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CEO's desk - April 24 03/04/2024

The British Safety Industry Federation (BSIF) is launching key initiatives to support occupational safety and health in the UK. Alan Murray shares the news.

WE ARE now well into 2024 and I’m really excited to tell you that BSIF is launching significant initiatives to continue to support occupational safety and health in the UK. Firstly, we are launching a membership expansion pilot to embrace employers, duty holders and safety professionals where they will be able to participate in all of the BSIF PPE resources and help to develop PPE practices and protocols directly with the Federation and its’ members. 

Secondly, we are creating and providing PPE education in the form of a course and qualification titled “Sourcing Safety” which will provide specifiers, purchasers and those making decisions on PPE with all the knowledge they require in this safety critical product category.

These programmes will be transformational for our industry bringing together the key stakeholder groups of PPE suppliers and users, sharing knowledge and experience to improve user safety and health.

The pilot programme to include employers, duty holders and safety professionals will be launched with an inaugural event alongside HSM Live on the 27 June at the Coventry Building Society (CBS) Arena. BSIF is currently speaking to potential pilot members, but if anyone reading this column has an interest in participating please don’t hesitate to get in touch by e mailing enquiries@bsif.co.uk and put Member Expansion Pilot in the subject bar.
What will the Membership Expansion pilot deliver? In essence we want to support the market and provide pilot members/participants with ….

  • Access to a manned, independent PPE information help line
  • Independent guidance and information on Standards & PPE Regulations
  • The opportunity to receive PPE and safety industry updates via internal BSIF Bulletins
  • Access to a wide range of informative BSIF white papers, information and knowledge on a password protected website 
  • Access and participation in regional PPE/safety equipment development workshops, forums and user groups
  • The opportunity to develop new campaigns/white papers and update existing campaigns
  • Access and discount on BSIF training courses such as “Sourcing Safety”
  • Access to networking events. Meet with all members from the supply chain and other HSEQ managers/duty holders at multiple events each year
  • The opportunity to be nominated to the British Standards Institute (BSI) national product standards committees.

The 12 months from the June HSM event will be the duration of the pilot and we know that there will be opportunities to learn and adjust our collective plans as we go, creating appropriate agendas, but certainly becoming a member will offer safety professionals, employers, specifiers and individuals sourcing PPE and Safety independent information, guidance and support leading to improving the mitigation of risk through the correct selection of PPE which is safe, legally compliant and fit for purpose, helping to safeguard current safety and future health in the workplace. We will not be charging any membership fees to pilot members, but we believe that the pilot will add significant value in the PPE market and that it will enhance user safety and health into the future.

As I said earlier in the article we are also creating and providing PPE education in the form of a course and qualification titled “Sourcing Safety” which will arm specifiers, purchasers and those making decisions on PPE with all the knowledge they require in this safety critical product category. “Sourcing Safety” builds upon the experience with the “Safe Supply” course and qualification which benefited those on the supply side of PPE. We are now going forward with education for those specifying and purchasing PPE to assist them in making informed decisions when selecting and sourcing PPE. 

Sourcing Safety, with endorsement by NEBOSH and carrying CPD points, aims to improve the mitigation of risk through the correct selection of PPE, that is safe, legally compliant and fit for purpose which will make a difference in user safety and health. 

Sourcing Safety – the course and qualification will be officially launched at the Health and Safety Event at the NEC being held between the 30 April and the 2 May 2024 Welcome | The Health & Safety Event (healthandsafetyevent.com) do visit BSIF’s stand in Hall 4 stand J30 for more information, or please feel free to e mail enquiries@bsif.co.uk putting Sourcing Safety in the subject bar.

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

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About the British Safety Industry Federation 27/02/2024

THE BRITISH Safety Industry Federation (BSIF) is the UK's leading trade body within the safety industry. BSIF members include manufacturers, distributors, test houses, certification bodies, safety professionals and service providers.

Our aim is to provide support and guidance on a wide range of occupational safety issues.

We suggest buyers and end users follow a simple three-step process when buying PPE to ensure that products 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. 

Anyone can sell safety but you shouldn't buy safety from just anyone: Always specify the shield. 

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The only constant is change 27/02/2024

APPROPRIATE WORKWEAR suited to the environment and weather conditions is key to ensuring protection and productivity at work.

Workwear that is perfect for a wet November morning on a solar farm in Wales is not suitable for a sweltering day on a London building site.  

Choosing the correct workwear involves a careful selection process to ensure it meets the safety standards for the work involved and is suitable for the temperature and weather elements. Modern work clothing incorporates ease of movement with exceptionally durable materials, tested to the highest standards, and are often laden with extra functional features and appropriate weather protection design elements. 

Cold protection 

How cold is cold? In workwear, a cold environment is defined as -5°C or below and it considers air velocity (wind) and humidity. Cold work environments include cold storage in the food industry, where workers can work in temperatures as low as -18°C all year. It also includes outdoor work environments when temperatures plummet seasonally.

Safety first 

The product standard that most employers are familiar with is EN 342: 2017 - Protective clothing. Ensembles and garments for protection against cold. If protective garments are suitable for cold protection, they will have been tested to this standard. The standard provides estimates for the maximum duration a worker can wear a garment based on their activity level, the temperature of the environment and the insulation value of the clothing, which can be helpful when choosing garments. 

