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Pledge to protect

06 October 2022

PPE buyers and end users are being urged by The British Safety Industry Federation to follow a simple process when specifying PPE products to ensure that they are fit for purpose. Alan Murray explains why.

FROM HARD hats and high-visibility clothing, to masks and hearing protection to goggles, gloves, face shields and footwear, personal protective equipment (PPE) is widely available to protect people from head to toe in hazardous work environments. When health and safety risks can’t be completely eliminated, PPE plays a critical role in safeguarding workers from all kinds of dangers including chemicals and respiratory hazards, slips, trips and falls, electrical hazards, extreme temperatures, noise and falling objects. 

The need for PPE in the UK is well-established and many resources are available to help find the right PPE for the job. The Health & Safety Executive (HSE), for example, has its own online PPE portal at https://www.hse.gov.uk/ppe where anyone can access free advice, support and up-to-date information on PPE selection, use and maintenance as well as on best practice, standards and regulations. 

Supplying your workers with PPE however, doesn’t automatically mean they will be protected. You need to know whether the PPE you buy meets required standards and will perform as it claims. You must also be confident that your suppliers are able to comply with the PPE Regulations. 

Why are there substandard and non-compliant products on the market? 

Unfortunately, not all PPE is created equal. The law states that PPE must be correctly tested and certified to comply with the Personal Protective Equipment Regulations 2018, but not every supplier of PPE follows the rules. A lack of market surveillance and enforcement in the UK means it can be difficult to distinguish responsible suppliers from less responsible ones. This has led to an increase in the quantity of substandard products being sold here.

The COVID pandemic shone a light on just how easily substandard products can come onto the UK market. At the height of the health crisis, more than a million masks in use in the NHS in England had to be withdrawn over safety concerns – and this was far from an isolated incident. 

Employers must ensure that they only provide fully compliant PPE for their workforce otherwise they will be contravening safety legislation. A number of items are available that claim UKCA and or CE approvals but, in reality, they have not all been appropriately certified. In our experience these products just do not perform as they should, putting lives at risk and, in doing so, exposing businesses and individuals to prosecution for failing to protect staff.

What can you do about it?

As a buyer or specifier of PPE you are responsible for ensuring that the product is properly certified and approved but you will not have the knowledge and resources to validate suppliers’ claims. However, the BSIF offers a supplier verification scheme - The Registered Safety Supplier (RSS) scheme - to help. Just look for the Shield. 

Companies displaying the scheme’s shield have signed a binding declaration that the PPE and safety equipment they offer meets the correct standards, fully complies with the regulations and is UKCA and or CE marked. This means that by using a Registered Safety Supplier you can be confident you will receive genuine products that are fit for purpose as well as genuine information and guidance. 

Benefits of specifying the scheme 

As mentioned above, verifying that your supplier is a Registered Safety Supplier gives you reassurance that the necessary checks have been performed and you know your supplier is committed to high standards. Members of the RSS scheme must fulfil the following criteria in order to gain admittance and carry the shield: sell only certified PPE; meet all responsibilities of the PPE Regulations; submit their products for random independent performance testing; train public facing staff in the BSIF’s Safe Supply Course (a publicly recognised qualification to educate those selling PPE and safety products); maintain a quality policy; hold necessary authorisation for service provision; have the capability to carry out any necessary product recalls and trade honestly and ethically. 

All Registered Safety Suppliers are audited to confirm compliance with the scheme’s requirements. A full list of registered suppliers is available to view at https://www.bsif.co.uk/rsss/

Specifying registered suppliers and the scheme will help your business to keep your workforce safe and to meet your obligations under The Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992, which places a duty on employers to ensure that PPE is properly assessed before use to make sure it is fit for purpose.

Remember, when buying PPE: Check/ Select/ Protect 

You can’t get from PPE selection to protection without checking whether your products are from a trusted supplier. The quickest and easiest way of doing this is to specify a Registered Safety Supplier. 

We, at the British Safety Industry Federation, are urging PPE buyers and end users to follow this simple three-step process when buying PPE to ensure that the products you buy are fit for purpose:

  1. CHECK your supplier is BSIF registered. BSIF Audited suppliers are compliant, competent and trustworthy. Don’t settle for less.

  2. SELECT appropriate, certified and compliant products. Registered Safety Suppliers can support the product selection process through their competence, capability and knowledge. 

  3. PROTECT your workforce and your business. Registered Safety Suppliers go above and beyond, helping to keep your people safe and helping your business to thrive. 

Specify RSSS today 

To find out more about the benefits of specifying a BSIF registered supplier in your supply chain contact the BSIF today. You will also be able to access free support and resources designed to improve your PPE procurement processes and to help safeguard your workforce, your business and your reputation.

Anyone can sell safety but you shouldnt buy safety from just anyone: Always specify the shield. 

Alan Murray is CEO of BSIF. For more information, visit www.bsif.co.uk/rsss/