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EN343 Waterproof and Breathable Protective Clothing - Explained

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Understand the classification of waterproof and breathable protective clothing with this easy to read guide:

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.