Personal protective equipment (PPE) is used to protect people against one or more risks to their health or safety. It is carried, held, or worn by the user. In other words, PPE is used wherever there are risks to a person's health or life. Examples of risks can include respiratory damage due to toxic fumes/smoke, hearing damage due to loud noises, falling objects, or falls from great height. Breathing devices, hearing protection, cut protection pants, work safety footwear, protective helmets, and harnesses are all examples of PPE. Permanently installed safety equipment, such as nets or anchor points, is not classed as PPE as it is not something that people carry or wear.
Regulation (EU) 2016/425 regulates which items are classed as PPE in the European Union.
Personal fall protection equipment (PFPE) is a sub-category of PPE that protects people against falls when working at height.
In commercial and institutional contexts, PFPE is used, amongst others, by scaffolders, roofers, fitters, special police units, fire services, and work-at-height rescue teams, i.e. by people who are exposed to dangerous heights and depths within the scope of their work.
PFPE is also used in the sport and leisure sector, for example in climbing gyms, on high ropes courses, and in the mountains.
If PPE fails, major risk to life and limb ensues. The requirements regarding the design and manufacture of PPE are therefore accordingly strict. They are legally stipulated by Regulation (EU) 2016/425 and the 8th Regulation on the Product Safety Act—8. ProdSV. To protect users, it is not only the requirements to be met by new PPE that are important, but also regular inspections and servicing.