By choosing welding helmets that carry the SAI Global Certification mark showing compliance to an Australian Standard, an end-user is assured the product conforms to the most stringent safety standards. Importers worldwide complain Australian safety requirements are too tough.
Some manufacturers may claim their welding helmets conform to Australian standards, but that does not necessarily mean the helmets have “certified” standard approvals.
All “certified” helmets have been tested by an accredited testing authority, as recommended by the National Australian Testing Authority (NATA).
Once approved, manufacturers are entitled to display the certification on the product and with product specifications. That means the helmets are certified as safe.
There are three tiers of certification:
• By a NATA accredited laboratory
• By a supplier
• Self-certification (In-house product testing – quality control)
In all cases, manufacturers must have supporting documentation to prove the product meets recognized Australian safety standards.
Consumers may request to see the documentation before purchasing a product.
Standards Australia is the body responsible for setting Australia’s strict safety standards. A not-for-profit, independent organization, Standards Australia, works closely with industry associations and experts, academics, government agencies, regulators, business representatives and key stakeholders to develop industry standards.
Before being published (by Standards information provider SAI Global) all standards are subjected to a rigorous approval process.
All parties involved must reach consensus. Public comment is also invited.
After considering new standards, Government then determines whether it should be cited within legislation, which compels those affected to conduct their activities in accordance with the standard.
Safety standards relating to welding helmets are not mandated under Australian or New Zealand legislation.
This means the onus is on employers and employees to their personal protection equipment (PPE) meets those standards.
State safety authorities such as Worksafe VIC and Workcover NSW are the bodies responsible for the enforcement of occupational health and safety laws.
Regular inspections are carried out to ensure business owners and employers maintain a safe working environment.
Employers or companies that use equipment that is not Standards approved may be liable for heavy penalties in the event of a workplace accident.
They also run the risk of not being covered by insurance.
So when selecting welding helmets, it's very much a case of Buyer Beware. The challenge for a consumer or business is how do you know if a product complies with a mandatory Standard?
Compliance with certain Standards can be mandatory either through commonwealth or state laws or regulations.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), is charged with enforcing requirements of the Act. However the ACCC neither inspects nor approves goods for sale. Through warranties, “self declarations” or express or implied representations, a manufacturer may claim that its product meets mandatory requirements, without demonstrating any evidence or otherwise substantiating the claims.
Often, it is only once a product fails to perform as expected that the manufacturer may become subject to investigation to determine the validity of these claims.
“Unfortunately, we often encounter a ‘wait and see’ approach that says once a product fails, then that’s when it will be addressed, either through product recalls, bans, litigation or whatever other means,”
explains Paul Roberts, the General Manager from SAI Global’s Product Certification Division. “However, for a consumer who is injured, or for a manufacturer, importer or distributor who becomes exposed to recalls, bans, fines or other penalties or court orders, it’s all a bit too late.”
This is where product certification, or third party assessment, comes in. The product certification process involves both assessing the manufacturer’s production systems and facilities and selecting representative samples of finished product for testing by independent suitably accredited testing facilities. Once certified, the manufacturer may be able to display the assessing body’s certification trademark on the products produced, offering objective verification of its compliance.