Helpful tips 

Once the workwear has been tested to EN342, other helpful tips to ensuring the supply of the most appropriate garments to workers is to consider the type of work they do. Stationary workers such as machine operatives may prefer the comfort of a heavyweight quilt lined Jacket, trouser or coverall. If a worker bends down a lot throughout the day, they may choose an insulated coverall to protect their lower back from the elements. Workers who are more active may prefer a lightweight thermal lining with supreme warmth-to-weight ratio. This type of innovative lining can be up to three times warmer than standard insulation. Seek out heat reflective linings that reflects heat back into the body ensuring maximum warmth and comfort 

Cold hands 

When cold hazards are present, motor skills can be reduced, leading to increased risks of accidents and injury. Specially designed thermal hand protection is available. The standard EN 511 Protective Gloves Against Cold specifies the requirements and test methods for gloves which protect against convective and contact cold. Hand protection can provide cold protection in additional to other performance factors such a grip, cut resistance or impact protection.  

Here comes the rain 

Protection from rain is a common functionality that is required for many outdoor workers. EN 343:2019 - Protective clothing - Protection against rain is the standard that applies to garments worn in such weather conditions. Garment innovations to protect against rain include waterproof membranes that allow perspiration to escape while preventing water getting in. Or an internal double coating of PU can provide the same results. A fabric finish can repeal water and cause droplets to bead up and roll off the fabric, preventing water gathering on the garment. But no matter how good the fabric is, if it is not constructed using taped or welded seams, water can get in. Enhanced features for maximum functionality can include specially engineered watertight pockets, durable waterproof zippers, double storm flap for protection against driving wind and rain. And an engineered hood, hems and sleeve cuffs ensure a precise fit to keep water out.  

Layering for change 

The use of layers in cold conditions will help to trap warm air between the clothing and skin offering enhanced level of insulation. In changeable conditions, the use of breathable layers will allow workers to build up and down throughout the day. Consider thermal base layers, t-shirts, sweatshirts, Jackets, with the addition of complementary trousers, gloves and a hat for an effective layering system. Quality design ensures these garments fit comfortably when layered allowing workers to move freely. For active work, garments should transport moisture through moisture wicking technologies and look out for garments with a high cotton content, with the cotton next to skin to keep workers cool. 

Heat stress 

With global temperatures rising and the scorching temperatures of last summer, we cannot overlook the risk to workers involved in the over 2000 mines and quarries operating in the UK. The workforce above and below ground face extreme temperatures, UV radiation and dehydration which can lead to heat stroke and loss of cognitive function. Below ground a working environment with temperatures of over 40°C is common all year round. Maintaining compliance to the necessary safety standards, whilst remaining cool and comfortable can be a tricky balance. Workwear is now widely available to prevent and minimise these risks. Product engineering using UPF (Ultraviolet Protection Factor), lightweight and heat resistant materials can result in workwear with the necessary safety protection which combined with adaptive product design, to place ventilation and performance fabrics in high sweat zones, offer greater comfort by reducing friction, increasing breathability and moisture management.

Prevent overheating 

Above ground, in the construction, agriculture, mining, oil and gas and other industries, there are many complementary products that can extend personal comfort and lower thermal stress. Evaporative cooling products in the form of cooling vests, sleeves, head bands and neck towels are made with phase changing materials whose unique polymer chemistry can absorb heat energy. 

Direct rays 

The harmful effects of the sun can seriously compromise workers’ health. Heat related fatigue and illness costs employers time and money, as well as having an ill-effect on individuals’ health. For the ultimate sun protection, Wearing suitable UPF garments, hats and spectacles with UV protection can provide the ultimate sun protection. Products such as hats with neck shades, offer even better protection to the regular workwear. 

Keeping industry moving 

The only constant in life is change. This is certainly true of our weather. With temperatures last year in the UK dropping to record lows of -23°C and soaring to highs of 40°C, workwear manufacturers must continue to innovate for challenging working conditions.  

For more information, visit www.bsif.co.uk

Tel: 01442 248744

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Registered safety suppliers at The Health & Safety Event 27/02/2024

THE REGISTERED Safety Supplier Trail in partnership with British Safety Industry Federation (BSIF) will be returning for 2024 at the UK’s leading exhibition dedicated to improving occupational workplace safety standards, The Health & Safety Event on 30 April – 2 May at the NEC Birmingham.

The aim of the Registered Safety Supplier Scheme is to provide assurance to users that only compliant and correctly performing products are being supplied through a capable, educated, and competent supply chain as unsafe PPE is still a growing issue within the health and safety industry.

By attending The Health & Safety Event, you will discover and connect with registered safety suppliers who will be showcasing hundreds of certified PPE products that support the UK safety market.

Find all the Registered Safety Suppliers attending the event here:

https://www.healthandsafetyevent.com/registered-safety-supplier-trail

You can register for your free event pass here:

https://www.healthandsafetyevent.com/website-2024

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CEO's Desk - March 24 08/02/2024

The British Safety Industry Federation (BSIF) has been busy testing the performance and compliance of PPE products on the market. Alan Murray shares the findings.

WELCOME TO this, my first contribution of 2024. In my previous column at the end of last year I shared with the readership the plans of the recently formed Occupational Safety and Health Stakeholder Alliance. 

