The British Safety Industry Federation (BSIF) has sounded the alarm over the prevalence of substandard personal protective equipment (PPE), raising concerns among those responsible for procurement and safety standards.
Between December 2022 and December 2023, the BSIF conducted extensive tests on 123 non-member products, evaluating their advertised performance, marking adequacy, and compliance with safety standards.
Shockingly, only 21% of these products—26 in total—were found to be fully compliant, leaving a staggering 79%—a total of 97 products—falling short of the testing criteria. These findings highlight a significant risk to users, as many of these substandard products remain available and in use.
“Buyers and specifiers must urgently reassess their procurement processes and ensure that the PPE and safety equipment they source meet necessary standards,” emphasised BSIF CEO Alan Murray. “Our latest findings reveal a concerning prevalence of inadequate and substandard PPE, posing serious risks to unsuspecting users.”
Examples of failures identified among non-member products are deeply troubling. For instance, a Flame Retardant Parka purchased from an online retailer failed flame spread testing catastrophically, with the outer layer burning through and exposing the inner layer to flames. Similarly, safety boots from the same retailer failed toe cap compression tests and lacked proper documentation and markings.
Furthermore, safety spectacles acquired from a high street retailer failed an impact resistance test, with lenses cracking upon impact with a projectile. Despite assurances to remove the product from sale, it remained available months later. Additionally, three pairs of protective gloves from another high street retailer failed abrasion testing and were found to be incorrectly marked and lacking documentation.
“Investing in reliable and certified PPE is paramount to ensuring worker safety,” remarked Murray. “It is imperative that buyers prioritise sourcing from reputable suppliers who adhere to stringent safety standards.”
In contrast, tests conducted on products supplied by BSIF Registered Safety Suppliers yielded significantly better results. Out of 348 tests conducted between December 2022 and December 2023, 91% of products—315 in total—passed immediately. All issues were promptly addressed and rectified, even for the 9% initially falling short.
For those seeking reliable PPE sources, Murray recommended looking for the BSIF Registered Safety Supplier shield, indicating compliance with regulations and necessary markings.
The BSIF’s latest warning underscores the critical need for vigilance in sourcing PPE to safeguard worker safety across various industries.