This article describes the requirements, according to EU legislation and standards for clothing protecting against thermal hazards, including cold, heat and flames. In addition, the protection against rain is also discussed.
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE): equipment designed and manufactured to be worn or held by a person for protection against one or more risks to that person's health or safety. Also, interchangeable components and connexion systems for such equipment that are not held or worn by a person but which are essential for its protective function, are defined as PPE. A number of items are excluded from the definition, such as ordinary working clothes and uniforms not specifically designed to protect the safety and health of the worker, personal protective equipment worn or used by the military and the police .
Protective Clothing is a kind of Personal Protective Equipment. Protective clothing means all clothing (including clothing protecting against rain) which is intended to be worn by a person at work and which protects him against one or more risks to his health or safety. Various protective clothing will offer protection to different parts of the body e.g. lower limbs, upper limbs, torso or head.
Physical hazards refer to: artificial optical radiation, electromagnetic fields and waves, static electricity, noise, vibration, ionising radiation, mechanical hazards, cold, heat and flames. Selected physical hazards are addressed in individual directives , , ,] that were formulated within the meaning of Article 16(1) of Directive 89/391/EEC .
Heat and flame hazards: flames, infrared (thermal) radiation, molten metal splashes, hot or molten slag particles, hot metal splinters, hot objects.
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 , sets out the obligations for employers. The directive states that personal protective equipment, including protective clothing, must be used when the risk cannot be avoided or sufficiently limited by engineering controls or organisational measures. The directive has been transposed in national law by all member states.
The directive states that the employer is responsible to provide workers with PPE, including protective clothing free of charge that comply with the relevant Community provisions on design and production with respect to safety and health (essential health and safety requirements (EHSRs) of Regulation 2016/425/EU. ) PPE
The PPE provided by the employer must:
- be appropriate for the risks involved, without itself leading to any increased risk;
- correspond to existing conditions at the workplace;
- take into account ergonomic requirements and the worker's state of health;
- fit the user correctly after any necessary adjustment,
- be compatible with other used PPE and kept in good condition,
Harmonised European Standards for personal protective equipment (PPE) which includes standards for protective clothing have been developed as the preferred means of demonstrating the conformity with the essential health and safety requirements (EHSRs) of the EU PPE Regulation 2016/425/EU. Only equipment that meets these EHSRs is entitled to carry the CE mark and to be distributed in the European market. The CE mark and the references of harmonised standards are mentioned on the label of the protective clothing and in the information supplied by the manufacturer. However, use of harmonised standards is not obligatory. The manufacturer is allowed to demonstrate, in a technical file, that the protective clothing meets the EHSRs. In such cases, the protective clothing will carry the CE mark, but may not display any Standard number. The manufacturer’s information will contain the performance specification. According to Regulation 2016/425/EU the manufacturer of protective clothing or its authorised representative is responsible for compliance of PPE products placed on the market with the provisions of this Regulation. The CE mark attests that the product conforms to all the requirements of the Regulation including the conformity assessment procedures.
For workers, it is important that they only use protective clothing that bears the CE marking. Protective clothing bearing the CE marking should include the “Information supplied by the manufacturer" as stated in standard EN 13688, harmonized with the EU Regulation. Any labelling used in the protective clothing should be legible, visible, permanent and in the official language of the country (Member State) of destination. Labelling of any kind of protective clothing should include:
- Name and address of the manufacturer (and/or his authorized representative established in the EU), trademark;
- Designation of the product type, commercial name or code;
- Pictogram with size designation (height, chest, waist), (fig. 1);
- Identification of the specific product standard;
- Pictograms and levels of performance, only if required by a product standard;
- Care labelling and/or qualification labelling;
- Single use protective clothing has to be marked with the warning phrase “Do not re-use" and/or with the pictogram according to ISO 7000 (fig. 2).
Prior to choosing and selecting PPE, the employer should identify all hazards existing in the workplace and assess their occupational risk. For any risk in the workplace, the general prevention hierarchy should be used i.e. elimination or substitution of the risk at source should be given priority followed by or combined with technical measures, organisational measures, and PPE as a last resort.
