PPE Regulation 2016 - Harmful Noise Is An Irreversible Health Risk

Posted by Lizzie Allen 1 June 2018

We're sure you're aware of the new PPE Regulation (EU) 2016/425 by now - it's been very hard to miss.

Its impact has been anticipated throughout the industry for quite some time and interest reached fever pitch around 21st April 2018, when the regulation superseded the PPE Directive 89/686/EEC.

In fact, you might have been so bombarded with articles and emails about the new regulation that spotting this one made you think: "Oh no...not another one".

But good news! In this article we're simply diving into one key change of the PPE Regulation. And it might very well be the most important change, depending on your work environment.

That's right, it's time to talk about hearing protection changing to risk Category III. can also download a PDF version of this article to read later or share with colleagues!

Wait... What's Changing?

Ok, let's do a quick recap. We promise it won't last long and then we can get to the good bit.

Under the PPE Directive 89/686/EEC, personal protective equipment was segmented into three categories.

  • Category I - Simple PPE for minimal risks (e.g. weatherproof workwear)
  • Category II - Intermediate PPE for risks other than those listed in categories I and III (e.g. safety helmets, eye protection, high visibility workwear)
  • Category III - Complex PPE for risks that may cause very serious consequences such as death or irreversible damage to health (e.g. fall arrest equipment, respiratory protective equipment, chemical coveralls)

During this time, hearing protection was classified as Category II (Intermediate).

However, the new PPE Regulation changes this and hearing protection is now assigned to Category III (Complex).

So What?

We're glad you asked, because answering that question is exactly why this article exists.

By moving hearing protection to Category III, products under this scope will now be subject to the strictest conformity assessment procedures. This includes ongoing surveillance through testing or factory auditing. As such, this should spell the end for cheap, ineffective ear defenders!

The new five-year maximum validity period on EU-type examination certificates will also give safety managers and PPE buyers greater confidence that hearing protection products meet the highest standards.

All things considered, employers and employees can no longer view harmful noise as anything other than an irreversible health risk that requires the best protection available.

Harmful Noise

 Why All The Fuss About Harmful Noises?

Check out our blog post on work-related hearing loss for more info. Or, to put it simply:
  • 20,000 estimated number of workers with work-related hearing problems (Source: HSE)
  • Hearing loss cases expected to rise by 40% over the next ten years (Source: Action on Hearing Loss)
  • By 2030, adult hearing loss is expected to be in the top ten 'disease burdens' (Source: Action on Hearing Loss)
  • Noise-induced hearing loss is the most common permanent and preventable injury in the world (Source: The World Health Organisation)
  • Tinnitus is the third most serious non-fatal medical condition (Source: The World Health Organisation)

A Fresh Alert For Hearing Protection

The re-classification of hearing protection to Category III gives businesses an opportunity to re-evaluate their attitude towards harmful noise. This include products, training and building a company culture that values hearing.

To really hammer home the importance of hearing protection, it's best to provide workers with tools or training that helps them understand the impact of losing their hearing. For example, WHO research shows people are more likely to take preventative measures if they experience symptoms of hearing loss or tinnitus first hand.

A simple and effective way to do this is to use audio files or videos to demonstrate the symptoms and then follow up with a Toolbox Talk to discuss the issues raised. This kind of engaging training sets the context for hearing protection and ensures workers understand the importance of personal protective equipment (PPE).

Only Accept The Best

The PPE Regulation changes mean higher quality hearing protection to keep your ears safe.

Here at Swift360, we ensure all ear plugs and defenders we supply conform to the new PPE Regulation, so you can be confident they'll give you the protection you expect and need. We can also offer Toolbox Talks to help engage with workers on-site about hearing protection.

Feel free to get in touch if you want to find out more.

Otherwise, you can download this article in PDF format for free to share with colleagues or read later.