The risks of poor PPE - how to make sure you're getting the genuine article

The risks of poor PPE - how to make sure you're getting the genuine article

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Personal protective equipment (PPE) has been one of the hot topics of the year so far, with the impact of the coronavirus pandemic meaning protecting the health of workforces up and down the country has been and continues to be more important than ever.

However, a stark warning has been made to businesses purchasing PPE for their staff to ensure they are investing in the correct equipment to meet the requirements of specific roles and to be aware of fake PPE that will offer limited to no protection.

What are the dangers of fake PPE?

PPE is especially important for communications engineers working in people's homes or public spaces, as the potential for a greater number of interactions with the general public can significantly increase the risk of infection.

Fake PPE is therefore especially dangerous and insidious. It can lead to a false sense of security and a growing risk of increasing the spread of coronavirus at a time when infection rates in most parts of the UK are sustainably falling.

James Pink, senior director of global health and safety organisation at NSF International, told the Guardian: "The risk is that there is non-conforming product out there giving us all a false assurance of safety.

"A lot of companies are not used to purchasing PPE, or just do it for occupational risk, rather than protecting against a communicable infectious agent."

In both of these instances, the use of unsuitable or sub-standard PPE could result in a significant risk to personal and public wellbeing. Due diligence on the part of employers is therefore essential to safeguarding the health of staff and that of the wider public.

How can you be sure it's genuine?

According to BSI Group - the UK standards body - a spate of fake goods have recently been seen in the UK, with the organisation warning a number of manufacturers have been selling medical face masks and other PPE for healthcare applications on the back of false certificates.

Gail Cartmail, assistant general secretary at trade union Unite, commented: "It is totally unacceptable that fake PPE is available and those willing to put workers' lives at risk by making and selling the fakes must be dealt with extremely harshly."

Genuine PPE will have the correct quality certification as determined under EU regulations - this is reflected in a CE quality mark with the number of the notified body. For example, FFP2 and FFP3 protective masks are category III PPE, meaning the manufacturer is obliged to issue an EU Declaration of Conformity that must accompany the PPE, together with instructions for use.

To help to ensure the PPE being bought by businesses for their staff is genuine, BSI stated employers should check certifications through the body's online VerifEye directory. Users can enter the name of the equipment provider or the certificate number and BSI will verify if a certification is genuine.

Alternatively, buyers may be provided with an original pdf certificate from the supplier when making a purchase of PPE. If this is the case, they can follow the link at the bottom of this certificate to determine if it is valid or not.

In each case, it remains vital that businesses only purchase PPE from trusted suppliers and ensure they have the correct certification to provide assurance that the equipment is suitable for purpose and effective in stopping the spread of coronavirus.

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