Fake high-visibility clothing in the spotlight
March 10, 2009barriehol
When it comes to fake goods – or rip offs – I guess many of us have double standards. The girls that parade their fake Louis Vuitton and Gucci handbags no doubt feel and look as good as the real thing – from a distance. How many of us guys have a pair of fake Raybans in the drawer. It seems harmless enough and someone somewhere at least has a job making them or so we convince ourselves. But where do we draw the line. Knowingly buying a fake is arguably a lifestyle choice but when you are conned into buying a fake which you think is the real thing that is different.
It was revealed last month that fake and substandard high-visibility clothing had been openly on sale in some of our major retailers including supermarket chains, a car accessory chain and a string of other high profile retailers.
The garments were bought and tested by REMA (Reflective Equipment Manufacturers Association) during 2007 and 2008. I should have known about REMA but I confess its existence until now was news to me.
On a Roll
Some of these garments tested by REMA were next to useless in providing visibility at night putting the lives of night workers and cyclists at risk. The tests measured the reflectiveness in candelas and found values as low as 4 candelas compared to the European standard of 330 candelas specified in BS EN471. REMA spokesman – sorry spokesperson, Martin Lund said “A piece of toilet paper would reflect more light … It’s all labeled correctly, so people think they are protected; but they’re not. It’s shocking and it makes me angry.”
Damn right it does but it’s not clear what can be done. The Department for Business, Enterprise & Regulatory Reform (BERR) has promised to fund an investigation into the problem which REMA believes is widespread and not just in the UK, pointing to a 2005 survey by the Royal Spanish Automobile Club which found that three quarters of a sample of 100 high-visibility vests failed to comply with EN471.
Fingers in the Pie
There are no accurate figures as to the extent of the problem in the UK. An HSE (Health and Safety Executive) spokesperson stated that supply and standards issues were BERR’s responsibility, with the HSE’s powers of enforcement limited to whether or not workers wore high-vis personal protective equipment (PPE) not whether the gear actually worked. In addition HSE has no evidence that accidents have been caused directly from substandard HI-Vis garments and the Trading Standards Authorities through its overseeing body the TSI (Trading Standards Institute) said it was not aware of a problem. REMA also pointed to HM Revenue & Customs to tackle the issue before the goods reach the UK market
It seems typical of Britain’s creaking over arching bureaucracy that we have so many quango’s all of which have viable excuses to pass the buck. BERR, HSE, TSA, TSI & HMR&C. Anyway the Government has promised action – when budgets allow. So that’s all right then.
Given that we retail an EN471 certified HI Vis Vest at £2.59 you do have to wonder what’s in it for the fakers.