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Published: 10th Sep 2010 in OSA Magazine

Health and safety provision is a fact of life for any modern business and the penalties for failing to ensure the wellbeing of workers can prove disastrous. Claire Lynam of BSI examines the issues surrounding the use of personal protective equipment (PPE), the standards that affect its manufacture, and how the Asian market is reacting to it.

The need for individuals to stay safe and avoid injury means that awareness of good health and safety practice is on the rise. While this affects all of the various countries around the globe, the measures in place and the way legislation is adhered to differs from place to place. For instance, while some countries drive product innovation and development and have government involvement, in others the level of interest, awareness and activity related to this subject is considerably lower.


It is estimated that around 70 percent of workplace accidents could be prevented if employers put the correct safety control measures in place. While this figure varies from country to country, it goes some way to explaining why the health and safety of workers is an increasingly important area.

Self-protection awareness among workers in Asia is driving demand for the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) - with China paying specific attention to the need to keep people safe. Rising safety concerns, as well as workers’ awareness of their rights to a safe working environment and self-protection, has resulted in a surge in the demand for PPE. The Chinese government is promoting working safety issues and strictly enforcing safety laws, compelling enterprises to offer PPE to their employees. With education initiatives, public campaigns and media advocacy, knowledge about this subject has improved among workers. This, in turn, has led to an expanded market for PPE in Asia.

Managing risk

We live in litigious times and it is imperative that businesses embark on a rigorous process of risk management. With the general public, employees and organisations being encouraged to sue for accidents in almost any situation, businesses need to offset such liabilities.

The onus on providing necessary protection is falling at the feet of employers. Now it is a case of protecting employees to protect a business, as the issues of litigation and compensation raise more concerns than ever before and there is a real need for proper risk management strategies to be put in place to offset them.

As part of such a risk management strategy, the selection, allocation and implementation of PPE and systems form a crucial responsibility for many industries and businesses. Put simply, if there is potential for injury, there is a need for PPE. If employees work in hazardous environments, construction sites, mines or other such places, they will need protection.

Emergency services personnel, construction or development site workers, heavy machinery or vehicle operators, are all likely to need equipment that will keep them safe, prevent harm and injury. PPE should meet the required standard so that it will perform reliably and safely.

What to look for The UK’s Health & Safety Executive (HSE) has published a guide for what to look for when choosing PPE. It also acts as a useful tool for those in other countries who need help in selecting PPE. It is important to make sure that the equipment:

  • Is appropriate for the risks involved and the conditions at the place where exposure to the risk may occur
  • Prevents or adequately controls the risks involved without increasing the overall level of risk, or introducing any new risk
  • Is adjustable to fit the wearer correctly
  • Takes into account the state of health of the wearer
  • Takes into account the needs of the job and the demands it places on the wearer
  • Is compatible with other PPE equipment being worn

Impact protection

Protecting the head is one of the main uses of PPE. The whole point of protective headwear is to act as a safeguard - something that is designed to lessen the effect of certain incidents. Hazards where head protection equipment would usually be required include falling or flying objects, risk of head bumping or hair entanglement.

The good news is that most of these can be avoided by wearing a helmet
or bump cap.

Whatever the form of the protection, when it is needed it has to perform its task and must be 100 percent reliable, otherwise it serves no purpose whatsoever. Head protection equipment must contribute to keeping the head and its vital organs safe from superficial wounding or more serious injuries.

A good example of where using the right equipment for the job is vital is in the fire and rescue service. The head protection equipment used in this sector covers a wide range of products from a basic impact helmet, such as a pedal cycle helmet, to a sophisticated multi-function device with integrated respiratory and communications equipment. The introduction of more stringent standards and improved testing methods means that helmets are now more comfortable to wear, are of lighter-weight construction and have improved hygiene.

For legal road use all helmets and visors for users of two or three wheeled vehicles must be certified as specified by the Road Traffic Act (Regulation 22.05, BS6658 and BS4110:1979). Helmet tests involve:

  • Impact absorption
  • Retention strength and effectiveness
  • Penetration resistance
  • Lateral crush - industrial, firefighters and equestrian
  • Flammability - industrial, firefighters and motorsport
  • Electrical insulation - industrial and firefighters

Best practice

Managers are now under pressure to show that they have applied best practice by purchasing or specifying products or services that are fit for purpose and demonstrate that a duty of care has been delivered. This means that they need to know which products, services and systems can deliver what is needed.

Testing and certification can help in this respect as it identifies the level of approval that a product or system has received and will indicate the standards to which it complies.

For Asian manufacturers of PPE the global market remains attractive, although the need to balance cost and safety issues while meeting the necessary legislation and standards
is a challenge.

Manufacturers of products must make sure that they gain the necessary approvals and certifications to ensure that they can sell into their markets and secure future business. It is important that their customers recognise their certification, value it and make it part of their decision or selection criteria.


