EN 343 explained

When it comes to facing the elements, it’s important that workers have the right level of protection. There’s a crucial difference between a garment that’s simply made from water resistant fabric, and a garment which is fully constructed and tested to be waterproof. Some water resistant clothing will only protect against rain to a limited extent, and garments described as water repellent may have been treated to bead water off the surface, but don’t necessarily have protection in areas like zips, seams and pockets.

This is why workwear and PPE designed to offer foul weather protection is often tested to BS EN 343:2003+A1:2007, which measures the waterproofness and breathability of an item of clothing.

However, it’s also worth noting that some professional outdoor clothing is tested to different, sometimes more stringent, standards of water and weather resistance. Such garments may have equal or higher performance than EN343, but are not necessarily tested to this standard, as they’re not designed as PPE.

 

What is EN343?

EN 343 is a European Standard for protective clothing that outlines a minimum level of protection against wet weather, with the whole garment construction taken into consideration in addition to the fabrics.

Items are judged on two categories; the first ‘X’ judges precipitation, fog and humidity, and the second ‘Y’ measures breathability in those particular conditions. They are then rated 1 to 3 within these categories, with 3 representing the highest level of protection and 1 the lowest. See below the different classes explained in each category:

(X) Water Penetration Resistance

1 - Minimum level of rain protection

2 - Intermediate rain protection

3 - Highest level of rain protection

(Y) Breathability

1 - Not classified as breathable under EN343

2 - Intermediate level of breathability

3 - Highest level of breathability

This rating is included on the CE label inside the garment, where EN343 will be followed by two numbers. For example, EN343 Class 3:3 signifies the highest level of waterproofness and breathability.

EN343 icon

This standard also tests for strength and tear resistance, as durability is crucial to an item of clothing remaining waterproof and being able to withstand a hard day’s work.

For guidance on selecting waterproof workwear call 08456 71 21 41 

EN343 testing methods

The waterproofing (X) is measured using a hydrostatic pressure test. This involves applying a quantity of pressurised water to the garment, and the water penetration rating indicates the pressure it can withstand.

Below is a breakdown of how the water penetration is classified; 8000 Pa (pascals) is equal to 1.16 psi (pounds per square inch). Water penetration is tested both before and after pre-treatments, which include abrasion, flexing and washing.


Wp= Water Penetration Resistance

Pa= Pascal Pressure Units

 Sample type

Class

1

2

3

 Fabric before pre-treatment

Wp ≥ 8000 Pa

No test needed*

No test needed*

 Fabric after pre-treatment

N/A

Wp ≥ 8000 Pa

Wp ≥ 13000 Pa

 Seams before pre-treatment

Wp ≥ 8000 Pa

Wp ≥ 8000 Pa

Wp ≥ 13000 Pa

 *Test not required because the worst situation for classes 2 and 3 is after pre-treatment.


The breathability (Y) is tested in accordance with ISO 11092. A skin model is used to replicate human skin and measures water vapour resistance, which is initially expressed as an RET number (Resistance of Evaporation of a Textile). The lower the RET rating, the greater the breathability, and therefore the higher the item will score in the overall EN 343 rating.

Once the garment breathability has been classed as 1, 2 or 3, you can refer to the recommended wearing times below when working in various temperatures. These times can be prolonged where there are breaks in the work, or the garment has effective openings for ventilation.

Table showing recommended maximum continuous wearing time in minutes for a complete suit, consisting of jacket and trousers without thermal lining.

Recommended working minutes based on water vapour resistance (breathability)

Class

 

1

2

3

Ambient working temperature

RET > 40

20 < RET ≤ 40

RET ≤ 20

 25 °C

60 mins

105 mins

205 mins

 20 °C

75 mins

250 mins

No limit

 15 °C

100 mins

No limit

No limit

 10 °C

240 mins

No limit

No limit

 5 °C

No limit

No limit

No limit


Lastly, the tensile strength and tear resistance of all components is tested and must meet the minimum standards to ensure the garment will last the expected product life. All layers are tested for their elasticity and ability to maintain their fit after repeated use.

 

Maintaining protection

PPE should always be maintained in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions, and if these are adhered to the EN 343 rating can be preserved. Garments should be kept in dry, well-ventilated areas when not in use and regularly checked for signs of wear and tear. For such clothing to be fully effective in foul weather conditions, the garment should fit well and be closed to reduce the chance of water ingress.

 

The importance of suitable waterproof workwear

When choosing workwear it’s essential to ensure you have selected garments with the features that best suit the function and type of work being carried out. If workers are constantly exposed to wet and windy weather conditions but not provided with adequate protection, there are a number of risks. Workers may experience serious discomfort and suffer from cold or wet related conditions. This can affect performance, productivity and morale, and may lead to an increased number of sick days.

While this is not the only method of testing a garment's water resistance and breathability, health & safety managers will often opt for EN343 rated clothing to give them and their team assurance that it is certified to a recognised safety standard.

Ensure workers are full protected, explore our EN 343 certified range today





Author

Glen Smith

Having worked at WISE Worksafe for over 15 years, Glen Smith our Marketing Manager has a wealth of experience in corporate branding and company clothing. He has a passion for making brands stand out from the crowd, and coming up with innovative solutions to support our clients in this process.