British PPE Makers Take Aim at Counterfeits

The British Safety Industry Federation warns that buyers can be confused by a "CE" mark that is not representing true approval.

The British Safety Industry Federation recently warned that fake PPE could cost lives in the UK construction industry, which accounts for more fatalities -- 30 in 2009/2010 -- than any other sector. BSIF urged managers in the industry to ensure only quality, CE-approved PPE is used.

Besides the fatalities, there were 2,585 major injuries and 5,651 less serious lost-time injuries, according to BSIF, which cited the Health and Safety Executive as the source of the data.

HSE regulations define PPE as "all equipment (including clothing affording protection against the weather) which is intended to be worn or held by a person at work and which protects him or her against one or more risks to his health and safety, e.g. safety helmets, gloves, eye protection, high-visibility clothing, safety footwear and safety harnesses." BSIF's announcement said, "The main requirement of the PPE at Work Regulations 1992 is that personal protective equipment is to be supplied and used at work wherever there are risks to health and safety that cannot be adequately controlled in other ways. The problem arises when organisations believe they are purchasing adequate PPE for the workforce, when in fact the products may be fake or illegal. Unfortunately, fake and illegal products being manufactured and sold within the PPE industry is an increasingly common problem. Over recent years, a plethora of items have entered the marketplace, from gloves to high-visibility vests, which have been produced using substandard materials. Often these products are finished such that, to the untrained eye, it is difficult, if not impossible, to identify that they are fake."

"Many of these counterfeit products arrive in containers from the Far East and can be readily purchased via online auction sites or from street markets," said David Lummis, CEO of BSIF. "It is quite easy to buy containers of 'safety' equipment direct and, of course, without the correct quality control procedures in place, the buyer will not have a clue what they are purchasing, thereby endangering lives.

"It is not really surprising that purchasers of PPE are now more wary about procuring items as there is general confusion over certified products, mainly due to the counterfeit items, falsified certifications, and the potentially confusing CE symbol that stands for 'China Export.' Nevertheless, there are measures at hand to ensure employers are buying and supplying the correct equipment."

Lummis added, "Certified goods will always be paramount in the health and safety world, and being extra vigilent when looking after your workforce is essential when health and lives are at risk. By just being aware of the type of counterfeit items available on the marketplace and remembering that offers that seem too good to be true usually are, is a step in the right direction. Purchasing the right PPE is a big responsibility, and safety equipment that doesn't perform properly isn't just inconvenient, it may actually cost lives."

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