Workers at risk

18-10-2011

The absence of independent certification is exposing workers to gloves that may not be safe, according to industry leader Ansell.

Ansell Vice President Mark Nicholls says the Australian/NZ Standards (AS/NZS) for hand protection mirror the European Union’s EN glove standards with one key difference – independent testing is not mandatory.

“The Australian Standards organisation does not have the resources to police importers for compliance with the EN-based Australian Standards, says Mr Nicholls. “And critically, there is no process that assures workers that gloves have been independently certified for the stated level of protection.”

Mr Nicholls says Australia is importing protective gloves with EN ratings that may not have been validated by an EU-approved Notified Body.

“EN standards are considered state-of-the-art and are used by the Notified Bodies to ensure presumption of conformity to the PPE (Personal Protection Equipment) legislation,” says Mr Nicholls.

In Europe, it is mandatory to market protective gloves in compliance with the PPE 89/686 Directive. This means companies must market gloves that are safe.

They should not use azo dyes, pH acidity that is close to neutral and have no sharp edges on the inside of the liner that could cause skin issues.

“The PPE 89/686 Directive also requires that gloves are safe for their stated use, says Mr Nicholls.

“For example, if a glove is claimed to offer high cut resistance in the liner it must be proven, via an independent, accredited laboratory, that it does indeed provide the high level of cut protection claimed,” he says.

If the highest level of cut protection is claimed an independent test must confirm this.

“They cannot sell the glove in Europe with that claim if it doesn’t, says Mr Nicholls.

“Many industrial safety gloves being imported into Australia carry an EN pictogram; however without credible independent testing workers and their companies cannot be confident that these gloves will perform at their claimed levels in critical safety dimensions such as abrasion and cut resistance, not to mention chemical protection.”

Mr Nicholls says safety officers charged with establishing a work environment where ‘duty of care’ is taken seriously may be unaware of this key difference between the EU’s EN standards and the Australian standards.

“This could mean that safety officers, as well as unions and management may be unwittingly exposing workers to risk, Mr Nicholls says.

“It must be a priority for industry to regard the certification issue as a major concern, and an opportunity to both improve workplace safety for Australian workers, and reduce the pain and costs associated with workplace injury.

“Safe Work Australia, the Federal statutory agency, should be looking at this closely.”

Safe Work Australia is a statutory agency, jointly funded by the federal and state governments. It manages the harmonization of workplace safety across Australia.

For more information on the EN standards visit: http://ansell.com.au/industry-standards

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