Home>Trade Body>BSiF>From the CEO's desk - September 2019

From the CEO's desk - September 2019

19 August 2019

As uncertainty around Brexit continues, Alan Murray explains why the European Safety Federation has written to the EU Commission.

In June 2019 against the background of continued uncertainty over Brexit the European Safety Federation (ESF) wrote to the EU Commission asking that, in the event of a “no deal” Brexit, they take a flexible, pragmatic approach to the application of rules concerning the validity of EU / EC type examination certificates and product approval decisions issued by UK Notified Bodies concerning PPE.

What prompted this letter was that, based on information already published by the EU, as soon as Brexit becomes effective and the UK becomes a “third country”, EU / EC type examination certificates and product approval decisions issued by UK Notified Bodies will become invalid.

Therefore product which has not already been “placed on the market” will, under a no deal scenario cease to be compliant. If the market surveillance authorities in the remaining EU states (the EU 27) apply the letter of the PPE Regulation focussing on product certified by what were formerly UK Notified Bodies it could mean significant disruption in the availability the of PPE across the markets.

How then have we arrived at this situation? Quite simply UK Notified Bodies have always had a very large market share of PPE Certification. There are a variety of reasons as to why this is the case.

Many EU PPE standards had their roots in British Standards, the popularity of the english language and the skill and reputation of UK Notified Bodies saw the them create a market leading position.

Following a no deal, UK Notified Bodies will lose their status, no longer being able to carry out EU / EC type examination and product approval decisions concerning PPE and crucially manufacturers will be required to find a new Notified Body for all existing and new products. The obvious solution to this situation was for manufacturers to find a new Notified Body within the EU 27 to maintain product compliance. However this has not always proved practical due to a lack of capacity, and long lead times created by the transition from the 89/686 Directive to the 2016/425 Regulation.

As an alternative approach UK Notified Bodies have had the opportunity to establish entities within the EU 27 and maintain services by transferring PPE work to them. This solution, not in itself seamless, is not yet ready.

Despite the Brexit date having been delayed twice already, as of last week there were only four out of the 14 UK Bodies who had successfully navigated the Notification process for PPE and become established in the EU 27. BSI became the fourth company to achieve Notification, joining Satra (Ireland), SGS (Finland), and Intertek (Italy) who had already set up and established their operations.

The request for a flexible, pragmatic approach from ESF has however been rejected by the EU Commission. They have responded stating that, the position of the EU in case of a no deal Brexit was explained in the documents issued by the Commission’s Task Force for Article 50 negotiations with the UK and reaffirmed in the 5thBrexit Preparedness Communication: no new contingency measures are planned ahead of the withdrawal date (31stof October 2019), and in a no deal scenario the UK will become a third country without any transitional arrangements. 

This reaction of course should not come as a surprise as it would have seen them make an exception for a specific category of product which could create a precedent for others. Therefore, the potential of some interruption remains.

While Brexit in many respects preoccupies us, the EU have announced regulation to step up efforts to ensure that only products which are safe and compliant can be placed on the market. The new rules, being referred to as “The Goods Package” seek to strengthen Market Surveillance.

The regulation awaits signing but once that has occurred will be published in the Official Journal of the EU applying from 2 years and 20 days from that. Market Surveillance of PPE has for a considerable time been recognised as an issue in the UK and the focus of much of BSIF’s work.

With the UK moving out of the EU and so not being bound by these regulations the potential for this country to be seeing more sub standard PPE is real.

David Hughes

We’re sad to announce the recent death of a unique and irrepressible character who was known to many in the UK Safety Industry during his long career. David Hughes worked during his time in the PPE world for Palmer Lee, Uvex, James North, John Ward, Polyco and Univet. David was a gentleman and a wonderful colleague who shared his kindness and professionalism with his customers, competitors and co-workers alike. David’s tea drinking was legendary as was his unerring support for “The Villa”, he will be very much missed by all of those who knew and learned from him. Villa Park will be a quieter place without David Hughes, he will be missed most of all by his wife Elaine and sons, Gary and James.

Alan Murray is chief executive of BSIF. For more information, visit www.bsif.co.uk

New HSE appointment

BSIF would like to congratulate the new Chief Executive of the HSE Sarah Albon on her appointment and good luck in her new role. BSIF hopes that she will see the value to Occupational Safety and Health in the UK of an increased focus on both inspection and guidance. The HSE has historically played a leadership role in supporting employers through day to day involvement, but after years of cumulative fiscal austerity the HSE has seen a significant decline in numbers and consequent decline in the presence in the market.