What is the ISO EN343 standard?

EN343 Test standard for waterproof and breathable protective clothing

When it comes to facing various factors, it is important for workers to have an appropriate level of protection. There is a significant difference between clothing simply made of waterproof fabric and clothing that has been constructed, tested, and certified as waterproof. Some “waterproof clothes” can only provide rain protection within a limited range. Clothing described as “waterproof” may have been treated to remove surface water droplets, but may not necessarily provide protection in areas such as zippers, seams, and pockets.

That’s why outdoor work clothes and PPE designed to provide protection against adverse weather conditions often pass BS EN 343:2019 testing, which measures the waterproof and breathable properties of protective clothing.

It is worth noting that some professional outdoor clothing has undergone different tests, usually with stricter waterproof and weather resistance standards. This type of clothing may have the same or higher performance as EN343, but may not necessarily be tested according to this standard as they are not intended for use as PPE.

What is the EN343 standard?

EN 343 is a European protective clothing standard that outlines the minimum level of protection against humid weather, taking into account not only the fabrics used, but also the entire clothing structure.

The project is divided into two categories; The first (X) measures its ability to resist precipitation, fog, and humidity, while the second (Y) measures its breathability under these specific conditions. Then, they are rated from 1 to 3 in these two categories, with three representing the highest level of protection and one representing the lowest level. For instructions on different categories within each category, please refer to the following text

(X) Water permeability resistance

1- Minimum level of rain protection

2- Intermediate rainproof

3- The highest level of rain protection

(Y) Breathability

1- Not classified as breathable according to EN343

2- Medium breathability

3- Highest level of breathability

This level is included on the CE label inside the clothing, with EN343 marking followed by two digits. For example, the EN343 Class 3:3 label represents the highest level of waterproofing and breathability. When choosing waterproof work clothes, please consider the tasks performed by your workers and their working conditions. This will help you determine the most suitable clothing category for your team.

EN343 testing method: What level of waterproof clothing do you need?

Waterproofness (X) is measured using a hydrostatic pressure test. This involves applying a certain amount of pressurized water to the clothing. The water permeability level indicates the pressure it can withstand.

The following is a subdivision of seepage classification; 8000 Pa (Pascal) is equal to 1.16 psi (pounds per square inch). Test water penetration before and after pretreatment, including wear, bending, and washing.

Wp=water permeability resistance

Pa=Pascal pressure unit

Sample type/Sample levelClass 1Class 2Class 3
Pre-treatment fabricWet pressure>=8000paNo testing requiredNo testing required
Fabric after pre-treatmentNot applicableWet pressure>=8000paWet pressure>=13000pa
Joint before pre-treatmentWet pressure>=8000paWet pressure>=8000paWet pressure>=13000pa

Breathability (Y) is tested according to ISO 11092. The skin model is used to replicate human skin and measure water vapor resistance, initially expressed as RET number (textile evaporation resistance). The lower the RET rating, the better the breathability, therefore, the overall score of the product under EN 343 is higher. Waterproof and breathable work clothes are essential for many workers because they can protect individuals from external factors while keeping them dry and comfortable.

Once the breathability of clothing is properly classified, you can refer to the recommended wearing time when working at different temperatures. If work is interrupted or clothing has effective ventilation openings, these times can be extended.

The table shows the recommended maximum continuous wearing time (in minutes) for a complete set, including jackets and pants without thermal lining.

Recommended work based on water vapor resistance (breathability) time  Level
Environmental working temperatureRetuen>4020<RET<=40RET<=20 
    25C60 min105 min205 min
20C75 min250 minNo restrictions
    15C100minNo restrictionsNo restrictions
10C240minNo restrictionsNo restrictions
     5CNo restrictionsNo restrictionsNo restrictions

Finally, the tensile strength and tear resistance of all components have been tested and must meet the minimum standards to ensure that the clothing can achieve the expected product life. Test the elasticity of all layers and their ability to maintain fit after repeated use.

When choosing waterproof and breathable PPE for your team, please take the time to evaluate their working conditions and choose appropriate clothing. This ensures that your team remains safe and your investment in work clothes is cost-effective. In some cases, high visibility waterproof clothing is necessary to ensure that your workers always maintain safety, comfort, and high visibility.

It is a good idea to involve your employees when deciding which type of waterproof clothing to invest in. From waterproof jackets to high-strength vests and raincoats, there is a wide range of choices. What your employees know best can help them perform better in daily activities. Proper fitting outdoor work clothes are also important. When female members in the team wear waterproof men’s clothing, it may be uncomfortable and unable to effectively function. Please refer to the manufacturer’s size guide to find suitable clothing for each worker.

Maintain waterproof work clothes to ensure workers are protected

PPE, including outdoor work clothes, should always be maintained according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Clothing should be stored in a dry and well ventilated place when not in use, and regularly checked for signs of wear and tear. In order for this type of clothing to be fully effective in harsh weather conditions, it should fit well and be closed to reduce the chance of water ingress.

For more tips, please read our guide on extending the lifespan of personal protective equipment and work clothes.

The importance of suitable waterproof work clothes

When choosing work clothes, it is important to ensure that the clothing you choose has a level of protection that is suitable for the function and type of work being performed. If workers are frequently exposed to humid and windy weather conditions without sufficient protection, there are many risks involved. Workers may feel severe discomfort and suffer from conditions related to cold or humidity. This will affect performance, productivity, and morale, and may lead to an increase in sick leave days.

Although this is not the only method to test the waterproofing and breathability of clothing, health and safety managers typically choose clothing that meets EN343 standards to ensure to them and their team that it has been certified to recognized safety standards.