David Lummis, chief executive officer at the British Safety Industry Federation discusses the importance of manufacturers purchasing Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) from reliable, professional sources and the need to make sure Respiratory Protective Equipment (RPE) fits correctly.
Manufacturing is currently the third largest sector in the UK economy in terms of share of UK GDP and in 2009 the sector employed some 2.6 million people, representing around 8.5% of the total UK employment. Due to the varied risks in this sector, it is pivotal for employers to provide the correct PPE ensuring their employees are protected on a daily basis. The impact of inappropriate or ill fitting equipment could be potentially huge, on the economy, industry and of course the individual.
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 and unfortunately it is now a common problem. Over recent years, a plethora of items have entered the market place, from gloves to high visibility vests, that 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.
In order to avoid purchasing and using fake and illegal PPE it is vital for manufacturers to talk to companies they know they can trust to provide them with quality advice. By developing relationships with PPE providers who are both professional and reliable, manufacturers will be able to purchase the right equipment, for the right people.
One way to ensure the above is to buy from an independently audited source. In 2009, the BSIF introduced its Registered Safety Supplier Scheme that allows its members to identify themselves as having made a formal declaration that they are selling only products that 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. The 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.
Additionally, the BSIF also runs the ‘Fit2Fit RPE Fit Test Providers Accreditation Scheme’ that highlights the need for RPE to be fitted properly. This Scheme was implemented after it emerged that, for many workers, RPE does not offer the correct level of protection. The ‘Fit2Fit RPE Fit Test Providers Accreditation Scheme’ allows individuals to demonstrate to the manufacturer that they have a thorough knowledge of the HSE guidelines on fit testing and that they know how to fit test in practical circumstances.
The ‘world of health and safety’ can be a bewildering subject but the BSIF is on hand to help. Amongst other things, the Federation has a comprehensive website that provides a wealth of information regarding health and safety practices as well as further information on its many campaigns.
The BSIF also provides up to date and useful information to its members and is also heavily involved in standards issues and lobbying, all of which have the overall aim to make the workplace a safer place.