Wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) in the workplace can be a lifesaver. Workers, and their employers, rely on their PPE to protect them from injury and, in extreme circumstances, death, from unseen dangers. When a piece of equipment is substandard, or counterfeit, the consequences can be dire. So what can be done to ensure PPE is the real thing, asks Matthew Judson, technical director, JSP

Last year the TUC warned of an influx of illegal PPE being brought into the UK by unscrupulous importers that is putting lives at risk, either because the products were made for use in countries outside Europe that have lower standards, or because they are fakes.

And safety trade body the British Safety Industry Federation (BSIF) flagged up earlier this year the international circulation of counterfeit copies of a JSP helmet that did not meet the requirements of British and European Standard EN397. These fake helmets could be split in half simply by squeezing both sides simultaneously. The BSIF advised the immediate destruction of these extremely dangerous helmets.

Consequences of fake PPE

In an environment where there is a risk of falling objects landing on the head, a worker wearing a substandard helmet could be killed. Or they could be blinded if wearing a substandard face shield while breaking concrete blocks, for example. If a dust mask is fake, the wearer may be inhaling hazardous substances, that could include asbestos, without knowing, until it is too late. The only way to ensure a product is providing protection is if it is a proper product that has been properly verified.

Avoid counterfeit, substandard products

There are several ways of verifying the provenance of PPE. The BSIF’s Registered Safety Supplier Scheme (RSSS), which ensures that all PPE is tested to the stipulated performance requirements and CE marked in accordance with the PPE Regulations 2002 goes some way towards ensuring PPE is legal and safe, but even CE marks can be counterfeited.

An instant, real-time, method of tracing and validating the majority of its range of head protection is via JSP’s new online PPE verification system, JSP Check. Each helmet can be quickly and easily checked via its individual personal manufacturing barcode to verify its authenticity, so giving users confidence in the origin and quality of their PPE.

JSP offers this new tool, which enables straightforward tracing and validation of its products and their DNA in minutes and is available at www.jspcheck.com. The user enters the data on to the dedicated website, clicks ‘verify’ and receives the response in less than one minute. The check can be performed on any PC, laptop, tablet or smart phone from anywhere in the world.

Each barcode reveals everything about the helmet’s origin, including materials used, machine settings, batch control and testing information, as well as pinpointing the place, date and time of manufacture of the helmet to the second, making every JSP helmet unique, with its own personal identity. 

JSP Check has recieved the BSIF seal of approval. “JSP Check is an excellent initiative,” says Frank Angear, BSIF general manager. “In an ideal world, the BSIF would want all manufacturers to provide a similar service, as we consider it an excellent innovation.”

Wayne Bishop, a health and safety officer at Thomas Vale Construction, who has used the system, says: “I think JSP Check is of great value to wearers, or persons purchasing helmets, to guarantee the authenticity of the product and therefore the protection provided to the user.”

The importance of traceability

Aside from the necessity to keep workers safe, organisations also risk their reputation if they supply PPE that is not up to standard. The number of prosecutions for corporate manslaughter is growing rapidly, and saw a 40 per cent increase in cases from 2011 to 2012, with many more in the pipeline.

In addition, the European Directive 89/686/EEC, which governs PPE, is currently under review, with a new PPE Directive that will add products, increase consistency across Europe and extend responsibility from manufacturers out to distributors and wholesalers coming into force in 2014. Ensuring that PPE is what is says it is and will do the job it is designed to do is even more vital.

The only way to avoid injury, fatality and prosecution is to make sure genuine products are procured. Fake products can kill. Since verification can be done in a matter of seconds, there is no justification for risking the lives and health of workers.


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