Latest update: 19/03/2021

Directive 89/656/EEC - use of personal protective equipment

The Directive lays down minimum requirements for the use of personal protective equipment used by workers at work, which are necessary when risks cannot be sufficiently controlled by technical and organisational measures.

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 is a specific directive within the scope of the OSH Framework Directive 89/391/EEC. The Directive lays down minimum requirements for personal protective equipment (PPE) used by workers at work and sets out the obligations for employers. In addition to this OSH Directive, there are also EU regulations with harmonised requirements and procedures for PPE placed on the EU market. Regulation 2016/425/EU of 9 March 2016 on PPE contains provisions on the design, manufacture and placing on the market of PPE. The EU regulation applies to all PPE placed on the market (not just PPE used in the workplace) and sets out the rules for manufacturers.
In 2019 Commission Directive 2019/1832 reviewed the annexes of Directive 89/656/EEC to take account of new types of risks and to ensure consistency with the risk classification and the terminology used in Regulation (EU) 2016/425.

Definition and scope
The Directive defines PPE as equipment designed to be worn or held by the worker to protect him against one or more hazards likely to endanger his safety and health at work, and any addition or accessory designed to meet this objective.

The Directive does not apply to ordinary working clothes and uniforms, equipment used by emergency and rescue services, PPE used by the military or the police, PPE for means of road transport, sports equipment, self-defence equipment and portable devices for detecting and signalling risks and nuisances.

Personal protective equipment must be used when the risks cannot be avoided or sufficiently limited by technical means of collective protection or procedures of work organization.

Employers' obligations
Personal protective equipment must comply with the relevant Community provisions on design and manufacture with respect to safety and health.
All personal protective equipment must

  • be appropriate for the risks involved, without itself leading to any increased risk
  • correspond to existing conditions at the workplace
  • take account of ergonomic requirements and the worker's state of health
  • fit the wearer correctly after any necessary adjustment.

The employer must provide the appropriate equipment free of charge and must ensure that it is in good working order and hygienic condition.
Where the presence of more than one risk makes it necessary for a worker to wear simultaneously more than one item of personal protective equipment, such equipment must be compatible.
Personal protective equipment is, in principle, intended for personal use. If the circumstances require personal protective equipment to be worn by more than one person, appropriate measures shall be taken to ensure that such use does not create any health or hygiene problem for the different users.
Before choosing personal protective equipment, the employer is required to assess whether the personal protective equipment he intends to use satisfies the requirements of this Directive.
Member States shall ensure that general rules are established for the use of personal protective equipment and/or covering cases and situations where the employer must provide such equipment. There must be prior consultation with employers' and workers' organisations.
Employer shall organise training and demonstrate the use of PPE. Workers shall be informed of all measures to be taken. Consultation and participation shall take place on the matters covered by this Directive.

Moreover, the provisions of Directive 89/391/EEC - "the Framework Directive" - are fully applicable without prejudice to more restrictive and/or specific provisions contained in this Directive.


  • Annex I: Risks in Relation to the Body Parts to be Protected by PPE
  • Annex II: Non-Exhaustive List of Types of Personal Protective Equipment with Regard to the Risks They Provide Protection Against
  • Annex III: Non-Exhaustive List of Activities and Sectors of Activity Which May Require the Provision of Personal Protective Equipment

Read the full text of Directive 89/656/EEC

National laws implementing this Directive


Further information

Evaluation of the Practical Implementation of the EU Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Directives in EU Member States - Directive on the minimum health and safety requirements for the use by workers of personal protective equipment at the workplace (2017)