In order to conduct the risk assessment, it may be necessary to carry out measurements that quantify the level of exposure to the risk such as temperature levels in the workplace. These measurement results can then be compared with action or limit values to determine whether action is necessary. It is required to identify persons exposed to the risks, determine the duration of exposure, the body parts that must be protected, climate conditions, the nature of the tasks, user characteristics, working hours and other risks that can adversely affect the health and well-being of an employee. Then it is required to specify in detail, the necessary level and scope of protection to be ensured by protective clothing.
The selection of protective clothing with the appropriate level of protection is essential. First of all, it must be marked with the CE mark. The most important stage of selection is the choice of personal protective equipment with characteristics corresponding to actual safety hazards. For protective clothing, it is required to identify the relevant European standard and determine the performance level corresponding to the type and intensity of hazards. Effective protection of workers against hazards can be implemented only if, after the correct selection of PPE, it is properly used and maintained in good condition. Each part of protective clothing should be examined by qualified personnel before and after use. Clothing repairs should be carried out so as not to reduce the level of protection. It is recommended that materials used for repair, as well as base material, have the same properties. In the case of clothing protecting against heat and flames, improper repair may result in a higher adhesion of hot sparks, thereby increasing the possibility of ignition.
A great variety of heat and flame hazards, with different exposure levels and intensities, places workers in situations of risk. Among others, the following groups of workers are exposed to heat and flame hazards: employees of ferrous and non-ferrous metallurgy and glassworks as well as the ceramic industry, iron and steel industry (forges, foundries), welders, etc. The correct selection of protective clothing against hazards associated with hot working places requires the determination of the relation between the intensity of the workplace-related hazard and the performance level of PPE with respect to the appropriate parameters. European Standards specify the requirements for individual parameters characterizing the performance level of protective clothing in the form of protection classes.
Parameters characterizing the resistance of protective clothing to heat and flame
The type of protective clothing to be used by employees exposed to heat and flame depends primarily on the type and intensity of these hazardous factors. The protective properties and parameters of materials used for clothing protecting against heat and flames are defined in the list below. These parameters are determined by test methods which are included in the European standards. In accordance with the applicable requirements of the European standards, each parameter is related to a relevant letter code.
Limited flame spread (code letter A1 and/or A2) — Clothing product deemed to satisfy the requirements of European standards harmonised with Regulation 2016/425/EU if burning for all materials and accessories is not sustained for more than 2 s after deduction of flame.
Clothing may be labelled with letter code A1 (applying the flame on the surface of the material), A2 (applying the flame on the edge of sample material), or A1 + A2.
Clothing material resistance to convective heat transfer from the flame (code letter B).
Clothing material resistance to radiant heat (code letter C).
Clothing material resistance to molten metal splash is defined by the following code letters depending on the metal:D - clothing material resistance to molten aluminium,
E - clothing material resistance to molten iron.
Resistance to contact heat (code letter F).
The protective parameters mentioned above are determined before and after the number of cycles of conservation (i.e. washing, cleaning, and ironing), which are specified by the manufacturer.
Labelling of protective clothing and Information supplied by its manufacturer should include:
- Maximum allowable number of cycles of conservation
- Relevant letter codes marked next to the number of standard defining the requirements for protective clothing.
Requirements for protective clothing against heat and flame in accordance with European standards
Heat and flame protective suits shall completely cover the upper and lower torso, neck, arms and legs. Suits shall consist of:
- a single garment, e.g. an overall or boiler suit or
- a two-piece garment, consisting of a jacket and a pair of trousers.
Jackets shall be of sufficient length to overlap by a minimum of 20 cm with the top of the trousers. This minimum overlap shall be maintained in all positions and in movements expected during use. Heat and flame protective clothing other than suits may be designed to provide protection for specific parts of the body, e.g. neck curtain, hoods, sleeves, apron and gaiters. They are typically designed to be worn in addition to a suit. Hardware penetrating the outer material of a heat and flame protective clothing or clothing assembly shall not be exposed to the innermost surface of the clothing or the clothing assembly. Clothing that provides protection against molten metal should have a structure that will not retain molten metal on its surface.
