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 PPE Directive - formally known as European Council Directive 89/686/EEC Personal Protective Equipment - is the basis upon which manufacturers of PPE are authorised to affix the CE mark to their products.
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is defined in the Directive as any device or appliance designed to be worn or held by an individual for protection against one or more health and safety hazards in the execution of the user's activities.
In order for PPE legally to be placed on the market in member states of the European Union (EU), it must bear the CE mark. The CE mark must be of the form specified in the Directive and should be at least 5 mm high. It has to be affixed to the product, or, if the item is very small, shown on the packaging. For certain categories of PPE, the manufacturer must apply to a Notified Body for the PPE to undergo EC type-examination, followed, in some cases, by elements of quality control.
The Directive provides for three categories of PPE - Simple (Category I), Intermediate (Category II) and Complex (Category III). The extent of control on the manufacturer's production and quality system, and the degree of involvement of a Notified Body, is determined by the category. The categorisation of PPE is subject to regular review and a corresponding list is maintained up-to-date and published by the European Commission.