Plant & Works Engineering
It’s time to take a stand on fake PPE
Published:  08 July, 2011

Buying a fake watch may be illegal but it is unlikely to be life threatening.  Supplying fake personal protective equipment (PPE) however could be the difference between life and death.  The British Safety Industry Federation (BSIF) has recently stressed the importance of ensuring quality CE approved PPE is used, thereby protecting lives. PWE reports.


PPE is defined in the Regulations as “all equipment (including clothing affording protection against the weather) which is intended to be worn or held by a person at work and which protects him or her against one or more risks to his health and safety, e.g. safety helmets, gloves, eye protection, high-visibility clothing, safety footwear and safety harnesses” .  The main requirement of the PPE at Work Regulations 1992 is that personal protective equipment is to be supplied and used at work wherever there are risks to health and safety that cannot be adequately controlled in other ways.  The problem arises when organisations believe they are purchasing adequate PPE for the workforce, when in fact the products may be fake or illegal.

Unfortunately fake and illegal products being manufactured and sold within the PPE industry is an increasingly common problem.  Over recent years, a plethora of items have entered the market place, from gloves to high visibility vests, which have been produced using sub standard materials.  Often these products are finished such that, to the untrained eye, it is difficult, if not impossible, to identify that they are fake.

Due to the purpose of the equipment, PPE needs to meet stringent performance standards.  Quality, CE approved PPE meets and often exceeds these performance requirements and hence will protect individuals from hazards faced in the workplace.  The use of fake and illegal products could prove fatal. 

Obviously the size of this problem is something that cannot be fixed overnight but measures have been put in place to help combat the counterfeit PPE trend.   Ongoing communication between manufacturers and end-users is paramount.

David Lummis, chief executive officer of the BSIF comments:  “Many of these counterfeit products arrive in containers from the Far East and can be readily purchased via online auction sites or from street markets.  It is quite easy to buy containers of ‘safety’ equipment direct and of course without the correct quality control procedures in place, the buyer will not have a clue what they are purchasing, thereby endangering lives.” 

He continues: “It is not really surprising that purchasers of PPE are now more wary about procuring items as there is general confusion over certified products, mainly due to the counterfeit items, falsified certifications and the potentially confusing CE symbol that stands for ‘China Export’.  Nevertheless, there are measures at hand to ensure employers are buying and supplying the correct equipment.”

The BSIF introduced the Registered Safety Supplier Scheme in 2009 that allows members to identify themselves as having made a formal declaration that they are selling only products which are genuine and legal.  This declaration is, as a condition of the scheme, audited through special provisions set out within the company’s ISO9001 Certification.  Under the Registered Safety Supplier Scheme this independent audit is one of the key requirements to independently verify conformance; it is the BSIF’s belief that the independent audit is a key part of the robustness of the scheme.  The BSIF actively promotes this scheme to its members and encourages end users to look for the shield to guarantee compliance, performance and quality.   The Registered Safety Supplier Scheme acts as a signpost for people to ensure that they can buy from a reputable company whom they can trust to supply genuine legal products and provide good advice.

Lummis concludes:  “Certified goods will always be paramount in the health and safety  world and being extra vigilent when looking after your workforce is essential when health and lives are at risk.  By just being aware of the type of counterfeit items available on the marketplace and remembering that offers that seem ‘too good to be true’ usually are, is a step in the right direction.  Purchasing the right PPE is a big responsibility and safety equipment that doesn’t perform properly isn’t just inconvenient, it may actually cost lives.”


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