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Summaries of EU Legislation

Use of personal protective equipment

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Use of personal protective equipment



Directive 89/656/EEC — minimum health and safety requirements for the use by workers of personal protective equipment


It lays down minimum requirements for the assessment, selection and correct use of personal protective equipment (PPE)* at work. Priority must be given to collective safety measures.


Employers’ obligations

PPE must comply with the relevant EU rules on design and manufacture with respect to health and safety (see Regulation (EU) 2016/425 — Ensuring safe personal protective equipment for users) and with the conditions set out in this directive. The employer must provide the appropriate equipment free of charge and ensure that it is in good working order and in hygienic condition.

Assessment of PPE

Before choosing PPE, the employer is required to assess the extent to which it complies with the conditions set out in the directive. This includes an analysis of risks that cannot be avoided by other means as well as a definition and a comparison of the required characteristics of the equipment.

Rules for use

EU countries must introduce general rules for the use of PPE and/or cover cases and situations where the employer must provide such equipment. There must be prior consultation with employers’ and workers’ organisations. The annexes to the directive contain information for drawing up these rules:

  • a specimen risk survey table (Annex I),
  • a non-exhaustive list of items of PPE (Annex II),
  • a non-exhaustive list of activities which may require the supply of PPE (Annex III).

Workers’ information, consultation and participation

Workers must be informed of all measures to be taken. Consultation and participation must take place on the matters covered by this directive.

As required by Directive 89/391/EEC, technical adjustments to the annexes must be adopted by the European Commission, which is assisted by a committee comprising representatives from the EU countries.

Evaluation report

An evaluation of the practical implementation of the directive was published in 2017.


It has applied since 12 December 1989 and had to become law in the EU countries by 31 December 1992.


For more information, see:


Personal protective equipment (PPE): equipment designed and manufactured to be worn or held by a person to protect them against one or more risks to their health and safety. A number of items are excluded from the definition, such as equipment used by emergency and rescue services, self-defence or deterrent equipment. Such equipment must be used when the existing risks cannot be sufficiently limited by technical means of collective protection or work organisation procedures.


Council Directive 89/656/EEC of 30 November 1989 on the minimum health and safety requirements for the use by workers of personal protective equipment at the workplace (third individual directive within the meaning of Article 16(1) of Directive 89/391/EEC) (OJ L 393, 30.12.1989, pp. 18-28)

Successive amendments to Directive 89/656/EEC have been incorporated in the original text. This consolidated version is of documentary value only.


Council Directive 89/391/EEC of 12 June 1989 on the introduction of measures to encourage improvements in the safety and health of workers at work (OJ L 183, 29.6.1989, pp. 1-8)

See consolidated version.

last update 26.11.2018