At 2009’s A+A event, the Expert Committee on PPE again formed trade-fair commissions with Düsseldorf’s district government, in consultation with the trade-fair centre’s management. Teams comprising one representative from the district government and one from the Expert Committee visited a total of 223 exhibitors. They assessed 1,548 pieces of protective equipment, from head to foot protection and from equipment against falls from a height to safety nets, monitoring manufacturers’ performance and advising them in terms of compliance with legal and technical aspects. In addition, 41 products underwent partial technical testing as part of the "Marktüberwachung Schutzausrüstung - MarS" market surveillance project.
Safety defects found in 112 exhibitors’ products
Most of the exhibitors met the requirements of the European Directive on Personal Protective Equipment, continuing the positive trend compared with earlier checks at the fair. Safety defects were found in 112 exhibitors’ products. The defects in 36 exhibitors’ products were so serious that they were classed as "not fit to be placed on the EC market”. In these cases, the trade-fair commissions "prescribed" signs to make this fact clearly visible to any visitors to the stands in question. The market surveillance authority will register the products in a database and if any of them appear on the market, the market it will take immediate action. The centre’s management were also informed and wrote to the exhibitors to make it clear they had violated the terms and conditions for participation in the fair.
The majority of the defects were found in protective gloves, some of which might have provided protection when doing the washing up or simple gardening work, but certainly not when working with chemicals or at hazardous workplaces. They should therefore have been promoted as category I products at most.
As in past years, most of the defects reported related to products from the Far East. Nonetheless, it was evident that the Chinese manufacturers’ representatives were better informed and prepared than at the A+A 2007 fair.
Prototypes must be labelled as such
Some manufacturers used the fair as an opportunity to showcase prototypes. Since such products have not yet passed all of the necessary tests, they have to be clearly and visibly labelled as prototypes or the exhibitor has to refrain from presenting them until later. Not all of the exhibitors were willing to accept this procedure; they did not label the product accordingly or remove it from their stand until requested to do so.
Positive reactions amongst the exhibitors
For the most part, the exhibitors welcomed and supported the work of the trade-fair commissions. Some of them because no defects were found in their products and some because they were given comprehensive advice on how to label and certify products correctly. As a result, they are now better informed for the future and will be able to comply with the rules.
Expert Committee on PPE – Trade-fair commissions successfully influence products
The members of the trade-fair commissions will continue working this way in the future. Only at trade fairs is it possible to contact so many manufacturers and importers from all over the world directly and thus, at an event so key to the process of placing products on the market, to help ensure compliance with European safety standards. The DGUV’s Expert Committee on Personal Protective Equipment feels this is a worthwhile activity that benefits the members of the Berufsgenossenschaft institutions for statutory accident insurance and prevention and the accident insurance funds.
(Dr. Claudia Waldinger, Expert Committee on Personal Protective Equipment)