Leading hard hats fail safety tests

11 April 2011

A leading construction equipment manufacturer has been prosecuted by a trading standards authority after a random sample of its hard hats failed prescribed safety tests. The hard hats were purchased by a trading standards officer from Brent and Harrow Council.

Yeovil firm Powerbox International, a subsidiary of construction products supplier Group Silverline, for which Liberal Democrat Lord Ashdown is an advisory board member, was last week found guilty of failing to comply with clauses 9 and 17 of the Personal Protective Equipment Regulations 2002. It was fined £2,500 and ordered to pay £1821.50 in costs plus a £15 'Victim surcharge'.

 The prosecution arose after the trading standards officer purchased six of the 'Silverline' branded hats from a local retailer in Wembley for £6.99 in January 2010. They were sent to a specialist laboratory for detailed assessment to see if they complied with European standards.

The hats failed to protect against high velocity impact with respect to both shock absorption and resistance to penetration.

Bill Bilon, Director of Brent and Harrow Trading Standards Service said: “People purchase ‘Personal Protective Equipment’ such as hard hats to guard themselves from foreseeable injury in environments where the absence of such equipment would render injury very likely. It is therefore extremely disturbing that a company which leads in the tooling industry was supplying hats failing to offer safety protection which would have been the exact reason for a user to wear one. Any site worker would not have been protected by these hats.

“We will continue to monitor such products to ensure they do exactly what they say on the tin – protect people”.

The trading standards authority said that the company ordered the hats from a manufacturer in China in 2002, but admitted that it had only conducted safety compliance testing on the first batch supplied. Since then, all the hats had carried CE markings. In 2009/2010 alone the firm sold over 14,000 hard hats, said Bilon. 

“The onus is on the importer to ensure compliance with UK law and it should have been random sampling and testing its product every six months,” said Trading Standards assistant director, Simon Legg. “I'm surprised it was relying on a report that was nearly 10 years old. It could even have been that the first batch tested may have been the only compliant one.”

Powerbox had admitted its non-compliance said Legg, a fact that may have accounted for the reduced size of a fine. The maximum fine is £5000 and a possible 3 month custodial sentence.

During the prosecution a company solicitor said it had recently appointed a Quality Manager to audit the company’s manufacturers, their suppliers, product technical files and to do onsite testing. He said: “Lessons learnt [from this matter] have reformed the way the company is organised and operated.”

The company was unavailable for comment.   


pity the court did not take the oppertunity to levy a maximum fine with a director spending a couple of weeks behind bars. then we could watch the industrries sudden interest in safety compliance. and a fall in injuries/deaths which are rising again?

David Jump, 26 April 2011

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