There are many ways to stay safe, but one of the most important is to wear personal protective equipment (PPE).
There are many types of PPE: caps, masks, gloves, shoe covers, etc., and they all serve a different function.
But in addition to this, PPE is classified into three groups or categories depending on the protection they offer against certain risks.
The following is the basis for this classification and the requirements that PPE must meet to belong to each group.
- Category I: Minimum risks
Category I contains PPE that protects the user against minimal risks, such as mechanical actions with surface effects, handling low-toxicity chemicals, or exposure to high temperatures.
Thus, personal protective equipment such as gardening gloves, cleaning gloves, or sunglasses is classified in category I. In addition, this category requires that the products they are made of must be of high quality.
This category requires that the products that are part of it are marked with the European Conformity (CE) denoting.
- Category II: Medium-high risks
Category II classifies PPE that protects against medium or high risks but is not considered lethal or irreversible to health.
This category is probably the most diffuse, as it contains PPE that does not belong to types I and III.
PPE in this group is subject to EC-type examination and is also CE marked, indicating that the product complies with these requirements.
- Category III: Lethal or irreversible hazards
PPE classified in category III protects the user from risks that present lethal or irreversible health consequences.
This is the case of filtering or insulating respiratory protection equipment, PPE against chemical aggressions, equipment for protection against extreme temperatures (≥50ºC or ≤100ºC), motorcycle helmets, or equipment to protect from heights.
In this case, PPE shall be subjected to an EC-type examination and a procedure that ensures the quality of the product. Therefore, the stamping will have the form CE+XXXX, with these four digits indicating the organization’s identification that certifies the quality control of the product.
- Head protection: CSA standard Z94.1-15 explains the regulations on the use and performance of headwear, dividing the equipment into two types and three classes. The first type protects against impact and penetration to the top of the head. The second type offers the same protection, also defending the back and sides of the head. Each style comes in class E (20,000-volt electrical rating), G (2,200-volt electrical rating), or C (no electrical rating).
- Gloves: Different types of gloves demand different requirements. However, ANSI standards are used throughout North America. ANSI rates cut resistance on a nine-level scale. Level 1 gloves require a minimum force of 200-gram force to cut, while level 9 gloves require at least 6,000-gram power. ANSI uses a five-level scale for puncture resistance. To puncture a glove at the highest ANSI level involves a force of at least 150 Newtons. ANSI measures abrasion resistance on a six-level scale. A level 1 glove, tested at 500 grams of force, takes 100 revolutions of two vertically oriented wheels to undergo abrasion. A level 6 glove, tested at 1,000 grams of force, takes up to 20,000 courses.
- Eye protection: The CSA Z94.3-07 standard details the use and care of protective eyewear, defining six classes. These are goggles, spectacles, welding helmets, welding shields, non-rigid hoods, and face shields. Each type protects against different hazards. For example, welding helmets and shields are the only ones that resist harmful optical radiation from many forms of cutting and welding. In contrast, goggles and masks only protect against small flying objects.