In this column I find myself circling back around on items more core to BSIF’s traditional work and that is Regulatory compliance, testing and safety of PPE and associated equipment. 

Firstly, the product safety regime for PPE changed, (didn’t it) from the acceptance of CE certified, to UKCA for many regulated products including PPE coming under the “new” system. The changes required significant investment from manufacturers which now look undermined, if not entirely wasted, by the indefinite extension of the acceptance of product certified under the CE process. This extension applied to all relevant product regulations in the control of the Department for Business and Trade some 17 in all. Then in January 2024 the indefinite extension was applied to three further products regulations widening the acceptance of CE and further sidelining the need for UKCA. 

So, we have to ask, what is the future of the UKCA regime. I put that out there at this point, because as we now know the Northern Ireland Assembly have returned, after some of their concerns on different rules being applied throughout the internal (UK) market, where Northern Ireland remained aligned to EU rules, but the rest of the UK, being “GB” were diverging, have been allayed.

It could be argued and evidenced by the continuing spread of acceptance of CE, that in fact while GB has and retains the option to diverge, GB is actually not doing so. By continuing to accept CE it is remaining aligned to the EU rules that apply in NI. It is difficult then not to conclude that the UKCA system will be relegated to something that exists but will not be necessary if products are CE certified.

Secondly, regardless of which product safety regime is in place, the rules have to be enforced and frankly (subject to one or two exceptions) they are not. BSIF administers the Registered Safety Supplier Scheme, which as well as testing products marketed by BSIF members, also buys PPE from the open market from non-members. I thought that it would be interesting to share some of the 2023 results with you.

Between December 2022 and December 2023, the BSIF examined 123 non-member products, assessing advertised performance, marking and labelling requirements and compliance with standards. Shockingly, only 21% – 26 products – proved fully compliant, leaving a staggering 79%—97 products—falling short of testing criteria. Worryingly, many of these substandard products are still available and in use, potentially posing serious risks to unsuspecting users.

Some examples of products from non-BSIF-registered members that failed testing include a Flame Retardant Parka, bought from an online retailer. During flame spread testing, the outer layer burnt through, exposing the inner layer, which then caught fire, resulting in the entire coat being consumed by flames. The garment also lacked correct documentation and markings in line with PPE Regulation requirements. A pair of safety boots from the same retailer failed toe-cap compressions tests. They were also over ten years old and supplied with outdated certification, didn’t have the correct documentation and were not correctly marked. 

Elsewhere, a pair of safety spectacles, acquired from a high street retailer failed an impact resistance test, with lenses cracking/breaking when struck by a projectile. The spectacles also lacked markings and the required documentation. Despite promises to remove the product from sale, it was still available over two months later.

Three pairs of protective gloves from a high street retailer failed testing against abrasion, returning just half the claimed performance level. They were also incorrectly marked and missing the required documentation. When contacted by the BSIF, the retailer said they would take action but the products were still on sale four months later.  

Worryingly, a Respiratory Protective Mask (FFP3) purchased from a PPE distributor performed at only half the required level during filter penetration tests against contaminants and had missing documentation. When contacted, the distributor didn't act to remove the product from sale or initiate a recall.

BSIF member test results

The non-member test result findings sharply contrast with the results of tests conducted on products supplied by BSIF Registered Safety Suppliers, who are committed to only selling certified PPE and trading honestly and ethically. Of the 348 tests completed on products from Registered Safety Suppliers between December 2022 and December 2023, 91% – 315 products – passed immediately. Even for the 9% – 33 products – initially falling short, all issues were promptly addressed and rectified.

It is clear that our test results from 2023 show that you don't have to look very far to find examples of inadequate and substandard PPE and safety equipment for sale in the UK. Shockingly, many unsuspecting users are relying on these compromised products for their safety. 

Buyers and specifiers should urgently review their procurement processes and consider what assurances they have that the PPE and safety equipment they are being supplied with is fit for purpose. 

2024 should be the year that all duty holders look for the ‘Shield’ and take the risk out of PPE selection and sourcing by going to a BSIF Registered Supplier.

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

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CEO's desk - December 23 30/11/2023

The HSE's latest annual work-related ill health and injury statistics have just been published and Alan Murray uses his column to summarise some of the key elements.

NOVEMBER HAS come and gone and as is normal that is the month that the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) publishes the annual “Health and safety at Work” summary statistics for Great Britain (GB). I thought that it would be useful to summarise some of the key elements to illustrate where we currently are.

The annual report that the HSE publishes helpfully follows a very similar format each year (with the exception of the now removed, temporary inclusion of coronavirus figures) which, I must admit does allow for straightforward year on year comparisons.

So what do the statistics tell us about the picture during 2022 and 2023.

Fatalities: The figure for fatal injuries this year is 135 and that is 12 more deaths than the 123 reported last year. Fatal injuries are obviously tragedies but the HSE report puts GB second only to Germany in the lowest number of fatalities per 100,000 workers across Europe. One always has to remember of course that this country does not have significant employment in the high-risk primary industries such as coal mining and steel.

The report highlights that there are still 12,000 work-related lung disease deaths each year, linked to past exposures at work. Occupational lung disease is still a major scourge and this illustrates the need to remain vigilant and fully risk assess respiratory hazards, today. At this point I would like to remember Mavis Nye who died recently from mesothelioma, believed to have been “contracted” during the cleaning of her husband’s work clothing many years ago. I pay tribute to Mavis and all the work of the Mavis Nye Foundation.

