Cost cutting when sourcing personal protective equipment (PPE) can lead to poorly sourced items, from providers that might not be fully aware of the latest regulatory standards. This message was loud and clear last month as we were all shocked by recent due diligence failures from a popular British retailer.

The business made headlines for their range of 'hi-vis' products which carried the logo 'be safe, be seen' but the products 'reflectivity' was no more than 2.4 per cent of what it should have been. The ease of buying PPE has increased tenfold with the growth of e-commerce as well as more organisations adding items such as hi-vis to their retail offerings. This greatly increases the associated risks of sourcing PPE from vendors who simply are not aware of health and safety standards and regulations. This increase correlates with the number of counterfeit PPE products that are arriving on the market.

Procurement departments are tasked with getting the best price possible for their PPE purchases. These pressures have led some suppliers to source cheaper products. It has been said that organisations are opting for the cheapest and in many cases sub-standard PPE supplies, without realising they are purchasing items that do not meet regulatory standards. This should not be the case and more needs to be done to highlight the importance of buying PPE from experienced competent suppliers.

Our clients rely on us for the best advice regarding the latest innovations in PPE supplies. They also rely on us to keep them abreast of regulatory standards. These standards are complex and numerous, based on a number of factors. We urge that any company looking to buy PPE should choose knowledgeable suppliers to eliminate the chance of purchasing sub standard products, putting employees at risk.

The British Safety Industry Federation (BSIF), chief executive, Alan Murray commented on the recent news, "This example yet again confirms the need for PPE users to be able to source product from capable accredited suppliers."

So how can you make sure you are buying your PPE from an experienced, competent supplier?

1. Look for accreditations

The BSIF operates the Registered Safety Supplier Scheme in which members formally commit within their quality systems to supply only Personal Protective Equipment which is fully compliant and approved to the relevant CE standard. Look for suppliers who are a members or associates of the BSIF.

2. Ask which standards the products meet

Making the effort to confirm with a PPE provider that they are indeed aware of the latest standards will ensure that your team and your organisation are protected against any potential risks relating to due diligence. For example, when purchasing hi-visibility products look for the new EN ISO 20471 standard that should be clearly labelled. Today's EN ISO 20471 enhances the minimum requirements of hi-visibility garments, and stipulates improvements to garment labelling and user guidance. Although EN ISO 20471 has replaced EN 471, the latter standard has not expired - so if you purchase workwear bearing the EN 471 standard, you will still be compliant with health and safety guidelines. In fact, the two standards are likely to co-exist for several years, with the proportion of EN 471-approved apparel slowly disappearing as manufacturers update their products and accompanying documents over time.

We advise checking for the latest standards on products and providers before committing to any purchases or contract, ensuring that they are clearly labelled with reputable marks of approval.