Product safety matters

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It is often underestimated just how dangerous our homes are. If we needed a sad and terrible reminder, then the Grenfell tower fire should have provided it. Psychologically, the fact that our homes are our place of safety, makes the harm that happens there all the more disturbing.

Amongst the threats that we find in our homes, unsafe products feature surprisingly often. For example, in 2014/15 there were 31,300 electrical fires according to the Home Office of which 36% were due to faulty appliances and leads.

Now the UK Government, through the Office for Product Safety and Standards (OPSS) has produced its strategy to improve product safety. At the heart of the strategy is PAS 7100, the code of practice for better product safety recalls and other corrective action. This code of practice with its snappy title was produced by BSI and sponsored by the OPSS. The Code is intended for all those businesses who place consumer products onto the UK market that are not covered by existing schemes. Thus, whilst the Code does not apply to food, motor vehicles, medicines and medical devices it covers almost all other consumer products including white goods, portable electrical devices, toys and cosmetics.

As a consumer, you may welcome this intervention. As a business owner engaged in the retail, distribution, importation or manufacture of such products this may appear to be more government red tape. As the code of practice is not of itself part of product safety law, but rather a mechanism to help you implement product safety laws including the General Product Safety Regulations (2005), you may be keen to ignore this latest initiative.

However, there may be sound business reasons for adopting the code of practice. Consider, first of all whether you would trade without indemnity insurance. Although you never hope to use it, most businesses would not consider trading without it. Adopting the code of practice they not prevent all product safety incidents, but it will reduce the likelihood of an incident, and substantially reduce the harm caused by the incident to both the general public, and to the reputation and financial well-being of your company.

Think you have enough insurance? You may benefit from the Code even if you don’t have any incidents. Consider the case of ISO 9001. Many companies now proudly display their certificate of compliance with this international standard. In many cases, I strongly suspect that this does not reflect a huge commitment to quality and quality management systems. Instead, their certification reflects their recognition that in order to present themselves as a credible and low risk supplier to their customers, they need this standard. In some sectors, the adoption of ISO 9001 was driven by larger customers insisting on it as a requirement to do business with smaller suppliers. Even where this is not the case, smaller suppliers have been able to differentiate themselves from their competitors by adoption of the standard.

If you are in the business of supplying products, then PAS 7100 has the potential to fulfil a similar role for your business. In particular, as an early adopter, you can give yourself a significant competitive advantage.

To find out more about how you can implement the code of practice, visit PAS7100.com, or aglc.co.uk.