Workplace Injury: We see that non-fatal workplace injury continues to remain high with over 561,000 instances reported in the “Labour Force Survey”. RIDDOR reports illustrate 60,645 injuries slightly down on last year but still too high. The most common injuries occurred through slips, trips and falls on the same level, amounting to some 32% of all reported. Surely a case here for employers to specify the correct safety footwear for staff.

Handling, lifting and carrying injuries grew year on year amounting to 18% of reported injuries. All in all the non-fatal injuries cost 3.7 million work days to be lost. Although not reported specifically as injuries work-related musculoskeletal disorders (MSD) cost the individual and the economy 6.6 million days!

Work-related ill health including MSD: This picture, though slightly improved on the prior year, is very concerning. With a total of 31.5 million working days lost with 1.8 million workers suffering from new or longer term work-related ill health. Of the total 875,000 workers suffered from work-related stress, depression or anxiety!

Costs: The overall costs of injury and new work-related ill health are put at £20.7 billion (and this number excludes long latency conditions such as cancers). To put that in context the entire UK Government budget for “Defence” is £46 Billion. 

The lost days and the cost figures are quite staggering and can surely be brought down dramatically with the appropriate measures applied sensibly. Good safety and health is a legal and human right of course and these figure illustrate that getting it right is a financial, as well as moral, imperative. 

Work-related stress, depression and anxiety as you can see from the figures above are significant and improvements must be made in this area. Mental health is of course a very complex and challenging subject, often outside of the normal safety and health management discipline but we cannot lose focus on this, as mental ill-health has dire consequences for an individual, their families and friends and is the cause of 17.1 million lost working days in this country.

The Occupational Stakeholder Alliance (the Alliance of all the major safety and health stakeholders) will be taking up the initiative to support improvements in 2024. A major part of this programme will be the reach-out to organisations, to both make them aware of the situation and the undoubted benefits of successful engagement and to facilitate and enable the involvement of all the necessary functions including safety and health personnel, human resources, line managers and team leaders as drivers of improvement. Please watch out for this Alliance campaign.

In closing I wish you a happy, safe and healthy 2024.

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

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BSIF Special Interest Groups 27/11/2023

The British Safety Industry Federation (BSIF) benefits from active participation in its Special Interest Groups (SIGs). Here's an overview of the activities and valuable guidance the groups offer.

Many representative trade organisations engage with their membership through a range of Technical Committees or Working Groups, BSIF has for our part, a very active structure of Special Interest Groups (SIGs) defined by the PPE and Safety Equipment product categories. Unique to BSIF is that membership of SIGs is open to all in the supply chain. This means that manufacturers, importers, distributors and associated specialist services providers can come together (respecting corporate governance sensitivities) staying across industry issues, sharing and cascading regulatory information and facilitating debate and developing authoritative positions on product concerns and standards. BSIF nominates representatives from the SIGs to participate in the British Standards Institute (BSI) national standards committees and from there individuals can move on to the international CEN and ISO standards making committees.
Within BSIF SIGs there is also representation from government departments and the market surveillance authorities. SIGs truly are an exceptional forum and with the groups also providing guidance for end users and duty holders, they are an important asset to the wider industry. 

On these pages I will provide an overview of the recent SIG activities but before getting further into those specifically I wanted to share that, in addition to the groups below, we are now moving forward at some pace to create a special interest group dealing with “Electrical and Arc flash hazards”. This group will be horizontal in nature, and will not be restricted to any product categories. The group will commence in 2024 and we would welcome expressions of interest and participation from the membership.

On the ever present subject of “Sustainability” BSIF had at one juncture intended to develop an SIG dedicated to the topic, however we moved away from that option choosing to create a specialist working group who have already produced a “Position Paper” a “Code of Conduct” on green claims and a substantial “Sustainability Reference Document” to assist members in discharging responsibilities with existing legislation. This collateral was published in early 2023. The working group are now publishing further guidance with the “Environment” document. This document takes a deeper look at the challenges around CO2 emissions and the Greenhouse Gas Protocol moving then into chemicals and environmental challenges around PPE. As ever the BSIF publications are produced to inform and share knowledge, supporting the membership and the industry. Please note that all of the BSIF SIG Guidance are now available through QR codes.
Please do join in the groups and the debates.

Special Interest Group updates

The SIGs that operate within BSIF are as I said defined by specific areas of interest be that driven by product type or by area of risk. The SIGs are 

  • The Test and Certification Association
  • The Height Safety Group
  • The Respiratory Protection Group
  • The Eye Face, Head and Hearing
  • The Measurement and Instrumentation Group
  • The Safety Footwear Group
  • The Spill Containment and Control Group
  • The Protective Glove and Clothing Group
  • The Test and Certification Association

The sharp eyed amongst you will note that the group are actually of themselves an “association” with specific rules applied. Membership of the test and Certification is restricted to Conformity Assessment Bodies (in PPE) who have been approved by the Department for Business and Trade (DBT) to provide regulatory approval decisions for PPE. In addition other BSIF member companies who have independent laboratories accredited under ISO 17025 are also accepted into membership. Further, to give a 360 degree view, the chairs of our product based SIGs also participate and indeed there is participation from DBT, HSE, UKAS and Trading Standards. In design, this facilitates a consistent approach to conformity assessment formalised through the production of agreed process documents for implementing decisions. As you will imagine, in recent times the group have been singularly focused on the establishment of the UKCA/UKNI regime. While all the attention has been on UKCA and the work involved, we have had the government pivots on acceptance of CE, culminating in an “indefinite extension” of the same. We have to recognise that the UK Approved Bodies are excluded (post Brexit) from giving CE approvals and that their viability and the future of conformity assessment in the UK is now under threat.