Testing and certification is the answer to recognising the quality of a piece of PPE. Knowing that a product has been tested to the latest standards will give the greatest possible assurance that it will perform as it should when required to do so.

Protective headwear has to be safe and fit for its stated purpose. This expectation is demanded by manufacturers, distributors, legislators and users, and the way to identify tested pieces is to look for the relevant standard number and/or certification symbols, such as Kitemark and CE mark.

Standards play a vital role in today’s health and safety conscious world by ensuring that products designed to protect and ensure safety are thoroughly tested. As a general guide, the majority of standards include testing for:

  • Safety critical construction aspects, including field of vision
  • Shock absorbing properties
  • Retention systems properties, including chin strap and fastening devices
  • Penetration requirements
  • Product marking and information

Some products may even be tested for durability of components. Tests for resistance to radiant heat, flame resistance and electrical properties are specified where these are critical elements in either the task the product has to perform, or the environment in which it has to provide protection.

Problem solving

With so many standards and so many approvals, how should manufacturers choose which route to go down, and how can customers identify which standards to look for?

Fortunately, there is a solution through using one organisation for testing and certification as well as quality systems assessment and training. BSI (British Standards Institution) has longevity, expertise, and an unrivalled reputation for first-class, independent certification.

With its integrated approach to its global markets, BSI can offer a one-stop-shop for manufacturers of fire equipment and PPE - covering Kitemark certification, CE marking, product testing, management systems assessment and software, training and standards writing.

CE marking

PPE to be sold in the European Union (EU) that comes under certain European Directives must bear the CE mark - it is a legal requirement. This means that products have to be evaluated against certain essential safety performance criteria specified in the EU Directive.
CE marking on a product is the manufacturer’s declaration that the product complies with the essential requirements of all the Directives that apply to it. It indicates to the appropriate bodies that the product may be legally offered for sale in their country.

Where a Directive requires products or systems to be independently tested, certified or inspected, the services of a notified, competent, or approved body must be used. These are organisations that have been notified to the European Commission by a member state. BSI is a notified body (number 0086) for the Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) 89/686/EEC Directive. BSI can be contacted on the numbers below or by visiting http://www.bsigroup.com/cemarking

Going one step further

Manufacturers that wish to make their products stand out from the competition can go one step further by achieving Kitemark certification for their PPE. A Kitemark involves the assessment of the manufacturer’s quality management system - ISO9001 or similar - as well as rigorous product testing to the relevant standard.

Providing that both demonstrate that the overall manufacturing process is sufficiently robust, efficient and reliable to produce the same high quality product every time, the manufacturer can be awarded a Kitemark licence. The Kitemark is one of the UK’s premier symbols of quality and safety and has high, as well as increasing, levels of recognition overseas as well. It has been associated with quality, integrity and trust for more than 100 years. To find out more visit http://www.Kitemark.com

Author Details

Claire Lynam
Head of Communications & Alliances
BSI EMEA & Testing Services
Sales enquiries: +44 (0) 8450 765600

Visit http://www.bsigroup.com/testing or www.Kitemark.com

Claire Lynam is head of Communications and Alliances at BSI (British Standards Institution), one of world’s leading providers of standards-based solutions. These solutions include not only the development and publication of national and international standards but also testing and certification services for the Kitemark and for CE marking.

Claire has been employed in senior management positions at BSI since 2006.

In her current role she is responsible for all communication and alliance activities for
BSI’s internal and external audiences.

A key part of her work is the preparation of material - including electronic media, publications and feature articles - that provides useful and accessible information relating to the often complex fields of standards, certification and testing, and to the advisory and support services that BSI offers in these areas.

In preparing this material, Claire not only makes full use of her own proven communication skills, but also of her ready access to the outstanding expertise of the specialists who work within the BSI organisation, many of whom are acknowledged as being among the world’s leading authorities in their fields.

Claire holds Chartered Institute of Marketing Diploma and is a full member of that institute. Prior to working for BSI she gained extensive experience in a number of marketing roles that, in addition to media relations, involved her in activities that included brand management and development, event organisation and market research.

About BSI

BSI is a global independent business services organisation that inspires confidence and delivers assurance to more than 80,000 customers with standards-based solutions. Originating as the world’s first national standards body, BSI has around 2,400 staff operating in at least 120 countries through more than 50 global offices. BSI’s key offerings are:

  • The development and sale of private, national and international standards and supporting information that promote and share best practice
  • Second and third-party management systems assessment and certification in all critical areas of management disciplines
  • Testing and certification of services and products for Kitemark and CE marking to UK, European and International standards. BSI is a Notified Body for 15 New Approach EU Directives
  • Certification of high-risk, complex medical devices
  • Performance management software solutions
  • Training services in support of standards implementation and business best practice

Published: 10th Sep 2010 in OSA Magazine


Claire Lynam

Claire Lynam - Marketing & Communications Manager

BSI Product Services


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