Posted at 06-Apr-2020

What's the difference between Counterfeit PPE and No PPE? NOTHING!

Paul Skade
By Jon Whitehouse
Director, Industrial MRO and Safety

Having started in the Electrical industry in 1995 my early career developed holding a variety of roles from technical support through to business development with...

Read full bio

Personal Protection Equipment is supposed to do as its name suggests… Protect you. And users should feel confident that their health and well-being is protected when using any item of PPE. But over the past few years, the introduction of counterfeit PPE into the UK market has grown substantially, and the effects are potentially life threatening.


Items such as gloves, hi-visibility clothing and critical Respiratory Protection Equipment (RPE) including face masks are being forged, slipping through the net and being sold to businesses and suppliers. It’s becoming a growing concern in industry, but how identifiable are fake goods?

Don’t be fooled

Often manufactured in the Far East, counterfeit items of PPE are made on mass using non-compliant materials to below par standards and don’t abide by the strict regulations set out by Governing Bodies in the UK.


But here's where the problems stem from. It may sound contradictory, but counterfeiters rely on the perceived quality of the finished article. So, although fake pieces are manufactured using incorrect materials, for example, the finished item will look professionally made. To the untrained eye, it's now more difficult to identify the differences between compliant and non-compliant products visually.

Secondly, counterfeit PPE is easily available via online routes, and can be purchased directly in bulk. The pricing structures often also differ, and many see the opportunity as too good to turn down. As an employer, protecting your workforce should be paramount, so adopting a quality over cost mantra is essential.

By definition, counterfeit means illegal

Along with forged items, counterfeit CE Certification are also in circulation in high volumes. And reputable manufacturers and suppliers are being heavily targeted. The BSIF have provided the following tips to help identify counterfeit items:

  • All PPE must be supplied with usage instructions and be tested and stamped with a CE marking. This is a legal requirement
  • You can request to see CE Certificates for all items of PPE
  • CE Certificates must include several pieces of information as a minimum
  • You can contact the notified body regarding the authenticity of any PPE


To assist specifiers and PPE users on how to identify counterfeit PPE and CE Certification, the BSIF has also created a simple checklist available HERE.

For many yearrs, the distinct similarities between the China Export CE Mark and European Conformance CE Mark have been adding further to the confusion, and you may not notice the very slight dfferences. CLICK HERE to compare the two markings.

Safety is the primary concern

Counterfeit continues to be a word still feared in industry, and purchasers, suppliers and anyone responsible for PPE must be cautious in their efforts to avoid becoming a victim. The fight against this issue remains strong, and by being extra vigilant, we can ensure the safety of ourselves and our employees.

If you're unsure of the validity of any PPE items, our dedicated team of MRO & Safety Equipment specialist are available to discuss your requirements. Don't hesitate to contact us on 0121 508 6000. Your safety is important to us.

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