The Protective Glove and Clothing SIG:
It probably does not take too much imagination to appreciate that this group has a very wide range in its’ portfolio with protective gloves and clothing covering a vast area of risks and hazards in the workplace. The number of product standards that apply is vast, from chemical to heat and flame to high visibility and protective clothing especially is often subject to multiple standards on individual products. The group is very well represented on the BSI PH committees and it benefits from comprehensive feedback from the PH committee members. Like all the SIGs Protective Glove and Clothing has produced many valuable pieces of guidance for their sector and that work continued in 2023. In 2024 there is likely to be more focus on gender specific workwear and there is likely to be a collaboration with the Chartered Institute of Building who are currently championing the “ppethatfits” campaign on social media. 

The Eye, Face, Head and Hearing SIG:
As the name suggests this group covers several PPE category areas but meets as a unit as the products are often worn in combination and often as an ensemble (such as hearing protectors attached to hard hats). The group has, it is fair to say, historically had a focus bias on hearing protection, but that has been addressed over recent years with the introduction of a champion from each of the categories who are able to lead in their particular area of interest. The level of activity in each of the categories can be depend on which standards are currently up for, or actively under review. Perhaps the most recent has been in Eye Protection where the updated EN 16321 suite of standards has been published. In Head protection interest ranges across multiple usage area from hard hats to firefighters helmets to equestrian helmets and all with their particular standards and challenges.
Hearing protection, of the categories in this group, is the only Category III risk area, with the products placed on the market under EN352, a standard which saw major revisions in 2021 and were reported on at that time. For many years the group has attempted to conclude the discussion around proper testing of hearing protection for small children, and indeed the benefits of “Fit Testing” this has not yet been resolved but work continues.

The Respiratory Protection SIG:
This group are a particularly active and engaged SIG working diligently in this critical risk category. A group whose expertise was called upon during the pandemic and one that is still concerned with product first placed on the market at that time. HSE produced a safety alert on ear loop masks and under UKCA designated standards there has been a move to put a restriction on any presumption of conformity to EHSR under EN149. However, this may not be acceptable given the Regulation precludes restricting design characteristics and it may be that the most appropriate way to control this product put-up is to enhance the total inward leakage (TIL) requirements of the standard, which in actual fact is currently under review. The SIG’s flagship guidance – Clean Air Take Care was originally due to be published in early 2023 but that has been held back until the beginning of 2024. Many of the SIG members also have interests in other respiratory stakeholder groups such as ISRP and BOHS and the SIG provides a perfect forum for effective collaboration. The “Respiratory” group also keeps a close interest in the Fit2Fit Competency scheme for face fitting as it is an essential part of respiratory protection when using tight fitting face masks to mitigate the risk.

The Spill Containment and Control SIG:
The “Spills” group is a diversion away from front-line PPE and safety however, PPE is very commonly sold as part of spill and clean-up kits and so the members need to stay alongside safety and regulatory requirements, in addition to their core areas of activity. Like the other elements of BSIF the “Spills” group are heavily focused on education and good practice with many holding the sought after BSIF Approval on their First Responders to Liquid Spills training courses. Unlike other SIGs where the Regulatory interface is with the HSE the participating regulator for this SIG is the Environment Agency (EA). We are fortunate now to have an engaged and motivated member of the EA participating. The EA are keen that we continue to develop the Environmental Safeguarding Advice documents and indeed develop these to accommodate new risks in developing technologies such as the challenges posed by lithium batteries. The Spills group has successfully breathed new life into the BSI Standard BS 7959 which was at risk of falling off the register.

The Height Safety SIG:
Working at height remains a major contributor to the country’s serious and fatal accident statistics and the BSIF SIG work tirelessly to improve that record and indeed the behaviours and competencies of those involved in the industry. They have created a dedicated BSIF Height Safety website containing much useful information. The Group have also been heavily involved in the publishing of guidance on BS 7883 a standard which provides best practice recommendations for those responsible for the design, installation, maintenance inspection and certification of anchorage systems and devices used in personal fall protection. The SIG under an expert working group has successfully created an NVQ level 3 Qualification for “Permanent Fall Protection – Installer” and this scheme is now actively taking registrations. I congratulate the group and the Trailblazer team on their achievements it has not always been plain sailing.
I would observe that the focus of the SIGs work is in the area of permanent fall protection, an incredibly technical discipline. Going forward there is room for more inclusion of fall protection apparatus and PPE.

