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Italian Court of Cassation: work clothes that act as a protective barrier are PPE

Categories: DLP Insights, Case Law | Tag: Corte di Cassazione

29 Nov 2022

The Italian Court of Cassation, with order of 11 October 2022, No 29720, confirmed that ‘any equipment, ancillary or accessory which could actually constitute a protective barrier, however small or limited, with respect to any risk to the health and safety of the worker in compliance with Article 2087 of the Italian Civil Code’ falls within the definition of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).

A Company – the employer – filed an appeal before the Italian Court of Cassation against a judgment of the Bari Court of Appeal. The Bari Court of Appeal judgment had confirmed the first instance decision, recognising the worker’s right to compensation for damages due to the Company’s failure to wash the clothing used by the worker to perform the work. In particular, according to the judges of first and second instance, the vest and the high visibility jacket, the waterproof jacket against the bad weather, the work trousers and the protective gloves should ‘all be considered personal protective equipment’.

Referring to numerous precedents, the Italian Court of Cassation judges reconfirmed that, due to the constitutional importance of the right to health as well as the principles of correctness and good faith as the foundations of the employment relationship, the provisions of Article 2087 of the Italian Civil Code – i.e. the employer’s obligation of take all appropriate measures, according to experience, technique and specific characteristics of the work, to prevent damage to the worker’s physical health and individuality – must be interpreted broadly.

From this it follows, as stated in the order, that the employer is required both to provide the necessary clothing to its workers and to prevent the onset and spread of infections by also arranging the related washing. This obligation, in fact, becomes indispensable for the effectiveness of the clothing, thus falling within the measures necessary to protect the physical health and ethics of workers under the aforementioned Article 2087 of the Italian Civil Code.

For these reasons, the Italian Court of Cassation rejected the appeal filed by the company, ordering the appellant to pay the costs.

The Italian Court of Cassation’s approach

The ruling in question – which is the most recent on the subject – confirms a by now consolidated Court of Cassation approach clarifying that the legal concept of PPE should not be limited to equipment specifically created and marketed for the protection of specific risks but must be interpreted broadly to include any equipment, ancillary or accessory that protects, even in a limited or in a minimal way, the worker from the risks to which he or she is exposed in performing his/her work (see, as stated in the order in question, Italian Court of Cassation No 16749 of 2019; No 17132 of 2019; No 17354 of 2019; Italian Court of Cassation No 5748 of 2020; Italian Court of Cassation No 17100 of 2021).

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