Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

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Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) has been a hot topic over the last few months as the shortages and difficulties in procuring products have been felt across all industries that would regularly use them for protecting their workforce.

In particular Respiratory Protective Equipment (RPE) has seen a huge increase in demand, not just in the workplace, but also as a means for protection by the general public. With face masks and face coverings being made compulsory in large amounts of society, it is vital that the right products are sourced for the situations they will be used within.

This increase in demand for RPE has been seen as an opportunity by some to move into the sales of these lifesaving products. This may be their first attempt at selling any kind of PPE and the knowledge of the products may not be as it should. The market place has been flooded with non-compliant and fake products originating from sellers that have no experience with this highly regulated industry. The concern being, that someone buying RPE will not know what they are looking for and purchase an item that will not actually end up protecting them. In the normal world you would look to the supplier to advise, but with PPE being available from so many new sources, the expertise from the seller have been compromised.

It is also vital to stress that tight fitting RPE must be fit tested by a competent fit tester. Having a fit test will ensure that the sourced mask fits the wearer and therefore offers protection from the hazard. Fit testers who are accredited through the fit2fit scheme (www.fit2fit.org) will have experience of many different masks and using an accredited fit tester could help with mask selection as they may be able to identify non-compliant versions more easily than a first time user of RPE.

Investigations have been launched into several products and BSIF have reported well over 200 companies to Trading Standards for selling products that do not comply with the industry standards and therefore should not be being sold. There have even been links to organised crime relating to PPE offers and sales.

In this instance PPE has been offered for sale with fake or non-compliant certification, every item of PPE sold has to be produced to a certain standard, this is checked by a notified body or test house who then independently certifies that the item of PPE meets the standard and is therefore safe to use. That test house must have the ability to certificate PPE, which in the case here it did not. Where is the danger here? Well it is in the fact that the product appears to be compliant and could be trusted but actually it is not and could result in wearers of the products being exposed to hazards they believed they were protected against due to the product not performing as it should do.

With so many new users of PPE it is safe to say that a lot will not have experience of purchasing these products let alone using them and so there is a real danger that exploitation could be taking place. The regulator for Health & Safety in the UK, The Health & Safety Executive (HSE), recently confiscated over 1.5million face masks due to them being non-compliant. This is just an example of the ones that have been identified.

So, if you have now been told that you need to consider PPE within the workplace, how can you be sure you can purchase equipment safely and know that the products you are purchasing will provide the expected protection? This is where the Registered Safety Supplier Scheme comes in.

BSIF has created the Registered Safety Supplier scheme (RSSS) to support the UK safety market. Companies displaying the scheme’s logo have signed a binding declaration that the safety equipment and services they offer meet the appropriate standards, fully complies with the PPE regulations and is appropriately CE marked.

The Mission of the scheme is to provide assurance to users that only compliant and correctly performing products are being supplied through a capable, educated, competent supply chain. The scheme provides a recognized route to enable a member to demonstrate compliance with due diligence, discharging the obligations of an economic operator under PPE Regulation (EU) 2016/425.

A Registered Safety Supplier Scheme member;

  • Formally declares and commits to selling only Certified PPE and safety products that perform to claims made
  • Submits their products to random independent scheme testing
  • Commits to having their customer facing staff educated and accredited in the Safe Supply Course
  • Maintains a company Quality Policy
  • Holds necessary authorisation for service provision
  • As a Federation member trades honestly and ethically

Who benefits;

  • The purchasers and end users of safety products and PPE – with product that performs as it should
  • The purchasers and users of safety products and PPE – sourced from capable, value adding suppliers
  • The obligations of a Registered Safety Supplier

Completing a formal, binding declaration that all products will comply with the requirements of applicable legislation and that any specific product performance claims are genuine

Having the capability to manage a product recall process and take other corrective actions and maintaining a quality policy which includes the BSIF prescribed statement

For PPE, submitting to the testing of one product per year (randomly selected from their offering) to indicative performance clauses to any standards for which certification is claimed. This audit will include all relevant documentation

For Safety Equipment outside of mainstream PPE, not regulated by publicly available Standards and audit of relevant documentation and assessment of claims will be made against one product/service for the published range P.A.

For organisations authorised by manufacturers to service, calibrate and or re-certify products, submitting an audit of the manufacturer’s authorisation

Proof of adequate liability insurance

Commitment to educate and accredit customer facing staff within the BSIF Safe Supply Qualification

For Distributors/Importers of PPE, demonstration that they comply with the “Obligations and Responsibilities” required by (EU) 2016/425 through maintenance of the audited Compliance Protocol

BSIF encourage the companies who purchase PPE to sign up to become a Supporter of the scheme. Supporters agree that they will always try to buy from a company that is a member of the RSS Scheme meaning that they recognise the vital importance of sourcing PPE that does its job properly and can be relied upon. Companies that sign up to be Supporters show their commitment to safety in the workplace and this is recognised by the RSS Scheme by putting their logo onto the website to highlight the commitment made.

To find a Registered Safety Supplier you can go to the dedicated website www.registeredsafetysupplierscheme.co.uk and use the ‘Suppliers’ tab. This will give you a full list of the members of the scheme and will help you to source products from those that know what they are talking about and have years of experience within the PPE industry.

Remember, ‘anyone can sell safety, but you shouldn’t buy safety from just anyone’.