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May 1, 2024

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PPE

Are you meeting your responsibilities as a buyer of PPE and safety equipment?

In this article, BSIF CEO Alan Murray discusses the responsibilities of buyers of PPE and safety equipment and explains how incorporating the Registered Safety Supplier (RSS) scheme into your procurement processes can help. 

The latest BSIF statistics show the availability of non-compliant PPE and safety equipment shows no signs of abating.

Alan Murray, CEO of BSIF

Between December 2022 and December 2023, the BSIF examined 123 non-member products, assessing advertised performance, marking adequacy and compliance with standards.

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.

The non-member test result findings sharply contrast the results of tests conducted on products supplied by BSIF Registered Safety Suppliers (RSS), who are committed to only selling certified PPE and trading honestly and ethically.

Of the 348 tests completed on products from RSS 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.

What responsibilities do PPE and safety equipment buyers have? 

Anyone in charge of buying PPE and safety equipment has a responsibility to select appropriate, certified and compliant products that meet workers’ specific requirements.

Due diligence is vital.

Buyers must assess the extent to which a product is fit for purpose. You should also look for wearer benefits above and beyond basic protection and make sure it fits comfortably so that it performs correctly. You must also determine whether it is compatible with other PPE that may be required.

The BSIF has created a checklist to help specifiers and users check whether PPE is fit for purpose in line with regulatory requirements. It includes questions such as whether the PPE has a UKCA, UKNI or CE Mark; if it was issued with user instructions; and if there is a Declaration of Conformity.

If any questions present cause for concern, users should seek support and guidance from their company’s health & safety advisor and the manufacturer of the PPE. BSIF also offers an additional checklist featuring advice on how to check if the supporting documentation for PPE is in fact genuine.


Further reading: Why health and safety practitioners must do more when it comes to PPE


Check-Select-Protect 

Sourcing products from companies signed up to the RSS scheme is a simple way to fulfil your responsibilities as a buyer and cut the risk of inappropriate PPE selection and the serious consequences that can occur.

The BSIF recommends that buyers and end users follow a simple three-step process to ensure their PPE and safety equipment is fit for purpose:

  • CHECK your supplier is BSIF Registered. BSIF-audited suppliers are compliant, competent and trustworthy.
  • SELECT appropriate, certified and approved products. Registered Safety Suppliers can support the product selection process through their competence, capability and knowledge.
  • PROTECT your people, your most precious asset, and help your business to thrive.

Industry support

We are happy to share that a growing number of public and private sector organisations have pledged their support for the RSS scheme, with many organisations now insisting on only using RSS when procuring PPE and safety products. A complete list of supporters can be found here.

One such supporter is Kevin Smith, Procurement Lead at Skanska, who is a strong advocate of the BSIF’s work and the Registered Safety Supplier Scheme.

Kevin explains: “We have worked with the BSIF since the pandemic when they provided crucial support in identifying bona fide PPE supplies to our workforce of over 3000 site-based, customer-facing employees.

coronavirus face mask“Without the assistance of BSIF, we would have without doubt procured non-compliant PPE, putting both our workforce and customers at risk of COVID. Bearing in mind that vaccinations were not yet available and death rates through COVID were high, BSIF assistance saved lives.”

Speaking about the prevalence of substandard products on the market today, Kevin adds: “I have seen various examples of uncertified PPE, and many are visibly inferior to certified products. Part of the challenge is that many people will take a CE mark at face value and therefore won’t realise that these marks may be fake and products may not in fact, be fit for purpose.

Kevin concludes: “The Registered Safety Supplier Scheme ensures that PPE purchased is to the required standard and that we avoid inferior products that would put our workforce and employees at risk.”

Gary Shout, Group Health, Safety and Environmental Manager at Clegg Group is also an advocate of the Registered Safety Supplier Scheme. Gary explains: “While our subcontractors already undergo a thorough vetting process we are looking at incorporating the BSIF Registered Safety Supplier Scheme into our prequalification processes because it’s reassuring to know suppliers are part of an audited framework.

“Currently our subcontractors are expected to provide evidence that they are equipped with the appropriate PPE, health monitoring procedures, and other relevant measures as part of our Pre-Qualification (PQ) requirements.

“Asking them to use BSIF Registered Safety Suppliers will reinforce our commitment to high health and safety standards and provide us with additional confidence that our supply chain undergoes rigorous evaluation by an independent body.”

Pledge your support

If you are interested in becoming a supporter of the BSIF Registered Safety Supplier scheme and specifying RSS for your supply chain, contact [email protected].

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