Protective clothing against accidental and short contact with small flame
In the case of accidental contact with flame, when there is no risk of a worker's exposure to other types of heat and flame, clothing should meet the requirements of EN ISO 14116 . It presents three indices (levels) of flame spread, depending on behaviour of materials or clothing during tests for resistance to burning. Index 3 characterizes clothing with the highest protection level, whereas index 1 characterizes clothing and materials with the lowest protection level that cannot be used as an inner layer.
Flame spread index should be determined by the number of maintenance cycles specified by the manufacturer. Important notice for the user: this results in the relevant number of maintenance cycles specified on the label.
For clothing that meets the requirements of EN ISO 14116 , the manner of maintenance is determined by an appropriate maintenance index:
- H - if home laundering is recommended
- I - if industrial laundering is recommended
- C - if dry cleaning is recommended
Protective clothing that meets the requirements of EN ISO 14116  is determined by the relevant final index (flame spread index/maintenance index) indicating the achieved level of resistance to burning
Examples of clothing labels:
- 3/30H/60 - indicates that the clothing has a flame spread index of 3 after 30 home laundering cycles at 60°C,
- 2/50C/P - indicates that the clothing has a flame spread index of 2 after 50 dry cleaning cycles in perchloroethylene,
- 2/0/0 - indicates that the clothing has a flame spread index of 2 and is not intended for laundering or dry cleaning. It could be clothing made from aluminised materials or leather.
The method illustrated above applies to labelling of single-layer clothing. For clothing made from multilayer combination of materials or multilayer material, limited flame spread index/maintenance index refers both to the outer and inner material. In addition, labels should indicate materials that have a flame spread index of 1, because these materials cannot come into close contact with skin.
Protective clothing against accidental and short contact with small flame and other heat and flame factors
If protection is needed not only against flame, but also against other heat and flame factors such as convective heat, radiant heat, molten metal splash, contact heat or a combination of these factors, protective clothing should meet the requirements of EN ISO 11612 . The standard includes the requirements for clothing, uniforms, hoods and socks. Protective clothing against heat and flames is made from materials and accessories with a limited flame spread, which is expressed by the codes A1, A2 or A1 + A2. The resistance of clothing to each kind of factor is determined by a letter code (B to F) and the performance level specified next to the letter code. A higher performance level (number) indicates a higher protection level of the product. All materials and accessories used in protective clothing should be characterized by resistance to a maximum temperature of 180°C. Optionally, tests can be carried out at 260°C, and information about resistance to this temperature should be specified in the instruction manual.
Clothing and clothing systems that are designed to protect against convective heat must have a minimum performance level of B1. Higher levels of protection are ensured by products labelled with B2 and B3 respectively.
Clothing and/or combinations of clothing which are designed to protect against radiant heat must have a minimum performance level of C1. Higher levels of protection are indicated with C2, C3 and C4 respectively.
Clothing and/or combinations of clothing that are designed to protect against molten aluminium splash must have a minimum performance level of D1. Higher levels of protection are ensured by products labelled with D2 and D3 respectively.
Clothing and/or combinations of clothing that are designed to protect against molten iron splash should have a minimum performance level of E1. Higher levels of protection are ensured by products labelled with E2 and E3 respectively.
The performance levels of clothing that protect against other metals splash should be presented in a similar way.
Clothing and/or combinations of clothing which are designed to protect against heat transmitted by contact with hot surfaces or objects should have a minimum performance level of F1. Higher levels of protection are provided by products labelled with F2 and F3 respectively.
Figure 3: Example of label on protective clothing against heat and flames in accordance with EN ISO 11612:2015 
The requirements for protective clothing for use in the welding and allied processes are described in EN ISO 11611. The standard only focusses on protective clothing (hoods, aprons, sleeves and gaiters) and does not cover requirements for feet, hand, face or eye protection used for welding.
The protective clothing has to protect the welder against:
- Welding spatter
- Short contact time with flame
- Radiant heat from an electric arc used in welding
Two types of clothing are determined: class 1 (protection against light spatter) and class 2 (protection against heavy spatter).
Examples of clothing designed to protect against heat and flame
Protective properties of clothing designed to protect against heat and flame are obtained with the use of single materials or, when the risk is greater, multilayer materials or combinations of materials.
