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BOHS guidance on fake RPE

13 May 2020

THE BRITISH Occupational Hygiene Society, the Chartered Society for Worker Health Protection is issuing guidance to its members, following concerns about the increasing amount of fake Respiratory Protective Equipment (RPE) in circulation.

Thousands of new respirators are flooding the market and criminals are taking advantage of the decision to allow the use of respirators that would not normally be used in the UK.

Respirators are used by health care workers, but also by many other workers to protect them from work exposure to dangerous dust and harmful chemicals. The acute shortage in the NHS has led to donations of respirators to hospitals, potentially leaving other workers vulnerable to life-threatening illnesses. Each year, it is estimated that more than 12,000 people die as a result of workplace exposures arising from poor or absent Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).

The Chief Executive of BOHS and legal expert, Kevin Bampton commented, “This is the perfect situation for criminals to exploit, with demand outstripping supply and a perceived relaxation of regulation. The Society’s Expert Group on Respiratory Protective Equipment are very concerned about this. If inadequate protection is given, this could result in deaths either now or in the longer term and from some deeply unpleasant diseases.” Respirators are used in construction, asbestos removal and in the chemical industries. “The victims could be health care workers, construction workers and those in key industries. It is really getting to crisis proportions,” he added. BOHS admits that it is not known how many fake masks are in use in the NHS, but with recent reports that up to half of London doctors are buying their own PPE, and welcome the directive by Public Health England that personal and local purchase of PPE should end.

BOHS admits the guidance will quickly become superseded because the criminal gangs involved are resourceful and adaptive. However, it is hoped that it will help raise awareness of the issue and lead to proper examination of supply sources and the products themselves. 

President of BOHS, Kelvin Williams said, “Our expert group represents scientific and practitioner experts who are leaders in the field of respiratory protection. We have been working tirelessly to try and highlight the proper choices of RPE and the correct use of it during this crisis. There will certainly be lessons to be learnt for the future. For now, we feel it critical that those involved in the procurement, inspection and use of RPE remain very vigilant. This issue threatens to undo much of the work to ensure infection control through RPE”.