A Letter to the EU against PPE Waste and Fraud

18.05.2022 - Ansell’s Claims towards EU Regulators for Safer More Sustainable Protection: an Interview with Rikard Froberg

Ansell has sent an ‘open letter’ to the European Union PPE Industry Regulating Bodies. As a leading company in the Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) value chain, Ansell is a trusted global manufacturer with a history stretching back 125 years. Their core mission is to build a safer workplace for all. GIT SECURITY was interested in the hows and whys around the initiative and interviewed Rikard Froberg, President Industrial Global Business Unit at Ansell.

GIT SECURITY: Why did Ansell decide to write an ‘open letter’ to the European Union PPE Industry Regulating Bodies?

Rikard Froberg: Sustainability is becoming a priority, with issues such as resource scarcity and the global climate emergency putting it at the forefront of the industry’s agenda. Our customers trust our personal protection solutions and routinely look to us for leadership. Ansell is guided by a responsible and responsive business strategy that encompasses our values and ambitions. Sustainability, as with safety and protection, is an equal part of these values, and our ambitions to build a – better society, better environment, and better business.

Why is Ansell applying its values to prompt change in the regulations?

Rikard Froberg: The recent European PPE Regulation (EU PPE regulation 2016/425*) provides an essential framework to ensure PPE in the European Union (EU) adheres to specific health and safety standards.
The ‘open letter’ we sent to the EU Commission and Industry Regulators included a request to present opportunities that contribute to our ambitions and benefit the wider industry; and to ask for support in delivering on this. Reflecting our acknowledged reputation in the global industry, we urged amendment of the guideline requirements, while requesting active encouragement for EU Member States to comply.

What does Ansell particularly hope to achieve by taking this action?

Rikard Froberg: Our motives are two-fold. It’s in line with our commitment to build a better society, better environment, and better business. For better business, our aim is to create one single and harmonized recycling label for packaging materials and packaging waste. Ansell believes that recent initiatives taken by several Member States following the Commission’s decision of Jan 28, 1997 - related to Directive 94/62/EC - to establish an identification system for packaging materials and packaging waste, are commendable. We fully agree with the urgent need to develop such a system, as it will help raise awareness among end-users about packaging and recycling packaging waste. However, we identified an issue for concern due to the unilateral action taken by some Member States.

Can you explain what this issue was?

Rikard Froberg: Ansell has observed the emergence of new rules and regulations in various countries, especially regarding requirements linked to the recycling of PPE, textiles, and so on, and the marking of packaging and packaging waste. Italian authorities now require manufacturers to add specific recycling or packaging waste labels on PPE packaging. Simultaneously, France, Portugal and Slovenia are working on similar regulations, but France requires a different logo on the packaging.
We consider it timely to warn against the additional complexity that could occur from the emergence of these new rules and regulations, and their potential to hinder free circulation of protection products within the EU. Such piecemeal individual local labeling could be confusing, with a negative impact on EU-wide awareness and end-user action.

What are the sustainability challenges and opportunities you have identified to build a better environment?

Rikard Froberg: A considerable portion of PPE is sold in the industrial field; whereby the employer must select the proper equipment for employees and train them to use it safely. Consequently, Instructions for Use (IFUs) are needed during the equipment selection process and for training purposes; however, they are no longer relevant during use.
While EU PPE Regulation 2016/425 doesn’t expressly stipulate to supply IFUs in a paper format, the PPE Regulation guidelines require PPE products to be accompanied by a paper IFU, available in every EU language where this PPE is sold.
Ansell has identified a real opportunity to avoid further waste of natural resources, by allowing manufacturers to move to a sustainable solution using digital IFUs in business-to-business environments. These are already allowed for medical devices, so we requested the EU Commission and Regulators to amend the applicable PPE guidelines and encourage Member States in this direction.

What is the second focus of Ansell’s aims in the letter?

Rikard Froberg: The second clear focus of the letter is to stem the flow of fake and dangerous PPE and help toward building a better society. Due to the unprecedented demand for PPE in the pandemic, we have seen a concerning influx of new - and even existing PPE brands – selling products in the EU non-compliant with applicable regulations. These often don’t meet minimum protection levels, or they claim higher protection properties than they can provide. Despite this, their prices make them attractive to buyers.
Such practices are growing exponentially due to poor market surveillance and the absence of severe penalties to combat fraud. This increasing non-compliant PPE also creates an unfair competitive environment and could mislead customers, creating unsafe work environments and potential accidents.
The industry needs increased market surveillance. At Ansell, we are taking several initiatives to ensure we bring products to market that meet and exceed the regulatory standards and educate the market on the regulation. This includes putting in place strict release control criteria and continuous assessment of our processes and products against the claims we make, so our customers and end-users can trust the products they buy. We are also training distributors on what they should be vigilant for and commit to report to the European Safety Federation cases in the market that are not compliant to the regulation.

Why does Ansell’s letter stipulate that - there’s no time to waste?

Rikard Froberg: We view this as a unique opportunity for EU Regulators to take the lead and facilitate a harmonized approach that will bring more clarity for PPE users regarding packaging, sustainable disposal and recycling of the packaging in the EU. We’re convinced this will ultimately lead to a more significant and positive environmental impact.
Ansell views this as a chance to drive to the industry toward action that ultimately leads to shifts in attitude and ignites more significant transformation down the line, making things safer for the people who use and rely on PPE.

How would you underline your actions and expectations?

Rikard Froberg: We realize our goals are ambitious, but with the will and support of key regulatory bodies in aligning their actions and legislation - along with Ansell’s commitment to improve the environment, society, and our industry - together we can achieve a positive outcome.
We urge EU Regulators and authorities for more market control and strict penalties when fraudulent protective equipment is brought into the European market for product integrity and everyone’s safety. That’s why we believe there really is - no time to waste.

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