There are two questions you need to ask yourself when you choose PPE: is it adequate and is it suitable? By adequate, we mean is it capable of reducing the wearer’s exposure to a skin hazard to a suitable level? By suitable, we mean is it appropriate for the task, the wearer and the environment in which it is going to be used?
If protective coveralls are needed in your workplace, there are a number of different tests and standards that you need to be aware of before you make your selection. When you have established which parts of the body are at risk and the nature of the risk, you can begin to narrow down your search.
EN 340 is the high level standard for protective clothing which is not applied on its own, but in combination with other relevant standards. It deals with general requirements such as the materials used, weight, labelling and sizing and applies to many different types of clothing including those designed for adverse weather, mechanical risks and heat protection. In terms of protective coveralls, it requires that products comply with certain “type” standards.
Products can be approved to more than one standard and therefore more than one type. For example, a type 5/6 coverall which is designed to protect the wearer against particles (Type 5, EN ISO 13982-1) and limited liquid splash (Type 6, EN 13034). It’s also worth remembering that some coveralls are not intended for use in hazardous environments at all, but just in general dirty applications.
Materials tests and other standards
Within each type standard there are a number of material requirements such as abrasion resistance, tensile strength and puncture resistance. There are also various optional standards to which protective coveralls can be approved to give you even more confidence in their effectiveness, for example protection against bio-hazards (EN 14126) and performance with regards to electrostatic properties (EN1149-5).
Different materials offer varying levels of protection against different substances and you need to bear this in mind when you choose your protective coveralls. Performance is generally tested in three ways; penetration, permeation and repellency.
Making your choice
Always be aware that many protective coveralls incorporate features that will make them suitable for a particular wearer, task or environment. For instance, products with breathable back panels may be more comfortable in hot environments or where the work is more physical.
Purchasing the appropriate equipment is only part of the job. It is vital that employees receive information, instruction and training for any PPE that is supplied to them otherwise you may well find that the equipment is not being used effectively.
If you would like help in choosing the right coverall for your application, take a look at our new coveralls selection chart.
Alternatively, if you would like to know more about skin hazards and how to identify them, why not post your question on the discussion forum.