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Spots a fake

10 December 2013

There have been several warnings by the TUC and others about an influx of illegal PPE being brought into the UK by unscrupulous importers. Such PPE is putting lives at risk, either because the products were made for use in countries outside Europe that have lower standards, or because they are imitations. Technical director at JSP, Matthew Judson discusses the issues surrounding counterfeit PPE and explains how the company is innovating to outlaw these products from the UK market.

Genuine, quality, PPE from reputable manufacturers will protect the wearer from exposure to injury from unseen dangers while it is being worn, but PPE is worse than useless if it does not come up to scratch, or is bogus. So how can you tell?

Counterfeit PPE
Safety trade body the British Safety Industry Federation (BSIF) recently highlighted the discovery of counterfeit copies of a JSP helmet, that did not meet the requirements of British and European Standard EN397, in international circulation. The BSIF advised that these dangerous fake helmets, which could be split in half simply by squeezing both sides simultaneously, should be immediately destroyed.

Consequences of using fake PPE 
The consequences of using phony PPE are potentially devastating, ranging from blindness from wearing a substandard face shield and lung disease from a fake face mask to death from falling objects landing on a substandard helmet on a construction site. The only way to ensure a product is providing the vital protection it should is to verify that it is bona fide.

How to avoid counterfeit or substandard products
There are several ways of verifying the provenance of PPE. The BSIF’s Registered Safety Supplier Scheme (RSSS), which ensures that all PPE is tested to the stipulated performance requirements and CE marked in accordance with the PPE Regulations 2002, goes some way towards ensuring PPE is legal and safe, but even CE marks can be faked.

PPE can now also be checked online. An instant, real-time, method of tracing and validating the majority of its range of head protection is via JSP’s new online PPE verification system, JSP Check. Each helmet can be quickly and easily checked via its individual personal manufacturing barcode to verify its authenticity, so giving users complete confidence in the origin and quality of their PPE.

JSP is the first PPE manufacturer to offer this new tool, which enables straightforward tracing and validation of its products and their DNA in a matter of minutes and is available at: www.jspcheck.com. The user simply enters the data on to the dedicated website, clicks ‘verify’ and receives the response in less than one minute. The check can be performed on any PC, laptop, tablet or smartphone from anywhere in the world.

Each barcode reveals everything about the helmet’s origin, including materials used, machine settings, batch control and testing information, as well as pinpointing the place, date and time of manufacture of the helmet to the second, making every JSP helmet unique, with its own personal identity.

JSP Check has been praised by the BSIF. "JSP Check is an excellent initiative,” said Frank Angear, BSIF general manager.  "In an ideal world, the BSIF would want all manufacturers to provide a similar service, as we consider it an excellent innovation.”

The importance of traceability
Organisations must by law keep their workers and others safe, but they are also at risk of loss of reputation if they supply PPE that is not up to standard. The number of prosecutions for corporate manslaughter is growing rapidly, and saw a 40 per cent increase in cases from 2011 to 2012, with many more in the pipeline. 

In addition, the European Directive 89/686/EEC, which governs PPE, is currently under review, with a new PPE Directive that will add products, increase consistency across Europe and extend responsibility from manufacturers out to distributors and wholesalers coming into force in 2014. 

Ensuring that PPE is what is says it is, and will do the job it is designed to do, is now even more vital. The only way to avoid injury, fatality and prosecution is to make sure authentic products are procured and worn. Verification can be done in a matter of seconds, so there can be no justification for risking the lives and health of workers.