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CEO's desk - October 21

25 October 2021

Alan Murray recently delivered a speech to an audience at the Chartered Trading Standards Institute. Here he provides an insight.

AS I am writing this piece the country is in the midst of a very real or, perceived fuel crisis, so it is somewhat difficult to feel that we are “returning to normal”! Nonetheless, I am delighted to report that that the Health and Safety Event, our national exhibition, went ahead as planned and ran from the 7 until the 9tof September at the NEC. The show was a great success with visitor numbers high and exhibitors pleased to be reporting that they had seen high quality enquiries coming through. Hopefully a milestone passed as we attempt to put the restrictions of the pandemic behind us.

The NEC was definitely a good news event and that was hard on the heels of the government having announced an additional year to the standstill period, which allowed CE marked product to continue to be placed on the GB without the need for compliance with the UKCA regime, through until January 1 2023. This sensible step was taken in response to wide ranging lobbying, where it was made clear to the government that the supply chains were simply not ready to implement against such a short and arbitrary time frame. Bringing changes to UKCA implementation further up to date, the Office for Product Safety and Standards announced on September 17 that the requirement to fix the UKCA or indeed the UKNI mark will benefit from a further year too, meaning the physical marking of the product only becomes mandatory on the 1 January 2024.

As readers of HSM are aware quality of PPE and Safety Equipment along with the capability of those who market safety in the UK is of prime importance to BSIF and our membership. Quality and capability add up to a safer worker and a level playing field in the UK. On this note I was asked to speak to the Chartered Trading Standards Institute, the professional body for trading standards professionals. I had the opportunity at their 2021 Symposium’s main plenary session to speak to the profession and shared the stage with their President, Lord Lindsay, Paul Scully Under-Secretary of State at BEIS and the minister responsible for product safety, the individual with whom we did some serious lobbying on the UKCA/CE implementation dates. Also on the panel were Will Cresswell, Deputy Director of the Office for Product Safety and Standards and Caroline North, Director of Enforcement along with their colleague Michael Kearney, Head of Business Engagement, who chaired the Q&A panel.

Not untypical of these events the Parliamentary and Department speakers were fulsome in their praise for the work done by CTSI members during the last 2 years and throughout the pandemic. The praise articulated was justified and the Trading Standards professionals are due credit for their efforts in an environment which badly needs resourced properly. My opportunity was to, with respect, tell the audience and the panel how it really is in the PPE market.

My journey with trading standards began some years ago and for years, we have been trying to make it clear to the market that while anyone is entitled to market safety and PPE, businesses (as PPE is most often a B2B market) should not buy safety from just anyone. Many people eventually found that out the hard way in 2019 and early 2020.

While acutely aware of the resource challenges that the profession has faced, which is indeed also reflected within the Health and Safety Executive as the other in-market, market surveillance authority it was and is my view that this split responsibility is not working, with HSE responsible for PPE in the workplace where the vast majority is consumed and TS responsible for product offered to the consumer. 

  1. The supply chain of course does not differentiate B2B and B2C

  2. The problem with non-compliant PPE starts in the supply chain. The solution sits in the Supply chain before non-compliant unsafe product can gets to the wearer
    HSE does not have natural access to the supply chain, Trading Standards however, does!

Now, BSIF and BSIF members have a Primary Authority partnership with Hertfordshire and since the programme’s inception we work very closely indeed with them. The partnership is however, perhaps different as I can say without fear of contradiction that BSIF lead the partnership for PPE. However, the partnership is strong, proactive and it has delivered success on several initiatives in the last couple of years.

My central frustration in the Trading Standards arena is the difficulty in getting the Local Authorities and Councils to work together in response to an issue. Different local authorities have themselves different pressures and priorities and the lack of active collaboration and following up on examples raised is totally unacceptable. This is before we deal with the scourge of on-line fulfilment or advertising via social media channels.

I called for the process to be less of a burden for Trading Standards as I wholeheartedly believe that PPE which is not proven to be safe and compliant with the Regulation should immediately be considered as high risk and intervention should take place, without having to have further investigate and go through expensive testing, for which they have little or no budget.

An over-arching theme for the symposium was trading standards supporting business however, I made it clear that enforcement itself, is support for business and support for a fair market place. Lack of enforcement undermines regulation penalising good businesses who comply and allows rogues to peddle unsafe PPE. PPE is utilised to mitigate an existing hazard if it does not perform it puts wearers immediately at risk.

Economic operators must prove it is safe or immediately face the consequences.

In closing I offered the expertise of BSIF to be at the disposal of Trading Standards and help to create a safer and fairer marketplace for PPE in the UK.

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