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PPE: your first line of defence

20 May 2021

Sean Keller highlights the need to keep an eye out for fake Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to ensure the safety of staff using the equipment. 

Following the government’s plans to slowly ease the UK out of lockdown, we can hopefully be more positive about what the future holds, with the UK’s successful vaccine rollout has been the driving force behind the ongoing progress.

However, with the added pressure of mystery variants of Covid-19 now appearing, caution must be maintained. Variants first emerged in the UK during the later months of 2020, but it is not just South Africa, Brazil and Kent variants which make up the list – a double mutant variant was recently discovered in India too. The different strains of Covid are still relatively unknown, but it is believed that the Brazilian variant is over twice as transmissible as the initial Wuhan strain.

With this in mind, PPE is still going to play a major part in controlling the spread of the virus and its rising number of strains, to prevent the very real possibility of a third wave. It is therefore as important today as it was at the beginning of the pandemic, for employers to ensure they are providing frontline workers with certified PPE and are able to easily identify fake products. 

The danger signs 
Since the start of the pandemic, criminals have been capitalising on the demand for PPE, with a recent report finding that one million PPE masks supplied to the NHS had to be withdrawn due to safety concerns. 

There are five key ways of identifying certified PPE:

• CE Markings – They indicate a product has been tested by the manufacturer and recognised to meet EU safety, health and environmental protection requirements. CE markings are a requirement for products placed on the EU market that are manufactured anywhere in the world and they will continue to be recognised in the UK until 30 June 2023.

• Notified bodies – These are organisations assigned by an EU country to assess the authenticity of a product before it is placed on the market. All notified bodies designated to assess PPE are listed on the EU Commission’s regularly updated NANDO (New Approach Notified and Designated Organisations) website.

• Technical file – This provides information on the design, manufacture, and operation of a product and must demonstrate that the product conforms to the applicable requirements. The documentation is necessary to prove the product meets the essential requirements to justify and support an EU declaration of conformity.

• EU declaration of conformity – This is a mandatory document that a manufacturer, or their authorised representative, needs to sign to declare the products comply with the EU requirements. The document must include details of the manufacturer, the address, implementation standard, ingredient content, production batch number, production date and expiration date. 

• EN standards – Medical products on the EU market should comply with EN standards. For example, masks should comply with EN 14683 and EN149 standards and gloves should comply with EN 455 and EN 374 standards. Inauthentic PPE will very likely have the wrong standard in relation to the given masks or gloves.

The emergence of new Covid-19 variants has caused confusion and fear among the public and those working on the frontline, yet the rollout of the vaccine and the declining case numbers is likely to result in a false sense of security. The supply of certified PPE across the frontline must continue to be recognised as an integral part of protecting the UK from the virus and its variants. 

While the public must do their bit and adhere to the rules of the roadmap out of lockdown, it should also be said that attitudes towards wearing quality, certified PPE products should not disappear as we approach a return to normality.

Sean Keller is managing director at ASAP Innovations.

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