What is Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)?

24 February, 2016
PPE in use

Mountaineering and Personal Fall Protection

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) in the European Union (EU) refers to any device or appliance designed to be worn or held by an individual for protection against one or more health and safety hazards:

  • Physical
  • Electrical
  • Chemicals
  • Biohazards
  • Airborne particulate matter

The European Economic Community (EEC) has a Directive (a law) that governs common quality and safety standards. Manufacturers of PPE must comply with these quality and safety standards.

Employers must supply appropriate PPE where such hazards exist.

Employers must carry out a risk assessment to determine the hazards.

The Directive does not distinguish between PPE for professional use and PPE for leisure purposes.

PPE Categories

  • Category I: Products for use with minimal hazards, such as sun glasses and protective footwear..
  • Category II: PPE not falling into category I or III, such as crampons and helmets.
  • Category III: Products that protect against mortal danger or serious harm to health, such as harnesses, connectors (crabs), lanyards, slings, pulleys, ice axes, cams, nuts etc.
Personal protective equipment excluded from the scope of the Directive includes:
  • PPE designed for and used by the armed forces or in the maintenance of law and order.
  • PPE for self-defence (e.g. aerosol canisters, personal deterrent weapons).
  • PPE designed and manufactured for personal use against adverse atmospheric conditions (e.g. seasonal clothing, umbrellas), damp and water (e.g. dish-washing gloves) and heat.


These are drawn up by working groups comprised of experts including manufacturers and national bodies. The most relevant of these to DMM products are:

  • Mountaineering – Technical Committee (TC) 136
  • Personal Fall Protection – Technical Committee (TC) 160

Mountaineering/Climbing equipment comes mainly under the Mountaineering Standards but some items may come under the Personal Fall Protection standards.

Pulleys come under a Mountaineering standard.

Ascenders and descenders can conform to both the relevant Mountaineering and Personal Fall Protection standards.

Personal ‘industrial’ equipment comes mainly under Personal Fall Protection standards

Mountaineering standards
Dynamic ropes
Connectors (locking & non-locking)
Mountaineering harnesses (full body, small body, sit and chest)
Climbing helmets
Braking devices
Rope clamps
Rock anchors
Frictional anchors
Ice screws
Ice tools
Via ferrata
Accessory cord
Personal fall protection standards
Low stretch ropes
Connectors (locking gates only)
Full body harnesses, sit harnesses
Industrial helmets
Descender devices
Rope adjustment devices
Anchor devices
Energy absorbers
Guided fall arresters
Retractable fall arresters
Work positioning systems
Rescue lifting devices
Fall arrest systems

Each Standard consists of

  • Scope - what equipment the standard covers.
  • Definitions – relevant definitions.
  • Requirements - minimum performance criteria and strength.
  • Testing methods - including apparatus, conditioning and procedure.
  • Marking - information to be marked on the product.
  • Information to be supplied - in addition to the standard requirements for all PPE equipment.

Each Standard has an EN (European Norm) number and the year of latest issue. e.g. Mountaineering Harnesses – EN 12277:2015, Rope access systems – Rope adjustment devices – EN 12841:2006.

Meeting the standards is one thing, but the DMM philosophy is to continue to improve the strengths of their products to exceed these requirements; as an additional safety factor utilising ongoing 3 Sigma statistical quality control. This gives greater security in situations which might not be reflected in the standards but may happen in non-laboratory or misuse conditions.

Connectors instructionsCover of instructions for locking connectors & belay master where 0120CE is the Notified Body number of SGS UK Ltd and EN numbers refer to standards.

Notified Bodies

These are approved organisations which authorise compliance by a manufacturer to a particular standard and to the Directive. With this compliance and approval, the CE mark together with the number of the notified body can be marked on the product. e.g. 0120CE.

Without this mark and the relevant translation of the instructions a manufacturer is not allowed to supply an item of PPE to any country within the European Community.

DMM use SGS (U.K.) Ltd for this Type Examination and for certifying their Quality Management System.

A CE mark can also be awarded by a notified body for a product for which there is no relevant standard. In these cases the manufacturer makes their own standard, including testing etc. which must fulfil the health and safety requirements of the Directive and has to be type approved by the notified body. DMM Bulldog and Terrier, and the Deadman are examples.

DMM is currently writing a standard - Linking Components - to cover Swivels, Rigging Plates and Anchor Rings which are outside any current EN standard.


These are a package of information that must be supplied physically with any piece of PPE equipment. The information must allow the user to use the equipment correctly and safely. This also includes:

  • General warning about working at height and mountaineering are inherently dangerous.
  • Inspection and record keeping (by trained/*competent person).
  • The need to be used in conjunction with appropriate Personal Protective Equipment.
  • Relevant warnings.
  • Climatic conditions.
  • Anchors.
  • Maintenance and servicing.
  • Lifespan and obsolescence.
  • Explanation of markings.
  • Relevant drawings/pictograms.

*"A competent person is someone who has sufficient training and experience or knowledge and other qualities that allow them to assist you properly. The level of competence required will depend on the complexity of the situation and the particular help you need." Health & Safety Executive