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Personal protective equipment

The different national provisions need to be harmonised in order to ensure the free movement of personal protective equipment (PPE). This directive is based on the principles of the "New Approach to Technical Harmonisation and Standards". In line with this new approach, the design and manufacture of PPE is subject to essential user safety requirements.


Council Directive 89/686/EEC of 21 December 1989 on the approximation of the laws of the Member States relating to the design of personal protective equipment [See Amending acts].


This directive covers personal protective equipment (PPE). It lays down the conditions governing its placing on the market and free movement and the basic requirements which PPE must satisfy in order to protect the health and ensure the safety of users.

Member States must adopt measures to ensure that PPE placed on the market protects the health and ensures the safety of users, without prejudice to the health or safety of other individuals, domestic animals or goods.

Definition and scope

PPE is any device or appliance:

  • designed to be worn or held by an individual for protection against one or more health and safety hazards;
  • designed for both professional and private use (sport, leisure, household use).

The Directive does not apply to:

  • PPE covered by another directive designed to achieve the same objectives as this Directive with regard to placing on the market, free movement of goods and safety;
  • PPE designed and manufactured for use by the armed forces or in the maintenance of law and order;
  • PPE for self-defence;
  • PPE intended for the protection or rescue of persons on vessels or aircraft, not worn all the time;
  • Helmets and visors intended for users of two- or three-wheeled motor vehicles.

Essential requirements

In line with the principles of the "New Approach to Technical Harmonisation and Standards", the design and manufacture of PPE is subject to essential health and safety requirements.

The essential requirements that must be met by PPE during manufacture and prior to being placed on the market are:

  • the general requirements applicable to all PPE;
  • the additional requirements specific to certain types of PPE;
  • the additional requirements specific to particular risks.

Harmonised standards

Harmonised European standards are drawn up by the European standardisation bodies on the basis of the essential requirements. These bodies are the European Committee for Standardisation (CEN) and the European Committee for Electrotechnical Standardisation (Cenelec).

Any PPE manufactured in accordance with harmonised standards is presumed to conform to the essential requirements covered by the standards concerned.

Conformity assessment and notified bodies

Assessment of the conformity of PPE with the essential requirements and other provisions of this Directive is the responsibility of:

  • either the bodies notified by the Member States in accordance with the minimum assessment criteria;
  • or the manufacturers themselves.

Declaration of conformity and "CE" mark

Member States may not prohibit, restrict or hinder the placing on the market or entry into service of PPE that bears the EC mark for which:

  • the manufacturer is able to produce an "EC" declaration of conformity;
  • for PPE which protects against minimal risks, conformity is attested by the manufacturer himself by means of the EC declaration of conformity;
  • all other PPE should be subject to an EC type-examination by a notified body;
  • some items of PPE which protect against very serious risks are also subject to a procedure aimed at ensuring conformity to production type.

The "CE" conformity mark is affixed by the manufacturer or his representative established in the European Union.


This Directive is supplemented by directives on the protection of the health and safety of workers, in particular Directive 89/656/EEC on the use of PPE by workers at the workplace.


ActEntry into forceDeadline for transposition in the Member StatesOfficial Journal
Directive 89/686/EEC1.7.199231.12.1991OJ L 399 of 30.12.1989
Amending act(s)Entry into forceDeadline for transposition in the Member StatesOfficial Journal
Directive 93/68/EEC1.1.19951.7.1994OJ L 220 of 30.8.1993
Directive 93/95/EEC29.10.199329.1.1994OJ L 276 of 09.11.1993
Directive 96/58/EC8.10.19961.1.1997OJ L 236 of 18.9.1996
Regulation No 1882/200320.11.2003-OJ L 284 of 31.10.2003

Successive amendments and corrections to Directive 89/686/EEC have been incorporated in the basic text. This consolidated version is for reference purpose only.

Last updated: 14.06.2011

See also

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