Press Release

FAKE HIGH VISIBILITY GEAR PUTS LIVES AT RISK

Following inquires from HSB, the Department for Business Enterprise & Regulatory Reform has promised to fund an investigation and bring the problem to the attention of local Trading Standards Authorities.

Fake and substandard high-visibility clothing is putting workers' lives at risk, according to Health and Safety Bulletin (HSB). Documents seen by HSB show many retailers have been selling high-visibility clothing that, in the worst case, offered just over 1% of the reflection required under the European Standard.

The garments were tested by the Reflective Manufacturers Association (REMA), which found sub-standard garments on sale in two of the UK's largest supermarket chains, a car–accessory chain and two multi-chain discount stores. The garments would be worn by many types of workers, including those working on the roads and on construction sites, as well as members of the public such as cyclists. International evidence indicates that the problem is not confined to the UK.

Becky Allen, the journalist who uncovered the situation, said: "What started out as a celebratory story of the most iconic piece of safety gear of the past 100 years turned into a frightening expose of the dangers facing many workers in the UK. REMA told me that a piece of toiler paper would reflect more light than some of the clothes it tested."

Becky Allen warned: "Although many of the companies buying these garments would have done so in good faith, they should remember that if the garment is cheap, it's probably garbage." HSB editor Howard Fidderman added: "While the government should be commended on acting on a journalist's inquiry, it should never have let this amount of junk onto the market in the first place. HM Revenue and Customs should be opening the containers on the dockside and running simple visibility checks. And Trading Standards should have picked this issue up a long time ago. The government's paranoia about adverse 'elf and safety' stories appears to have stopped it intervening earlier to protect the UK's workforce."

NOTES FOR EDITORS

1. Becky Allen's articles, "Whose bright idea was that?" and "Fake high-vis gear puts lives at risk" are published in the February 2009 issue of Health and Safety Bulletin (no.375).

2. The Health and Safety Executive and local authorities do not collect statistics on the role of lack of visibility in accidents. In 2005/06, however, 532 road builders and repairers were injured – seven fatally – from all causes.

3. Howard Fidderman, editor of Health and Safety Bulletin, can be contacted on 07939 507972 or hfidderman@excite.com.

4. Health and Safety Bulletin is published ten times a year by LexisNexis.

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