The importance of personal protective equipment (PPE) has become commonplace knowledge across construction, manufacturing and engineering, to name a few. But how can you be certain that the PPE you have provided for your workers is actually protecting them? Alan Murray, CEO of the British Safety Industry Federation, explains how the Registered Safety Suppliers Scheme sets out to give PPE users reassurance that their equipment is genuine.
Often referred to as the last line of defence in the hierarchy of controls, PPE can be a proportionate and practical way of implementing worker protection from both short term and long term health and safety hazards. However, it is becoming increasingly apparent that counterfeit and non-compliant PPE is entering the market with misleading documentation and certificates.
According to the EU Directive 89/686/EEC on Personal Protective Equipment, PPE is an item
held or worn by an individual that protects against one or more hazards. PPE manufacturers must comply with the PPE Regulations by manufacturing and CE marking in accordance with the relevant standard as applicable.
Users of PPE have a right to know whether the equipment they are wearing is going to effectively protect them, but unfortunately counterfeit and non-compliant equipment, often manufactured outside of the UK, is arriving at the end of a long supply chain and failing to perform.
Substandard products risk not protecting workers against the hazards in the way that genuine CE marked equipment is designed to. BSIF, as the trade body for our industry, has developed The Registered Safety Suppliers Scheme (RSSS) in order to highlight trusted suppliers and provide reassurance to users of PPE.
Members of the scheme make a binding declaration within their Quality Management manual to sell only products that are genuine and legal. The scheme’s independent auditor identifies PPE offered for sale and requires the member to submit all the supporting CE documentation required by law.
However, only in the past year, popular discount retailer Poundworld was fined more than £63,000 for selling non-reflective high-viz vests, while in October 2013, Jewson, one of the largest chains of British general builders’ merchants, was prosecuted for selling substandard, non-compliant, yet still CE marked PPE after trading standards officers found safety helmets at its Northampton store which failed impact tests (see www.hsmsearch.com/page_658851.asp). It is therefore evident that the current CE marking methods are still leaving potential, especially in category ii products which do not, under existing CE regulation, require ongoing quality assurance.
Now, in order to address this greater need for awareness, the BSIF is taking the lead in enhancing the quality of products by ensuring that the requirements of the RSSS further challenge its membership by invoking independent product testing. Membership of the Registered Safety Supplier Scheme should be a key criterion when selecting a supplier of PPE. The RSSS aims to provide the reassurance that employers and workers need when providing and using genuine PPE in the workplace. After all, good safety and health is good for business.
To find out more information from the RSSS and BSIF, visit our website www.bsif.co.uk or follow us on Twitter @BSIF1. A full listing of Registered Safety Suppliers can be found on www.bsif.co.uk/registered-safety-supplier.