If at a low level of radiant heat and temperature below 50°C there is a risk of clothing ignition, it is possible to use fabrics made from aramid fibre (e.g. Nomex®), or fabrics chemically modified, e.g. flame resistant cotton or wool (treated with Pyrovatex® or Proban® technology).
In workplaces with higher level of radiant heat (up to 20 kW/m2), it is advisable to use clothing made from aluminised materials, which reflect infrared radiation (heat). In workplaces with radiation intensity higher than 20 kW/m2, it is advisable to use multilayer clothing materials or material combinations, such as:
- outer layer — aluminised glass fibre,
- aramid fibre, cotton or incombustible viscose,
- inner layer — wool or incombustible cotton.
Design of this type of clothing is tailored to risks and working conditions - aprons, head and neck protection or suits and coats (figure 4)
Selection of protective clothing to the level of risks in hot workplaces - rules of application
After listing the hazards, it is necessary to assess risks resulting from employee exposure to heat and flames. Based on the risk assessment, the selection of protective clothing with the appropriate level of protection for workplaces with heat and flames should be carried out. It is required to take measurements of intensity of hazardous and dangerous factors present in the work environment and compare the results with the parameters. Indicators that repeatedly exceed the parameters will facilitate the selection of the right PPE level. It is necessary to specify in detail the level and scope of protection to be ensured by protective clothing (e.g. type of risk: molten iron splash — possible exposure to approx. 200 g), or in general (high, medium or low risk level). Table 1 presents an example of protective clothing selection in terms of risk level at hot workplaces.
Table 1: Examples of protective clothing selection in terms of risk level at hot workplaces
|Hazard||Examples||Examples of protective clothing (Standard + performance level)|
|Low level risk : Localized exposure to heat and/or flame|
|Small flames – accidental contact||Laboratory coat in contact with flame of a Bunsen burner||EN 14116|
|Larger flames and convective heat||Working near a small fire (e.g. in a production process)||EN ISO 11612, levels A, B1 and C1|
|Radiant heat||Working near a furnace in a production process||EN ISO 11612 A and C: C1 and beyond depending on the radiant heat level|
|Clothing ignition||Clothing worn over protective clothing against heat and flames, offering other types of protection such as against adverse weather or low visibility||EN 14116|
|Sparks and small molten metal drops||Aluminum and iron foundry work||EN ISO 11612 levels A, D1 and E1|
|Welding||EN ISO 11611, class 1 or 2|
|Medium level risk : Exposure to high levels of heat and/ or flame|
|Radiant heat||a. Working close to furnaces b. Heat treatment||a. EN ISO 11612 levels A, B2 and C2 b. EN ISO 11612 levels A, B1, C3 E1|
|Radiant heat and occasional flame||Inside kilns||EN ISO 11612 levels A, B2 and C2|
|High level risk: Potential exposure to levels of heat and/ or flame and large splashes of molten metal|
|Intense heat and flame and large splashes of molten metal||a. Smelters b. Molder, core maker, shaking||a. EN ISO 11612 levels: A, B2, C2, E3 b. EN ISO 11612 levels; A, B2, C1, E3|
Definitions - Parameters characterizing environment and clothing protecting against cold
Cool environment : environment characterized by the combination of humidity and wind (wind cooling effect) at air temperatures above −5 °C (according to EN 14058:2017).
Cold environment: environment characterized by the combination of humidity and wind (wind-chill effect) at air temperature equal to or less than −5 °C (according to EN 342:2017).
Thermal resistance (insulation) of material Rct
Temperature difference between the two faces of a material divided by the resultant heat flux per unit area in the direction of the gradient. The value is given in [m2 K/W]. The dry heat flux may consist of one or more conductive, convective and radiant components.
Thermal resistance Rct is a quantity specific to textile materials or composites which determine the dry heat flux across a given area in response to a steady applied temperature gradient (according to EN 14058:2017 ).
Water vapour resistance Ret
The difference of water vapour pressure between the two faces of a material divided by the resultant evaporative heat flux per unit area in the direction of the gradient. The evaporative heat flux may consist of both diffusive and convective components. The value is given in [m2 Pa/W] (EN 14058:2017 ).
