Many occupations involve working in cold conditions, ranging from outdoor tasks in cold climates to indoor work in food storage freezers. Suitable clothing needs to incorporate a range of properties to enable wearers to perform their work effectively & safely. The clothing must be lightweight (so as not to impede the wearer) and sufficiently insulating (in potential temperatures as low as -50°C) to keep the wearer at a comfortable temperature. The work clothing must also have a degree of water vapour permeability to prevent the build-up of moisture inside the garment.
Clothing claimed to protect against cold falls within the scope of the European personal protective equipment (PPE) Regulation (EU) 2016/425. Products are required to be submitted for third party independent testing and also require an EU type-examination certificate from a Notified Body, such as SATRA, before they can be sold in Europe. To help with this process the European standards body, CEN, has published European Standard EN 342:2017 – 'Protective clothing. Ensembles and garments for protection against cold'.
Understanding the parameters of EN342:
Clothing claiming to meet the requirements of EN 342:2017 must be marked with the pictogram below. Alongside the pictogram it is necessary to display the performance recorded in the various EN 342 tests such as thermal insulation values, air permeability class and, if relevant, the resistance to water penetration classification.
The value indicates the garment's thermal insulation in (m2.K/W), with a higher number indicating more robust insulating characteristics.
- Chill (-5°C)
- Cold Storage (-25°C)
- Freeze (-40°C)
This denotes a garment's breathability, with 1 being the highest and 3 being the lowest. A high air permeability enables enough dry evaporative heat loss, which is necessary to keep you warm and comfortable.
Resistance to Water Penetration
Determines waterproofing attributes - this is not a need because clothes worn in sub-zero temperatures do not need to be waterproof.
What exactly are the tests for EN 342?
The principal test in EN 342 uses a heated manikin to assess a garment. The aim of this test is to determine the total thermal insulation of the garment. The manikin is first dressed in underwear specified in the standard, then dressed with the test garment. During the test the manikin is heated to, and maintained at, a specified temperature above ambient. Thermal insulation is determined from the power required to maintain the various sections of the manikin surface (torso, arms, legs etc) at this constant (elevated) temperature.
The resulting effective insulation value is used to classify the performance of the garment. It can also be used to estimate the maximum duration of wear based on the activity level of the wearer, the temperature of the environment and the insulation value of the clothing. These wear duration guidelines are given in an informative annex of the standard.
Other tests required by EN 342:2017 include measurement of air permeability (for assessment of the wind resistance of the material) which is classified using tests carried out on the garment’s least air-permeable layer.
An optional test is resistance to water penetration. Clothing claimed to deliver this optional property must also be breathable and pass a test for the water vapour resistance of the complete material ensemble – that is, outer, insulation and lining.
The standard also includes requirements for the strength of the outer fabric, dimensional stability to cleaning, coated materials flexibility (-50°C) and innoccuousness.