The Safety Footwear SIG:
Safety footwear is another significant PPE category in volume and value. The SIG is active and one for lively debate. In last year’s Guide I mentioned that the group had become focussed on the difficulty of safety footwear placed on the market claiming protection from electrical hazard. The product in question was on the market under Category II when we all know that within the Regulation this is a Category III risk. The Group worked with HSE and the BSIF Test and Certification Association (Approved Bodies) in order to overcome the difficulties and be able to certify product to the correct category. There is a full explanation of the initiative in the Guide Safety Footwear section. Also in that section Lloyd Preston talks about the revision of the footwear standards and the updated “Jargon Busters” created to help the market understand what they are buying. A very useful document updated from 2022- I commend it to you.

And so to the future……….The work of the SIGs will continue apace however, we do have ambitions to include duty holders and users in the conversation and we will evaluate the practicality of extending involvement in that arena.
 

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Take the risk out of procurement 23/11/2023

In this article BSIF CEO Alan Murray discusses the progress that the BSIF is making in raising the profile of the Registered Safety Supplier (RSS) scheme and urges those who are not yet doing so to incorporate the scheme into their procurement processes.

The latest BSIF statistics1 show the availability of non-compliant PPE and safety equipment shows no signs of abating.

Between December 2021 and December 2022, the BSIF completed tests on 127 non-BSIF member products, which included checking their compliance with relevant standards and testing whether they perform as advertised. Only 18 products were fully compliant, with 108 - or 85% - failing to meet regulatory criteria.

Elsewhere, results from tests undertaken by the Office for Product Safety and Standards1 released in 2023 found that 80% of low-quality products bought from online marketplaces failed safety tests, with PPE regularly featuring in OPSS product recalls. This reinforces the BSIF's concerns that there is a serious problem with the availability of dangerous and non-compliant goods in the UK. 

By contrast, 86% of 387 tests carried out by the BSIF on products supplied by members of the BSIF's Registered Safety Supplier Scheme (RSSS) passed immediately. The issues around the remaining 14% were then resolved, and all 387 products are now fully compliant. 

Buyers' responsibilities

Anyone in charge of buying PPE and safety equipment has a responsibility to select appropriate, certified and compliant products that meet workers' specific requirements.

Due diligence is vital. Buyers must assess the extent to which a product is fit for purpose. They should also look for wearer benefits above and beyond basic protection and make sure it fits comfortably so that it performs correctly. They must also determine whether it is compatible with other PPE that may be required.

The BSIF has created a checklist to help specifiers and users check whether PPE is fit for purpose in line with regulatory requirements. It includes questions such as whether the PPE has a UKCA, UKNI or CE Mark; if it was issued with user instructions; and if there is a Declaration of Conformity. If any questions present cause for concern, users should seek support and guidance from their company's health & safety advisor and the manufacturer of the PPE. BSIF also offers an additional checklist featuring advice on how to check if the supporting documentation for PPE is in fact genuine.

Check-Select-Protect

As regular readers of the BSIF Guide will know, sourcing products from companies signed up to the Registered Safety Supplier Scheme (RSSS) is a simple way to fulfil your responsibilities as a buyer and cut the risk of inappropriate PPE selection and the serious consequences that can occur. 

The BSIF has been working hard in recent years to raise the profile of the Registered Safety Supplier Scheme and its work and to encourage businesses and organisations to include the Registered Safety Supplier Scheme within their prequalification criteria. 

In October 2022, the BSIF launched Check-Select-Protect, a campaign recommending that buyers and end users follow a simple three-step process to ensure their PPE and safety equipment is fit for purpose: 

  • CHECK your supplier is BSIF Registered. BSIF-audited suppliers are compliant, competent and trustworthy.

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

  • PROTECT your people, your most precious asset, and help your business to thrive.

Since its launch, the campaign has enjoyed widespread coverage across the trade press, at industry events and on social media, as well as via BSIF member communications. 

Industry support

We are happy to share that a growing number of public and private sector organisations have pledged their support for the Registered Safety Supplier scheme, with many organisations now insisting on only using Registered Safety Suppliers when procuring PPE and safety products. A complete list of supporters can be found here: www.registeredsafetysupplierscheme.co.uk/supporters/

One such supporter is Kevin Smith, procurement lead at Skanska, who is a strong advocate of the BSIF's work and the Registered Safety Supplier Scheme. Kevin explains: "We have worked with the BSIF since the pandemic when they provided crucial support in identifying bona fide PPE supplies to our workforce of over 3000 site-based, customer-facing employees.

"Without the assistance of BSIF, we would have without doubt procured non-compliant PPE, putting both our workforce and customers at risk of COVID. Bearing in mind that vaccinations were not yet available and death rates through COVID were high, BSIF assistance saved lives."

Speaking about the prevalence of substandard products on the market today, Kevin adds: "I have seen various examples of uncertified PPE, and many are visibly inferior to certified products. Part of the challenge is that many people will take a CE mark at face value and therefore won't realise that these marks may be fake and products may not in fact, be fit for purpose. 

Kevin concludes: “The Registered Safety Supplier Scheme ensures that PPE purchased is to the required standard and that we avoid inferior products that would put our workforce and employees at risk.” 

Gary Shout, group health, safety and environmental manager at Clegg Group is also an advocate of the Registered Safety Supplier Scheme. Gary explains: “While our subcontractors already undergo a thorough vetting process we are looking at incorporating the BSIF Registered Safety Supplier Scheme into our prequalification processes because it’s reassuring to know suppliers are part of an audited framework. Currently our subcontractors are expected to provide evidence that they are equipped with the appropriate PPE, health monitoring procedures, and other relevant measures as part of our Pre-Qualification (PQ) requirements. Asking them to use BSIF Registered Safety Suppliers will reinforce our commitment to high health and safety standards and provide us with additional confidence that our supply chain undergoes rigorous evaluation by an independent body.” 

