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From the CEO's desk

30 September 2013

The recent editorial comment from Georgina Bisby of Health & Safety Matters (How not to get stung!) highlights concerns about advice from safety suppliers which warrants some further comment.

I am reminded of the phrase, ‘a bad workman blames his tools’ but this is too sweeping a statement and will quite possibly divert you from reading further. Firstly when protecting workers, it is the responsibility of an employer to conduct a risk assessment of the hazards faced and to use this as the basis to ensure correct protection of his or her workforce. This includes ensuring appropriate measures are in place, where possible, to remove the hazards and if this is not possible, to prevent harm to the workers by providing safety equipment.

Often questions from the employers to suppliers relate to the most appropriate type of PPE to overcome the hazard. The supplier is only able to advise on the information provided and without access to the risk assessment this can be limited. It should also be remembered, as Georgina’s article states, the array of situations is so vast it is very difficult to give a definitive answer without extensive investigation.

Since the responsibility for selection rests with the employer, all proposals of appropriate PPE must be considered against the risk assessment and the employer’s knowledge of the hazard. It is unlikely that a specialist in a particular product type or service will cover all the other aspects of the situation known only to the employer, hence the responsibility on the employer to make the choice.

In order to make this selection process simpler, the British Safety Industry Federation (BSIF) introduced the Registered Safety Supplier Scheme (RSSS) in 2009. Suppliers who are a member of this scheme will have been audited to confirm that the business complies with the strict requirements of the scheme and that the products they supply are compliant with regulations, are legal and genuine. Companies who participate in this scheme are easily identified as they display the Scheme’s shield with pride. This scheme gives buyers peace of mind that they are working with reputable and trustworthy companies

It is also important to note that the industry is not based on highly incentivised earnings. This is to avoid safety representatives being driven to ‘push’ either quantities or the most rewarding products. We know that employer protection is the most fundamental requirement and this is the key driver. Repeat business and maintaining customers so that they continue to keep their workforce healthy and safe is much better business.

To avoid getting stung we advise using protection, don’t shoot the messenger for that.

David Lummis, CEO

British Safety Industry Federation