The meaning behind the symbols
Gloves for personal protection must undergo testing to ensure they conform to risk-specific standards regarding their resistance to mechanical or thermal/cold risk or penetration by chemicals, radiation or micro-organisms. In accordance with European Personal Protection Equipment Directives and EU standards EN420:2003 EN 374:2003, gloves or their packaging must carry the CE mark and a series of pictograms to ensure that the level of protection is adequate for the categories of hazard to which they will be exposed.
Gloves should be marked with the name or trademark of the manufacturer, the glove and size designation, date of obsolescence (if relevant), the CE mark and the relevant pictograms
Ensuring the right protective, single-use gloves are chosen for cleanroom tasks has been made simpler via a series of industry standards and symbols. Karen Rossington* offers a guide to the symbols, their meaning and relevance to EU PPE standards
Pictograms are used routinely in modern life, from signs for toilet locations to road signs, safety instructions on planes to identifying hazards. Their purpose is to remove language barriers and they are used throughout the healthcare environment. They also form part of the packaging requirements for gloves classed as Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). But in this instance, not all the pictograms are completely self-explanatory without some understanding of the standards.
There are two European directives that relate to PPE. The Use of Personal Protective Equipment Directive 89/656/EEC1 relates to the obligations of an employer with regard to the protection of the employee. Three key articles within this directive identify the responsibility of the employer with regard to identification and evaluation of risk; PPE should be the last resort if the risk cannot be reduced or eliminated by the modification of a workplace practice. The employee should be informed of the risk and provided with the appropriate, well-fitting PPE that complies with EU standards. Items of PPE should be issued to employees free of charge with clear instructions for use.
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