Majority of PPE from non-registered providers fails BSIF tests

Substandard and potentially dangerous items of PPE remain widely available and in use in the UK, posing serious risks to users.

Between December 2022 and December 2023, the British Safety Industry Federation examined 123 non-member products, assessing advertised performance, marking adequacy and compliance with standards. BSIF said that just 21% – 26 products – proved fully compliant, leaving some 79% – 97 products – falling short of testing criteria.

Some examples of products that failed testing include a respiratory protective mask (FFP3) purchased from a PPE distributor that 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.

In other findings, 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 They were also over ten years old and supplied with outdated certification, did not have the correct documentation and were not correctly marked.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.

Commenting on the findings, 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."

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