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From CEO's desk - April 2019

19 March 2019

Alan Murray has become president of the European Safety Federation (ESF). Here he talks about the work of this organisation, and how this benefits BSIF members.

While the UK parliament struggles to agree the terms of withdrawing from the European Union I as CEO of the British Safety Industry Federation, have just become President of the European Safety Federation. This is proof positive of the influence that the UK has within the safety industry across Europe. 

The European Safety Federation is a non-profit and a non subsidised organisation which groups the national associations of manufacturers, importers and distributors of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) in Europe. As such, ESF is recognised by the European authorities and marketplace stakeholders. ESF is a vital route to lobby the EU institutions on the all PPE issues this cannot be achieved by national associations on their own. The PPE market has been controlled by EU Directives and Regulations for nearly 30 years, so the work of ESF is absolutely essential in representing the interests of the economic operators within the industry. 

As each of the 511 million EU citizens (be it as employee, as self-employed or in his/her free time) uses Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to protect him/her against risks for his/her health or safety, the ESF has an essential role in the protection of the population.

The European Safety Federation (ESF) was founded in 1991 and includes in its’ membership the national safety organisations (such as BSIF) of the member states of the EU each representing the manufacturers and suppliers of PPE in their country and unites the European manufacturers, suppliers and distributors of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and to represent them at government level of the European Union and other European institutions and instances.

ESF ASSIST protect and strengthen its members capabilities at a European level in terms of legislation, implementation of legislation and attempts at market surveillance, standardisation. 

ESF supports the development and the promotion of Health and Safety in the workplace and like BSIF works to create awareness of occupational accident prevention and protection at all levels, emphasising the importance and value of proper PPE selection.

The structure of ESF is a board composed of all members. The Board then decides on the strategy and main activities of the organisation. At an operational level ESF has a daily management team is composed of the president, the president-elect, the past-president, the treasurer and the secretary general. The team is responsible for the actions decided by the Board, and makes proposals and reports to the Board.

The engine room of ESF is the General Secretary Henk Vanhoutte who is by profession a textile engineer. He a renowned PPE expert and a tireless worker on behalf of the members of the federation and the members of the national associations. Henk Vanhoutte’s work impacts BSIF members and his expertise enables BSIF to better support our own membership in the UK. In the last two years the work of ESF has been absolutely central in the interpretation and application of the new PPE Regulation (EU) 2016/425.

In becoming President of ESF my mission will be to attempt to create some consistency within Market Surveillance across the countries affected by the European PPE Regulation. It should be understood by all the members of the industry that while the PPE Regulation and all its rules applies in exactly the same way throughout the EEA the responsibility for ensuring the rules are policed is ceded to the national authorities. This has led to many different interpretations by the policing authorities. This situation is really not acceptable and needs to change to ensure that there is an open market which operates fairly and efficiently.

In the UK market surveillance is, even at our national level not particularly easy to understand. Before the introduction of Regulation 2016/425 in April 2018 Trading Standards were responsible for policing PPE in the UK. Since April 2018 the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) have taken responsibility for policing PPE when it is in use. It is our view that this will always be policing after the fact, and BSIF believe that the way to address non compliant product is within the supply chain and we continue to make this point to the UK authorities. One then has to understand that each member of the EEA has its own national authorities who now apply different interpretations and individual approaches to the requirements of the Regulation.

It will be a significant challenge for me, through my Presidency of ESF, to achieve some commonality in the application of market surveillance but I believe that this must be the main deliverable of my time leading the European Safety Federation.

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