Pledge your support

If you are interested in becoming a supporter of the BSIF Registered Safety Supplier scheme and specifying RSS for your supply chain, contact enquiries@bsif.co.uk. 

Looking ahead

Into 2024, the BSIF will continue to work to raise the profile of the Registered Safety Supplier scheme, which will include expanding our range of resources, articles and awareness work. We will also be honing in on specific product categories to provide a deeper insight into the potential pitfalls of making poor choices regarding individual categories of PPE and safety products.

As always, your comments and insight are welcome. If you are interested in sharing your views as a buyer or seller of PPE and safety equipment, please email georgina@blackthorn-media.co.uk

References
www.bsif.co.uk/1007039-2/
2 https://tinyurl.com/4kx8fvmx

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

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Reaching new heights 22/11/2023

The fall protection industry is developing training programmes to provide career paths – via Trailblazers – to ensure the competence of the workforce. Graham Willmott provides an update.

During 2023 and as we head into 2024 the Fall Protection Industry is developing training programmes to provide career paths, via Trailblazers, for those that design, install and inspect these safety critical products, thus ensuring the competence of the workforce.

BS 8681:2024 will provide a complementary Standard to BS 7883:2019 for the purpose of providing the duty holder (which may include construction contractors, building managers or building owners & property professionals) with the checks and balances to determine the competence and professionalism of all those manufacturers, designers, fabricators, installers and inspectors operating within the fall protection industry.

The duty holder or auditing organisation (Safety Schemes in Procurement - SSIP) may use this standard as part of their auditing process as the annexes provide a check list that auditors may adopt during an ISO accreditation audit of those involved in providing fall protection solutions.

The key features of BS 8681 include:

  • The duty holder:

The duty holder has the right to expect that their property is designed, built, and maintained in a way that is safe. Persons who need to access and maintain parts of the property need to have confidence and trust in the providers responsible for manufacturing, specifying designing, installing and inspecting the access equipment and that safety is a priority.

  • Competence:

Competence of all who provide services and products throughout the life of a building is key to achieving this outcome. This British Standard formulates minimum bench marking for duty holders and other interested parties to establish the capability and competence of those manufacturing, designing, installing and inspecting Personal Fall Protection Systems (PFPS).

  • Behaviours:

The role of all involved in fall protection (i.e., the providers) is about behaviours as much as competency. The approach taken in BSI Flex 8670, which is reflected in this British Standard, is to embed behaviours in the functions, activities and tasks that are required to manage the provision of personal fall protection systems.

  • The Functional Roles:

Each of the functional roles are defined with the requirements and responsibilities including competence and behaviours, to fulfil their roles. These are defined under the following headings: -

a) duty holders;

b) manufacturers;

c) system designers;

d) installers;

e) inspectors;

f) other interested parties, e.g., specifiers, architects and structural engineers, and those who are responsible for the design of safe access and egress on buildings and structures.

g) auditors

  • Requirements:

There are a number of requirements within the Standard. A selection of just a few are listed below:

  1. Competence

  2. Supervision

  3. Mentoring

  4. Assessment

  5. Process Audit

  6. Management System

  7. Record Keeping

  8. Trainers

  9. Assessment and certification of trainees on completion of the course

  10. Minimum information to be given on the certificate, or other documentary evidence, issued for the course.

  11. Annexes

To Assist the auditing process detailed annexes are being developed for the following:

  1. General Requirements

  2. Competence

  3. Supervision

  4. Mentoring

  5. Business Process 

  6. Auditing

  7. Management System

  8. Record Keeping

  9. Trainers

  10. Manufacturer/fabricator

  11. Contractor

  12. System Designer

  13. Structural Engineer

  14. Installer

  15. Inspector 

  •  Public Consultation:

The chance to comment on this document is likely to be the spring of 2024. We urge all those within the fall protection industry to add their thoughts and comments and make this a world-class standard.
This Standard will complement BS 7883:2019 which is a best practice document used by industry which is widely considered to be the most important document relating to the installation and inspection of anchor systems, not only in the UK but also throughout the world.

Trailblazer & CSCS Cards

To assist with the above the first fall protection industry Trailblazer has been developed for the occupation of the Personal Fall Protection Technician – Permanent Solutions. This qualification has been levelled at NVQ Level 3 and is available for registration now on the CSCS website. 

The timing of this NVQ level 3 qualification aligns with the Construction Leadership Council’s (CLC) requirement that all construction industry card schemes must operate with nationally recognised qualifications, such as NVQs. Industry Accredited schemes are being phased out and CSCS will cease renewing cards issued via Industry Accreditation from 30th June 2024, while all Industry Accredited cards issued from 1st Jan 2020 will expire on 31st Dec 2024 and will not be renewed.

Historically fall protection manufacturer courses have focused on the product and product standards. Few courses provide the required training for assessing the structure and connecting the fall protection system to the structure to ensure the system is fit for purpose. The new Trailblazer will help address these issues following the guidance of the revised 7883:2019 Standard and the forth coming standard BS8681:2024. This combination of training and standards, BS 7883 & BS8681, will provide a benchmark for the industry. 

