EN Standards: How Do They Keep You Safe?


European Union standards is an umbrella term based on the safety standards provided by the European Committee for Standardisation (CEN), European Committee for Electrotechnical Standardisation (CENELEC) and European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI). While each organisation offers their own set of safety standards, upon request by the European Commission, these were harmonised to provide a streamlined approach and split the responsibilities of various safety standards between European legislation and European standards bodies.

There are literally dozens of safety standards set out to provide the highest standard of safety for everything including building, clothes, video apparatus and even toys. When it comes to safety and high visibility clothing, there are a number of safety standards designed to provide the highest levels of safety performance

What is EN 471?

EN 471 represents the minimum standard of performance and test methods for high visibility clothing with approved reflectors. Essentially it outlines that a fluorescent garment must be capable of visually signalling a wearer’s presence within a hazardous environment or one of reduced visibility.

In total there are 3 different classes of high visibility protection, each more stringent than the last:

  • Class 1 is the lowest level of high visibility standards used for a person working on private roads or to be used in conjunction with a higher class high visibility garment. It requires the high visibility garments to incorporate a minimum of 0.14m2 of background material and 0.10m2 retro reflective material. This equates to 2 metres of 5cm wide reflective tape.
  • Class 2 high visibility safety standards and those required for delivery drivers and those working on or near A and B class roads. These garments must have a minimum of 0.50m2 of background material and 0.13m2 of retro reflective material. This equates to 2.6 metres of 5cm reflective tape across the entirety of the apparel.
  • Class 3 is the highest level of protection and is required for all persons working on or near motorways, dual-carriage ways or at airports. For these high visibility garments, they must have a minimum of 0.8m2 of background material and 0.2m2 of retro reflective material. This equates to 4 metres of 5cm wide reflective tape. All class 3 garments must cover the torsos and contain reflective bands on either sleeves or across both trouser legs as an absolute minimum.

In some scenarios, garments of a lower safety class can be combined to achieve a higher class of high visibility safety should they meet the minimum class 3 requirements.

After washing and wearing, the performance of a high visibility garment can diminish as the reflective tape begins to fade. It’s important to maintain the garments at their highest standard of safety and take the necessary measures to repair and replace high visibility clothing when this is no longer the case.

What is EN ISO 11611?

EN ISO 11611 refers the minimum safety requirements for protective clothing when used in welding and allied processes. The standards are based around garments designed to offer protection to the wearer’s body, head and feet when working in welding and other processes which contain a comparable risk.

EN ISO 11611 offers two specified classes of minimum safety requirements designed to provide added protection against splatter of molten metal, minimum contact with flames and radiant heat from the arc along with minimising the possibility of electrical shocks:

  • Class 1 offers protection against less hazardous situations which cause low levels of molten splatter and radiant head. Each garment must be able to withstand at least 15 droplets of molten metal without exceeding 40 decreases Celsius on the inside of the garment which would cause skin burns to the wearer.
  • Class 2 offers protection against more hazardous situations which cause greater levels of molten splatter and radiant heat. Each garments must be able to withstand at least 25 droplets of molten metal without exceeding 40 degrees Celsius.

To meet the minimum standard of safety for EN ISO 11611, the protective garment must cover the whole body. This can done by combining multiple garments such as a jacket and trousers. For the highest standard of protection, these garments should also be used in combination with other PPE such as welding gloves, aprons and helmet.

What is EN ISO 11612?

EN ISO 11612 refers to the minimum safety standard required for protective clothing used against heat and flames. All garments must be made from flexible materials and offer protection in situations of limited flame spread properties to which a user can be exposed to radiant, convective or contact heat or to molten metal splashes.

There are 6 different standards within of certified safety standards which range from A to F.

  • A1, A2: The minimum level of protection is tested and approved to offer resistance to flame and flame spread. A1 refers to the prevention of surface ignition with A2 referring to the prevention of edge ignition.
  • B: Protection against convective heat transfer which passed through the garment when in contact with the flame which helps prevent skin burn to the wearer. The class tiers for B refer to the duration to which the garment will provide protection when exposed to convective heat transfer.
  • C: Protection against prolonged exposure to low radiant heat which occurs from infrared radiation emitted by processes which heat up various objects within your area of work. The class system within C refers to duration of exposure to radiant heat to which the garment will provide optimal protection.
  • D: Protection against the number of droplets of molten aluminium required to cause damage to the protective garment and result in burns to the wearers skin. Burning can still occur regardless of damage to garments when in contact with molten aluminium.
  • E: Similar to section D but this refers to protection against molten iron from causing burns to the wearers skin when in contact with the protective clothing. The class rating within both D and E is based on the duration to which the garment can withstand prolonged exposure to molten metals.
  • F: Protection against contact heat transfer. Class levels within F are based upon the time in which a garment is able to withstand prolonged contact heat transfer. The longer the duration, the higher the class rating.

What is EN ISO 1149?

EN ISO 1149 refers to the ability for a garment to offer electrostatic properties and surface resistivity that are going to protect the wearer from any form of electrostatic discharge. To conform to the minimum requirements there are a number of factors which must be taken into account in addition to the use of antistatic fibres which prevents the transfer of charge.

  • All garments which do not offer electrostatic protection must be completely covered by the antistatic clothing.
  • Aspects of the garment which could lead to conduction, such as zips and buttons, must be covered by the antistatic material at all times.
  • Reflective strips, labels and other loose hanging aspects of a traditional garment much be securely sewn on to the garment.

All antistatic clothing should be worn in conjunction with antistatic footwear to provide you with added protective to help dissipate the build-up of antistatic electricity from the body and keep you grounded.

What is EN 388?

EN 388 refers to the ability for gloves to provide the wearer with protection against mechanical hazards. The safety standards are based on four levels of performance:

  • Resistance to Abrasion: Sample gloves are placed through an abrasion test with the use of sandpaper under stipulated pressure. Performance is based on a scale of 1 to 4 depending on how many revolutions are required in order to make a hole within the sample glove. A rating of a 4 indicates the highest abrasion resistance of a material exceeding 8,000 cycles.
  • Blade Cut Resistance: Blade resistance is based on the number of cycles it would take to cut through the sample glove at a constant speed. The higher the rating, the more resistant the glove will be to cutting. Blade resistance is the only one of the performance tests which has a maximum rating of 5. This is achieved through a cut index score that exceeds 20.
  • Tear Resistance: Tests are based on the amount of force in Newtons it takes for a tear to occur within the fabric of the glove. The higher the rating the more force which is required to tear the fabric with the highest rating exceeding a force of 75 Newtons.
  • Puncture Resistance: A standard, rounded point is pushed through the material of the gloves at a fixed speed and force which enables the point to penetrate the fabric. Gloves which are composed of a fabric that requires a force in excess of 150 Newtons to cause a puncture are given a performance rating of 4.