Politics can’t interfere in the approval of PPE, warns UNISON

Political pressure to approve substandard PPE does not bode well for HSE independence once the UK finally leaves the safety of the EU, says the union

Close up photo of person wearing surgical face ma

UNISON has reacted with dismay to reports that the government applied ‘political pressure’ to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) to approve personal protective equipment (PPE) that did not meet safety standards.

As the UK deals with the second wave of COVID-19, rising infections and death rates, the union warns that this type of pressure from government – to ignore robust and trusted testing and regulatory procedures – will only increase once the UK finally leaves the EU when the transition period comes to an end on 1 January 2021.

The BBC report details email evidence that of the Department of Health pressurised the HSE earlier in the year to approve a piece of PPE as tested and safe for use, when it had not done so, resulting in £32 million of public money wasted on a product that was eventually deemed as not fit for the purpose.

“This story highlights the chaos at the heart of government over the procurement of PPE,” said UNISON’s national health and safety officer Robert Baughan.

“We sincerely hope that the government get its act together and that staff can be assured they will get all the PPE they need – and have confidence in it.

“In less than 50 days, the UK is due to leave the European Framework. The EU has been so important in keeping staff safe, and the UK being outside will pose many challenges – not least in how PPE is certified as safe to use.

“The BBC report showed a worrying degree of – thankfully unsuccessful – government interference in how the Health & Safety Executive does its job.

“We sincerely hope that the government stops this unwarranted interference and instead focusses its resources on keeping staff safe and ensure that everyone can have confidence in the safety systems in place.”

The original BBC story can be read here.