Effective thermal insulation Icle Thermal insulation from skin to outer clothing surface under defined conditions is measured with a stationary manikin. The effective thermal insulation value Icleis determined in relation to the exposed body surface area. The value is given in [m2 K/W] (EN 14058:2017 ).
Resultant effective thermal clothing insulation Icler Thermal insulation from skin to outer clothing surface under defined conditions measured with or calculated for a moving manikin. The effective thermal insulation value Icleis determined in relation to the exposed body surface area. The value is given in [m2 K/W] (EN 14058:2017 ).
Insulation required IREQ The required resultant thermal insulation calculated on the basis of the thermal parameters of the environment (e.g. air temperature, mean radiant temperature, air velocity, relative humidity) and body metabolism (EN 14058:2017 ).
General requirements for clothing protecting against rain, cool environments and cold
Work in cold environments mainly challenges people working in transport, trucking, municipal services, emergency services, police service, construction, forestry, electric power distribution and the food industry. In particular, it concerns processing meat and seafood, vegetables, milk, ice-cream, cheese, including production, preservation and storing in cold stores and freezing tunnels. Exposure to cold is the biggest problem for people working in an open space due to the following factors: air temperature, air movement (wind speed), humidity (wetness) and precipitation.
In order to provide thermal balance and thermal comfort, users need to have the proper insulation (protective clothing), physical activity (increasing heat production) and to control their exposure to cold (work/rest schedule). According to the report by the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work, there is an exponential increase of cold and freezing work environments, especially in the food and transportation industries .
Clothing for cold environments usually comprise of a set of components that can be combined as needed. This is mostly produced as two-piece or one-piece clothing (coveralls), which may be completed with a vest or lining. The main parameter determining the classification of clothing that protects against cold is its 'thermal 'insulation, i.e. thermalresistance to heat transfer. Thermal insulation should be appropriately selected to the corresponding conditions, mainly environmental temperature and user activity. Due to fact that wind significantly increases heat loss from the body , clothing material dedicated for use in an open space should have low air permeability. Additionally, clothing for work in cold environments should be made of flexible textile materials instead of rigid ones, to be well and easily fitted to the user. Loosely fitting clothing causes chimney currents, which increase the heat exchange with the environment and cools the body. Tight clothing hinders the blood flow and can also lead to a cooling effect. To ensure human thermal comfort in cold environments, it is essential to keep clothing dry. Wet clothing creates a feeling of cold and discomfort as the insulation value of wet clothing decreases dramatically in relation to dry clothing. For that reason, clothing used in an open space should be resistant to water penetration and at the same time, water vapour permeable (breathable), which means a low water vapour resistance Ret [m2Pa/W] to allow the moisture from the body to be transferred outside the clothing. To obtain a better result in keeping skin and clothing dry, it is advisable to apply the undergarment layer that “wicks" moisture away. On the market there are materials with membranes that act as a barrier to water and wind and have good properties of water vapour permeability. However; during long term work in cold environment when the user performs intensive activities and sweats, such material sometimes is not effective enough. The construction of clothing should then help remove the excessive heat and moisture to the environment. Clothing with regulated ventilation holes is very practical. Outer jackets should have the means for closing off and opening at the waist, neck and wrists. To prevent excessive sweating during strenuous activities, some jackets have netted pockets and vents around the torso and under the arm pits with zippers or Velcro fasteners for additional ventilation possibilities. When clothing is used indoors, there are no requirements for them to be made out of waterproof materials, which significantly improves the physiological comfort of the user.
Clothing protecting against rain
Requirements for materials and garments protecting against precipitation (like rain, snowflakes), fog and ground humidity are laid down in the harmonised standard EN 343 (Protective clothing – Protection against rain). The protective against rain is often an additional feature of clothing protecting against cool or cold environments. The basic tested parameters are resistance to water penetration (water proofness) and water vapour resistance. Water proofness is the most important property and it is measured on material of the outer garment layer. Furthermore, clothing materials that combine water proofness with low water vapour resistance enhance sweat evaporation and significantly contribute to body cooling (breathability of the clothing). Labelling and care instruction should include a pictogram indicating resistance to water penetration followed by the reference of standard EN 343 and the relevant levels of protection (resistance to water penetration and water vapour resistance, 1 to 4). If the water vapour resistance class is equal to 1, labelling should include the recommendation “Restricted wearing time".
