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Welcome to the 2023 Guide to the British Safety Industry

01 December 2022

I would like to welcome you all to the 2023 Guide to British Safety Industry. The purpose of this Guide is to provide you with an overview of the safety and health industry in the UK and equip you with a useful reference tool on the range of products available. The Guide is also a source of sensible and proportionate advice on implementing safety, health and environmental policies, ensuring that the UK is kept safe & healthy while at work.

AS WE enter 2023 I am delighted tell you that the British Safety Industry Federation has a larger membership than ever, now with approximately 370 member companies, the vast majority of which are Registered Safety Suppliers providing quality and trust in this vital market. In addition the BSIF, through the Fit2Fit competency scheme counts 500 qualified Face Fit providers, creating a formidable community of dedicated individuals keeping the workforce of the UK Safe and Healthy.

Throughout the “Guide”, you will find informative articles created by Federation members and industry experts dealing with solutions to the range of hazards that are continuously faced in the workplace. We set out to offer clear and concise material to steer you through the selection of safety and personal protection as well as monitoring and control equipment. We believe that it delivers, in one place, valuable information and access to the country’s leading manufacturers and distributors of equipment who are able to offer you not just product but guidance and support to make sure that the latest and most suitable products are available to you.

Since the Guide of 2020 (created at the end of 2019) our industry, like much of society, has encountered seismic shocks created by the exiting of the EU and the Covid chaos in PPE. 

The PPE crisis of 2020 has been written about a great deal and we must ensure that lessons have been learned and mistakes not repeated, although lessons appear often to become un-learned over time as society deals with the priority issues at any given moment. The Covid-19 public enquiry has gotten underway and I’m certain that the PPE situation will be dealt with in both Module 1 and Module 2 of the Inquiry to some degree. Module 1 is looking at pandemic preparedness, with module 2 covering the use of ‘Non-Pharmaceutical Interventions’ across the UK. There are obviously many questions to answer and we hope that beyond the “blame game” practical solutions come forward and that, in the case of PPE, we are never again faced with a situation where non-compliant and often unsafe products were being marketed to unsuspecting and often ill-informed users. 

During the early months of 2022 BSIF published a review following the PPE crisis under the title “Pandemic Reflections” and in it we called for 5 simple steps to be undertaken to make the user safer and the market fairer. The review can be downloaded at https://www.bsif.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2022/04/Pandemic-response-article.pdf and I’m pleased to say that some of those “calls” have been listened to and we have seen prosecutions under PPE regulations and the authorities recognising the difficulties in the definition of “unsafe products” which would require intervention. In a normal investigation on product safety a full risk assessment including product testing is most often required before Trading Standards will take action. Under the latest system, known as “PRISM” any Category III PPE which is shown to be non-compliant will immediately be judged as high risk, with consequent action taken. This may seem like modest progress but it is a positive change. 

The PRISM model has come out of the need to ensure that the UK, following our exit from the EU, has the correct approach to product safety regulation. A deeper review of Regulation has seen consultation on the wider product safety framework and we are still waiting, long promised, for the recommendations to be published. The product safety review and the subsequent recommendations are meant to address the challenges of on-line sales and the responsibilities of portals and economic operators selling product, including PPE, which is not compliant with the Regulation. These problems must be dealt with and we await the recommendations with eager anticipation.

So turning to the other significant shock which was the “post Brexit” introduction of the United Kingdom Conformity Assessment process or UKCA to replace the 30-odd year established CE regime. As we referred to earlier, in 2020 there were a multitude of easements and amendments to the PPE Regulation, published, in an attempt to enable more covid related PPE to be placed on the UK market. These ceased in the September of that year and the authorities immediately produced their first guidance on complying with UKCA and the PPE Regulation 2016/425 as it applied in both Great Britain (GB) and Northern Ireland.

So according to the guidance of September 2020 CE Approved products could no longer be placed on the GB market following the end December 2021. This was the deadline for CE. Different rules apply for Northern Ireland which currently remains challenged by the difficulties around the Northern Ireland Protocol. Working with this guidance the industry moved assertively to ensure that it could comply however, it became apparent to the government that such a short transition time was entirely impractical. Consequently and following lobbying in late summer 2021 the transition period (standstill) was extended until the end of 2022. 

Once again the responsible businesses in PPE worked tirelessly to ensure that they would be ready for the change. We also saw a significant increase in the number of EU Notified Bodies investing and establishing themselves in the UK in order be able to provide UKCA approval and to support the necessary increase in testing and certification capacity.

So original guidance in September 2020 forced action to have UKCA approval by the end of December 2021 only to have, in 2021 this guidance changed, and the period extended by a further year. Seen as a sensible move, approvals continued against UKCA requirements. However, somewhat suddenly, in June 2022 new guidance was produced to enable UKCA approvals to be made simply against already having valid CE approvals. This was a seismic change, welcomed in some quarters and greeted with horror in others.

The saga was however, not yet over! On November 14th 2022 yet another announcement emerged whereby approval under UKCA was no longer a requirement until after December 31st 2024 and up until that point existing CE certification, on its own, was all that was needed. Change, as the saying goes, is the only constant. 

So once again, welcome to this 2023 edition of the BSIF Guide to the UK Safety and Health Industry, I hope that you find it interesting and informative.

Alan Murray, CEO of BSIF