Risk categories of Personal Protective Equipment

PPE is classified into three risk categories depending on the seriousness of risks the PPE in question protects against. 

Category I protects against minimal risks:

  • superficial mechanical injury
  • contact with cleaning materials of weak action or prolonged contact with water
  • contact with hot surfaces not exceeding 50 °C
  • damage to the eyes due to exposure to sunlight (other than during observation of the sun)
  • atmospheric conditions that are not of an extreme nature.

This category includes items like gardening gloves, sunglasses and swimming goggles.

Category II includes risks other than those listed in Categories I and III.

The majority of PPE falls into this category. Items in this category include, for example, helmets, reflectors for pedestrians, dry suits, safety goggles, shin guards for football players, protectors for ice hockey players, personal flotation devices and footwear traction devices.

Category III includes the risks that may cause very serious consequences such as death or irreversible damage to health relating to the following:

  • substances and mixtures which are hazardous to health
  • atmospheres with oxygen deficiency
  • harmful biological agents
  • ionising radiation
  • high-temperature environments the effects of which are comparable to those of an air temperature of at least 100 °C
  • low-temperature environments the effects of which are comparable to those of an air temperature of –50 °C
  • falling from a height
  • electric shock and live working
  • drowning
  • cuts by hand-held chainsaws
  • high-pressure jets
  • bullet wounds or knife stabs
  • harmful noise

Items that fall in this category include, for example, respiratory protective devices, hearing protectors, life jackets and fall arrest systems, such as harnesses, ropes and connectors.

A guide for the categorisation of personal protective equipment (PPE) is attached to the PPE Guidelines, guide to application of the PPE Regulation