Originally published on 19th June 2018

Updated 26th February 2020

 

EN 343 explained

 

Understanding EN343 - Waterproof and Breathable Protective Clothing


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 that is constructed, tested and certified as waterproof clothing. Some “water-resistant clothing” will only protect against rain to a limited extent. 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 outdoor workwear and PPE designed to offer foul-weather protection is often tested to BS EN 343:2019, which measures the waterproofness and breathability of an item of protective clothing.

It’s worth noting that some professional outdoor clothing is tested to different, often more stringent, standards of water and weather-resistance standards. Such garments may have equal or higher performance than EN343 but are not necessarily tested to this standard, as they’re not intended for use 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 fabric used.

Items are judged on two categories; the first (X) judges its ability to protect against precipitation, fog and humidity, while the second (Y) measures breathability in those particular conditions. They are then rated from one to three in these two categories, with three representing the highest level of protection and one the lowest. See below for an explanation of the different classes 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 the EN343 mark will be followed by two numbers. For example, an EN343 Class 3:3 label signifies the highest level of waterproofness and breathability. When selecting waterproof workwear, take into consideration the tasks your workers perform and the conditions under which they work. This will help you to determine the most appropriate class of clothing for your team.
 

EN343 icon

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

For guidance on selecting waterproof workwear call 08456 71 21 41 

EN343 Testing Methods: What Class of Waterproof Clothing Do You Need?

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

Below is a breakdown of how 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-treatment, which includes 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.


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 a RET number (Resistance of Evaporation of a Textile). The lower the RET rating, the greater breathability, and, therefore, the higher the item will score overall under EN 343. Waterproof breathable workwear is essential for many workers as it provides protection from external elements while keeping the individual dry and comfortable.

Once the garment breathability has been classed appropriately, you can refer to the recommended wearing times below for 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.

When selecting waterproof breathable PPE for your team, take the time to assess their working conditions and select appropriate garments. This ensures your team stays safe and that your investment in workwear is cost-effective. In some situations, high-visibility waterproof clothing is necessary to ensure your workers stay safe, comfortable and highly visible at all times. 

It’s a good idea to involve your workers when deciding which type of waterproof clothing to invest in. From waterproof jackets to hi-vis gilets and rain suits, the choice is extensive. Your workers will know best what will help them to perform better during their daily activities. It is also important that outdoor workwear fits correctly. Men’s waterproof clothing may not be comfortable nor fulfil its function effectively when worn by a female member of the team. Refer to the manufacturer's size guides to find the correct garment for each worker.

Maintaining Waterproof Workwear to Ensure Workers are Protected

PPE, including outdoor workwear, should always be maintained in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions. 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.

For more tips, read our guide to extending the life of PPE & workwear.

The Importance of Suitable Waterproof Workwear

When choosing workwear, it’s essential to ensure you have selected garments with the right level of protection for 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 taken.

While this is not the only method of testing a garment's water resistance and breathability, health and 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.

Make Sure Your Workers Are Protected with EN343 Compliant Waterproof Clothing

Keeping your workforce safe, comfortable and content is vital to the success of your business. Happy workers are productive workers. Investing in high-quality, durable and compliant outdoor workwear will result in enhanced performance and productivity. Take a look at our extensive range of waterproof clothing and high-visibility waterproof clothing. We stock top brands and are continually expanding our range, so keep an eye out for items new in.

 

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





Author

Glen Smith

Having worked at WISE Worksafe for over 16 years, Glen Smith our Marketing Manager has a wealth of experience in corporate branding, company uniforms, functional workwear and PPE. 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.