Figure 5: Pictogram indicating protection against adverse weather
||x water penetration resistance (1 to 4) y water vapour resistance (1 to 4); if 1, the recommendation Restricted wearing time is added|
Source: EN 343
Clothing protecting against cool environments
For work at temperatures of -5°C and higher (cool environment), clothing that meets the requirements of the standard EN 14058 may be used. This protective clothing, due to the low level of risk, is considered to be category I personal protective equipment (PPE). According to the standard EN 14058 protective clothing are divided in four classes based on an assessment of its thermal resistance (Rct) (class 1 to 4).
Table 2 - Requirements for thermal resistance Rct, of material for clothing dedicated for use at temperatures of -5˚C and higher, according to EN 14058:2017
|Class||Thermal resistance Rct of clothing material|
|1||0.06 ≤ Rct < 0.12|
|2||0.12 ≤ Rct < 0.18|
|3||0.18 ≤ Rct < 0.25|
|4||0.25 ≤ Rct|
Other protective properties that are determined in standard EN 14058 are:
- air permeability (optional): classes 1 to 3;
- the resultant effective thermal insulation value Icler expressed in in m2.K/W); this value is measured dynamically on clothing. It is optional for garments of thermal resistance, class 1 to 3 but obligatory for class 4 clothing
- resistance to water penetration (optional).
Marking and labelling garment besides the general information should include a pictogram indicating protection against cool environments with the reference of standard EN 14058 and the performance levels of the protective properties (figure 6).
Figure 6 – Labelling according EN 14058 – protective clothing for cool environments
||a Thermal resistance Rct (class 1 to 4) b Air permeability (optional) (class 1 to 3) c Resultant effective thermal insulation Icler value in m2.K/W optional for a = class 1 to 3; obligatory for a = class 4 c d Resistance to water penetration (optional)|
Note: An ‘X’ on the label means that this optional property has not been tested.
Clothing protecting against cold
For work at air temperature below -5˚C (cold environment), clothing protecting against cold must be used. Requirements for such clothing are laid down in the harmonised standard EN 342:2017 Protective clothing – Ensembles and garments for protection against cold. This garment may consist of clothing ensembles like two piece suits, overalls or single garments. For this type of clothing the value of the Resultant effective thermal insulation Icler (in m2.K/W) has to be measured dynamically (moving manikin) on the clothing combined with adequate underclothing. Table 5 and 6 provide for the various thermal insulation values that can be found on the label of protective clothing and an indication of the minimum temperature in °C for different activity levels and air speeds to which one can be exposed for 1 or 8 hours.
Table 5 – Thermal insulation values and indications for exposure (in °C)
|Insulation value in m2.K/W||Light activity, 75 W/m2|
|0.4 m/s (air speed)||3 m/s|
Table 6 – Thermal insulation values and indications for exposure (in °C)
|Light activity, 115 W/m2||Moderate activity, 170 W/m2|
|0.4 m/s||3 m/s||0.4 m/s||3 m/s|
EN 342 also sets requirements on air permeability. Three classes are defined. The best is class 3 (AP ≤ 5 mm/s) that means that the material protects against wind (clothing typical for outdoor use).
Resistance to water penetration is an optional requirement. The information on the requirements and performance levels is mentioned on the label (figure 7).
Figure 7: Labelling according EN 342 – protective clothing for cold environments
||a Thermal insulation, measured value b Air permeability (class 1 to 3) c Resistance to water penetration (optional)|
Note: An ‘X’ on the label means that this optional property has not been tested.
 Regulation (EU) 2016/425 on personal protective equipment of the European Parliament and of the Council of 9 March 2016 on personal protective equipment and repealing Council Directive 89/686/EEC (with effect from 21 April 2018). Available at: https://osha.europa.eu/en/legislation/directive/regulation-eu-2016425-personal-protective-equipment
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 EN ISO 11612: Protective clothing - Clothing to protect against heat and flame
 EN 14058 Protective clothing - Garments for protection against cool environments.
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