Now the first NVQ Level 3 qualification has been developed, the Trailblazer employers’ group, is set to develop further NVQs for the fall protection industry and create a career path for individuals working in the industry.

Graham Willmott is chairman of the BSIF Height Safety Group. For more information, visit www.bsif.co.uk

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Hear tomorrow 29/11/2023

Noise Induced Hearing Loss (NIHL) can be avoided by wearing hearing protection. The right protection for the task in hand has to be worn correctly to offer maximum protection. Here, the BSIF Hearing Protection Special Interest Group provides some guidance.

Our hearing is one of our most vital senses. That is why it’s important to protect it. There were an estimated 11,000 prevalent cases of hearing problems caused or made worse by work over during the period of 2019/20 – 2021/22. 

Damage to our hearing due to industrial noise can contribute to hearing loss now and/or in later life. Hearing damage can easily be prevented by following the hierarchy of control which can also include the use of suitable hearing protectors. 

Hearing protectors are available in different versions e.g., earmuffs and earplugs. Earmuffs include headband version that can be worn over the head, neckband version that can be worn around the neck or earmuffs that can be attached to head protection and/or face protection. 

The latter requires a suitable carrier which can include industrial safety helmet, climbing helmet, face shields or rigid headtop of powered and supplied air respirator system. 

Most safety helmets have a facility, usually an accessory slot at each side, to allow them to be fitted with earmuffs and other accessories such as face shields. Also, many manufacturers offer helmet mounted earmuffs specifically designed for this purpose. Often the fitting points of the helmet and earmuff are of a ‘standard’ size and style, however, each combination needs to tested and CE/UKCA approved which is typically achieved against the performance requirement of the European Standard EN 352-3 (or its equivalent designated Standard as applicable in the UK for UKCA approval). Whilst it may be possible to physically attach earmuffs to safety helmets, it does not imply that the combination of helmet and hearing protectors in question are approved for use without appropriate testing as mentioned above. The approved combination typically lists the name and model identification of the safety helmet and earmuffs as well as information on sizing and adjustability i.e., small, medium or large size range, this information must be supplied with the product either on packaging or user instructions. It is perfectly acceptable to place a combination of helmet and earmuffs that fulfil one or two of the three size designations, so long as the packaging and user information features appropriate warning as per the European Standard EN 352-3 or its equivalent designated standard for UKCA approval.

To help ensure the earmuffs are correctly fitting the wearer and thus providing adequate protection, it is advisory to perform a fit check/fit test.

Fit Testing:

When selected as a control measure, hearing protector performance is critical to help ensure individual protection. There has been an emergence of commercially available systems that offer the capability of individually fit testing hearing protectors to assess how much attenuation an individual user is receiving based on the type of hearing protector, fitting technique and worker motivation. 

Hearing protection fit test systems either calculate a Personal Attenuation Rating (PAR) which is an estimation of the noise reduction obtained across test frequencies in one or both ears expressed as a single number or show a simple pass/fail with full attenuation characteristics. The time needed to conduct fit testing can range from a few seconds to 20 minutes dependant on test method. 

Recognised Fit Testing methods can be found in the ‘Hearing Protection fit Testing – An introductory Guide’ published by the UK Hearing Conservation Association (UKHCA).

Research suggests that users of hearing protection may receive less noise reduction than indicated by the attenuation value(s) on the packaging, due to variation in fit, fitting skill, and motivation of the user. To compensate for any poor fit, the label attenuation values are adjusted by applying a flat 4dB reduction to the overall laboratory data in the UK. An alternative and credible approach to address difference between field performance and laboratory generated data under controlled condition is to perform individual fit testing.

One of the key features determining the performance of earmuffs is the force produced by the spring arm. This is designed to maintain effective seal of the cushion around your ear. 

You may have selected the most suitable helmet for you or your workforce, and also the most appropriate earmuff for the noise hazard, taking into account ergonomics but without appropriate testing and approval of the combination system you cannot assume that the earmuff will provide the expected level of protection.

Both the helmet and the earmuffs should be CE and/or UKCA marked. This mark shows that a product meets the necessary regulatory requirements, however it does not tell you anything about its performance for any given application or task. 

There are different ways to gain the CE or UKCA approval mark but the most common is to have a product certified using a harmonised European or Designated Standard in the case of UKCA approval . For helmet mounted earmuffs the standard is EN352-3, and it requires products to be tested together and manufacturers to specify the models of helmet tested with the earmuffs.

There are many helmet manufacturers who produce earmuffs for use with their helmets. There are also many manufacturers who specialise in producing one or the other, and distributors will offer a range of both products to give you the best choice.

If you select products from different sources make sure the combined system is tested and certified against EN 352-3. In addition, it is advisory to perform Fit Testing of combination system..

Manufacturers are well aware of the situation and many co-operate to have their products tested together, so that the customer can select the combination they prefer as the most appropriate.

So, if you want to use an earmuff with a particular helmet, make sure they have been certified together. Remember, your ears may be covered but are you protected?

For more information the BSIF Special Interest Group for Hearing Protection have created more detailed guidance, look out for the ‘Just Because it Fits’ campaign that will be published during 2024.

This article has been supplied by the BSIF Hearing Protection Special Interest Group. For more information, visit www.bsif.co.uk

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