Does clothing with reflective bands have to be certified?

An opinion article by ETSA Expert, Wolfgang Quednau

Introduction

The question "Does clothing with reflective strips have to be certified?" is often followed by the question "Can I modify the clothing so that it is no longer considered personal protective equipment (PPE)?" The European Commission has now clarified this with  the PPE Regulation (EU) 2016/425 publication and the third version of the PPE guidelines.

Legal basis

PPE is defined as equipment that is designed and manufactured to be worn or held by a person as protection against one or more risks to that person's health or safety.

Exceptions to this principle are also regulated in the PPE Regulation (EU) 2016/425, for example, protection against non-extreme weather conditions for private use (e.g. a rain jacket for  hiking) is not considered PPE.

High-visibility clothing is category II PPE; thus, the conformity assessment procedures,  EU type examination (module B) and internal production control (module C) must be carried  out. The material requirements for high-visibility clothing are set out in Annex II 2.13. of the PPE Regulation (EU) 2016/425.

WolfgangIn distinction, what is meant by high-visibility clothing, recital 10 of the PPE Regulation (EU) 2016/425 states, among other things:

"Clothing intended for private use with reflective or fluorescent elements included for reasons of design or decoration is not personal protective equipment and is therefore not covered by this Regulation. "

This is explained in more detail in the PPE guidelines  on page 24/25:

"The PPE Regulation does not apply to clothing intended for private use with reflective or fluorescent elements included only for reasons of design or decoration. However, if the manufacturer claims that the product has a protective function, or if a product is sold and marketed for use as PPE, it shall fulfil the applicable Essential Health and Safety Requirements (EHSR) of the  PPE Regulation. If the information provided or the appearance of the product can give the impression that the product can be used as a high visibility PPE, it shall also fulfil the applicable EHSR of the PPE Regulation, unless a clear warning stating that the product is not intended for use as PPE is added to the product."

Therefore in principle, a manufacturer can exclude the application of a regulation by restricting  intended use, but taking into account the foreseeable use.

The Foundations

In the area of harmonised standards for high-visibility clothing, two standards have been published in the Official Journal of the EU:

  • EN ISO 20471:2013 + A1:2016 High visibility clothing - Test methods and requirements
  • EN 17353:2020 Protective clothing - Enhanced visibility equipment for medium risk situations - Test methods and requirements

Summary and Conclusion

The PPE Regulation does not apply to garments intended for private use with reflective or fluorescent elements applied solely for design or decorative purposes. For information purposes, such products may be labelled with a clear warning that the product is not intended for use as PPE and that the consumer must use a suitable reflector or reflective vest to be visible.

However, if the manufacturer claims that the product has a protective function or it is sold and placed on the market for use as Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), then it must comply with the applicable essential requirements of the PPE Regulation. Furthermore, the manufacturer must exercise caution if the information provided or the product's appearance could reasonably give the impression that the product can be used as PPE with visibility.

In such cases, an overall assessment, taking into account the information provided by the manufacturer, the product advertising, the appearance of the product and any warnings from an average user's perspective, may lead to the development of an article being categorised as PPE.

 

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