: Personal protective equipment - types - properties - sources of supply. 2006, ISBN 3-921059-62-3 .
  • Marc Schulze, Axel Hüchelbach: The new PPE regulation - explanations for practical implementation. 2016, ISBN 978-3-8462-0668-3 .

Web links

Commons : Personal Protective Equipment  - Collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Harmonized PPE standards, as of 2013 (PDF; 1.3 MB)
  2. PPE guidelines
  3. Avoid hazards by combining personal protective equipment. Institute for Occupational Safety and Health of the German Social Accident Insurance (IFA), accessed on December 7, 2018 .