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Welcome to the 2024 Guide to The British Safety Industry

14 November 2023

It is my pleasure to welcome you all to the 2024 BSIF Guide to the Safety and Health Industry. The Guide is published annually to keep you up to date on industry developments and to provide a helpful reference tool including sourcing capable suppliers and quality products in the PPE and Safety market. It is also a practical source of information and advice for duty holders in keeping people safe and healthy at work.

In this foreword I will take the opportunity to look back on some of the key points from 2023 and share with you some of our plans as we arrive in 2024.

This Guide is full of helpful, informative articles created by BSIF members and industry experts designed to provide knowledge and aid decision making when sourcing PPE and safety equipment. 

There is a separate update on the BSIF Registered Safety Supplier Scheme (RSSS), which I am delighted to say continues to play a central role in UK safety, providing an assurance to the market that the PPE and safety equipment sourced through members is compliant and fit for purpose. Please look out for the RSSS article in the coming pages and in it you will see comments from employers on the effectiveness of the scheme and why you should always specify a “Registered Safety Supplier”. 

In looking through the key happenings in 2023 I find myself once again being drawn back to the chaotic situation on PPE Conformity Assessment and the UKCA marking regime. As we are all aware the referendum vote of 2016 saw the UK leave the EU and the institutions of union. One of the consequences being, that it was felt necessary that we had our own independent product conformity assessment regime, embodied in and by the UKCA mark. The rationale for the UKCA mark was that it would transition us away from CE and establish a separate and respected mark for the UK. I do not want to weigh you down with a “recent history” lesson however it is important to remember the facts in order to appreciate just how “put upon” the industry has been, through the clumsy handling of the UKCA process.

September 2020 – UKCA is announced to replace CE – it will be effective from January 2021 but there will be a year of transition when CE will still be accepted. At this point all the responsible manufacturers of PPE set about engaging with Approved Bodies to have their products UKCA certified and approved. Bodies previously operating as Notified Bodies under CE became UKCA Approved Bodies right away, with a further nine bodies going through the rigorous UKAS and government approval system. Gradually demand and supply came better into balance and the PPE industry was by and large “on time”. Then, in June 2022 it was announced that the UKCA mark could be applied to a product without the involvement of an Approved Body if that product already had CE approvals. This was then followed several months later by an announcement that CE would be accepted (without the need for UKCA) until the end of 2024. Keeping up to date here….on the 1 August 2023 the Department for Business and Trade announced that CE would be accepted indefinitely. 

The situation is chaotic, causing confusion in the market and undermining the UKCA regime. Given that we have had some four secretaries of state, not to mention three prime ministers, since UKCA was announced, should we be surprised by the situation? Perhaps not, but they have certainly succeeded in causing BSIF members to spend huge amounts of money needlessly and threatened the existence of the Approved Bodies.. 

Going forward I firmly believe that the UKCA regime will remain and that a further announcement will bring together applicable dates across the different regulations, including construction products and medical devices.

Another key development in 2023 was the launching of the Department for Business and Trade’s consultation on product safety and how to better regulate this post EU. There are some 13 different proposals contained in the consultation but perhaps of most note, are the ones that seek to control the activities of 'online marketplaces' and their apparent ability to sell non-compliant and potentially unsafe product, including PPE unchecked. Online 'market places' exist in something of a grey area when it comes to regulatory responsibilities and I cannot criticise the desire to remedy the problem with more effective regulation. However, as we know to our 'cost' irrespective of creating rules, lack of enforcement renders regulation meaningless. Enforcement for PPE is a dual responsibility between Trading Standards and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), this for a myriad of reasons just does not work. I took the opportunity provided by the product safety consultation to make this point once again.

Setting aside the regulatory challenges that 2023 has delivered I am delighted to remind everyone that in May this year there was a landmark development with the establishment of the Occupational Safety and Health Alliance. This Alliance brings together RoSPA, BSIF, IIRSM, BOHS, IOSH, NEBOSH, CIEH, CIEHF and the British Safety Council, as a collaboration of leading health and safety organisations, uniting to promote better safety, health and wellbeing for all. 

The Alliance, unique in its breadth of view and influence, can speak with one authoritative voice elevating the value that good safety and health brings to our society.

So to 2024 and the coming years, it remains core to BSIF that we directly and through our membership, provide the specifiers and users of PPE and safety products with all of the necessary expertise, information and support to ensure the correct equipment is selected to mitigate risk. The Federation harnesses and shares the knowledge and knowhow of the regulators, the national and international standards bodies and the safety and health profession enabling PPE and safety equipment to deliver positive outcomes for all. I’m pleased and excited to tell you that we will take the knowledge transfer to a new level in 2024 with the launch of 'Safe Sourcing' a course and qualification for those sourcing and specifying PPE, helping them to make more informed decisions on these safety critical items. We really believe this will be a programme of genuine value for the industry.

In closing, I sincerely hope you find this years’ BSIF Guide informative and interesting. 

Alan Murray,