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In this feature l product safety l European directives l state-of-the-art testing Safety first Personal protective equipment was brought to the fore when the British Standards Institution showcased its revamped product-testing facilities at Hemel Hempstead, says Robert Chantry-Price H aving spent more than 3million on improvements to its laboratories at Hemel Hempstead, the British Standards Institution (BSI) was understandably keen to show off its revamped facilities. So it held a series of seminars to showcase new state-of-the-art testing equipment for a wide range of products and drew particular attention to the labs for putting personal protective equipment (PPE) through its paces. PPE covers a wide range of items including sports helmets, hearing protectors, face-protection equipment for industrial and domestic use, gloves, footwear, and high-visibility and protective clothing each with specific safety requirements. BSI used the seminar to update participants on likely changes to the PPE European directive (89/686/EEC) over the next couple of years. The 89 directive is a new approach directive, and requires PPE to be CE marked. It has changed little since its introduction more than 20 years ago, and now looks very dated compared with other newapproach directives covering consumer products such as toys and pyrotech nic articles. Revision of the PPEdirective is required urgently to bring it in line with the latest thinking on product safety. The new version is likely to be published as a European Commission regulation, rather than as a directive, to ensure it is applied uniformly across all EU member states countries will not be allowed to omit clauses they dont like. A number of companies display the BSI Kitemark logo on their products to show consumers the items are safe and made to a high quality. According to BSI, more than 93 per cent of the UK adult population views a Kitemarked product as safer than one without the mark. However, the number of consumer products bearing the logo is comparatively low, and the BSI is keen to raise its profile. The logo is not just for the benefit of consumers, argues the institute it gives products a competitive advantage in the market, so also benefits businesses. BSI has shown its commitment to promoting product safety by making a significant investment in its Hemel Hempstead labs. In the process of upgrading its testing facilities, it had to make hard-nosed decisions about which types of products it wishes to test and more importantly which ones it doesnt. The test-lab market is a difficult one in which to make a profit employing expert staff and ensuring their equipment is tip-top is an expensive business. So it is good to see that the BSI through its investment has confidence that the market will be profitable in the future. We are fortunate in Britain to have a number of test labs with firstrate facilities. This is good news for UK plc because it adds value to goods tested in this country, and ensures products are safe to place on the domestic and the global markets. Credits Published Robert Chantry-Price is TSI joint lead 28 October, 2014 In upgrading its testing facilities, the BSI had to make some hardnosed decisions about which types of products it wishes to test and which ones it doesnt To share this page, click on in the toolbar officer for product safety. Images: ndoeljindoel / Shutterstock