Illegal equipment puts pharma workers in danger

November 6, 2009
Stephanie Sutton

Stephanie Sutton was an assistant editor at Pharmaceutical Technology Europe.

Pharmaceutical Technology Europe

The prevalence of substandard or counterfeit safety products and personal protective equipment (PPE) has become a "very serious" problem in the UK, according to the British Safety Industry Federation (BSIF), and could be putting workers in the pharma industry at risk.

The prevalence of substandard or counterfeit safety products and personal protective equipment (PPE) has become a "very serious" problem in the UK, according to the British Safety Industry Federation (BSIF), and could be putting workers in the pharma industry at risk.

Speaking to Pharmaceutical Technology Europe (PTE), Geoff Hooke, BSIF Secretariat, explained that the BSIF receives numerous reports of substandard equipment that does not perform to the standards being claimed, as well as equipment with falsified CE certificates and counterfeit copies of proprietary products.

"The BSIF has received some 15 reports during the past month of products that are 'unsafe' in some way or do not do what they claim," Hooke said to PTE. "During the same period, we have been advised of more than 20 instances of fraudulent product documentation for PPE, which are regulated products with false certification where original certificates have been over-written with different brand names, notified bodies have been changed and the identity of the manufacturer has been altered."

Although the BSIF does not have any statistics or information on the European market, it believes that the threat is a shared issue in the EU marketplace. Many industries are affected, but workers in the pharma industry are particularly vulnerable. "Counterfeit and illegal products pose a great hazard especially in the pharmaceutical industry where workers may be exposed to dangerous substances," said Hooke. "If a product says that it will protect in certain circumstances and does not, there is the potential for someone to get hurt — poor protection can put health and, ultimately, lives at risk."

The companies most at risk, according to the spokesperson, will be smaller companies. "Larger companies will likely have better safety regimes and better checks will be made when purchasing and deploying safety products but smaller companies do not always know what to do, do not necessarily have skilled safety managers and do not know what checks to make when selecting and purchasing PPE," Hooke said to PTE.

To help combat the issue in the UK and assist buyers in finding quality supply sources of safety products, the BSIF has launched its Registered Safety Supplier Scheme. Participants can use the scheme shield if they adhere to a strict set of criteria. Companies that do not comply could lose their registered safety supplier and, possibly, membership of the BSIF.

"The issue of counterfeit and illegal products is growing in the safety industry," David Hall, Chairman of the BSIF, said in a press release. "By joining this initiative we hope to give users of PPE equipment greater re-assurance and send a clear signal to those who sell or produce counterfeit and illegal products that there is a no place for these in the UK market."

www.bsif.co.uk