The British Safety Industry Federation (BSIF) has issued a warning to those overseeing personal protective equipment (PPE) and safety product procurement after their latest tests on non-member products highlight the widespread availability of substandard and even dangerous items.
Between December 2022 and December 2023, the BSIF examined 123 non-member products, assessing advertised performance, marking adequacy and compliance with standards. Shockingly, only 21% – 26 products – proved fully compliant, leaving a staggering 79%—97 products—falling short of testing criteria. Worryingly, many of these substandard products are still available and in use, posing serious risks to unsuspecting users.
Examples of non-member product failures
Some examples of products from non-BSIF-registered members that failed testing include a Flame Retardant Parka, bought from an online retailer. During flame spread testing, the outer layer burnt through, exposing the inner layer, which then caught fire, resulting in the entire coat being consumed by flames. The garment also lacked correct documentation and markings in line with PPE Regulation requirements. A pair of safety boots from the same retailer failed toe cap compressions tests. They were also over ten years old and supplied with outdated certification, didn’t have the correct documentation and were not correctly marked.
Elsewhere, a pair of safety spectacles, acquired from a high street retailer failed an impact resistance test, with lenses cracking/breaking when struck by a projectile. The spectacles also lacked markings and the required documentation. Despite promises to remove the product from sale, it was still available over two months later.
Three pairs of protective gloves from a high street retailer failed testing against abrasion, returning just half the claimed performance level. They were also incorrectly marked and missing the required documentation. When contacted by the BSIF, the retailer said they would take action but the products were still on sale four months later.
Meanwhile, a Respiratory Protective Mask (FFP3) purchased from a PPE distributor performed at only half the required level during filter penetration tests against contaminants and had missing documentation. When contacted, the distributor didn’t act to remove the product from sale or initiate a recall.
BSIF member test results
The non-member test result findings sharply contrast the results of tests conducted on products supplied by BSIF Registered Safety Suppliers, who are committed to only selling certified PPE and trading honestly and ethically. Of the 348 tests completed on products from Registered Safety Suppliers between December 2022 and December 2023, 91% – 315 products – passed immediately. Even for the 9% – 33 products – initially falling short, all issues were promptly addressed and rectified.
Check for the BSIF Shield
For buyers and end users seeking assurance, the BSIF Shield is a respected mark of credibility. Companies displaying this shield have pledged a binding declaration that their offered PPE and safety equipment meets the correct standards, fully complies with regulations, and bears the necessary UKCA and/or CE markings. Choosing a Registered Safety Supplier ensures not only genuine products fit for purpose but also authentic information and guidance.
Commenting on the latest statistics, BSIF CEO Alan Murray says: “Our latest test results show that you don’t have to look very far to find examples of inadequate and substandard PPE and safety equipment for sale in the UK. Shockingly, many unsuspecting users are relying on these compromised products for their safety.
“Buyers and specifiers must urgently review their procurement processes and consider what assurances they have that the PPE and safety equipment they are being supplied with is fit for purpose.
“Checking for the BSIF Registered Safety Supplier shield is the easiest way to ensure you only deal with compliant, competent and trustworthy suppliers. Remember, anyone can sell safety, but you shouldn’t buy safety from just anyone; always check for the shield.”
For a full list of Registered Safety Suppliers, visit: www.registeredsafetysupplierscheme.co.uk/