The British Safety Industry Federation (BSIF) has warned businesses to be on alert for fake safety products on the market.

It warns that illegal safety equipment can be hard to distinguish and in many instances goes unnoticed until an accident occurs. The BSIF says it has seen examples of non-conforming high visibility vests, safety helmets and prescription safety glasses as well as other items.

The BSIF liaises closely with its members, including test houses, to look out for and react to fake and illegal personal protective equipment (PPE). The Federation also works closely with Trading Standards and Local Government Regulation, the national co-ordinating body, the HSE and BIS.

David Lummis, Chief Executive Officer at the BSIF, commented: “At any one time, the BSIF can be helping to investigate a number of incidents regarding illegal, non-conforming safety equipment that we have been made aware of either through our members or the public.

“A recent example of such an investigation was when it was brought to the attention of the BSIF that prescription safety glasses were being sold as CE approved safety equipment, when in fact certification had not yet been granted. The BSIF became involved in this enquiry which led to the product being withdrawn from the marketplace until it had gained the required certification and the supplier/manufacturer was asked to write letters to its purchasers to apologise.

“The actions carried out by this organisation were illegal; the people using the non-conforming safety glasses were therefore being subjected to unnecessary risk. However through one of our members ‘raising the alarm’ we were able to help ensure that the situation was rectified with the much-needed preventative measures put into place.”

He added: “Additionally, in March this year an importer of ‘low value’ safety helmets was taken to court by trading standards for supplying non-conforming products, plus a major fall arrest harness manufacturer indicated that there may be supplies of counterfeit products from its range available in the European market.”

David concludes: “Being extra vigilent when looking after your workforce is essential when health and lives are at risk. By just being aware of the type of counterfeit items available on the marketplace and remembering that offers that seem ‘too good to be true’ usually are, is a step in the right direction.

“Purchasing the right PPE is a big responsibility and safety equipment that doesn’t perform properly isn’t just inconvenient, it may actually cost lives. We urge you to continue to remain vigilant on such matters and together we can help contribute to stamping out this unscrupulous behaviour.”

The BSIF introduced the Registered Safety Supplier Scheme in 2009 that lists businesses which have identified 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.