BEIS has published its long awaited response into the Working Group on Product Recalls and Safety by announcing a new regulator called “the Office for Product Safety and Standards”. The aim of the office is to “further enhance the UK’s world-leading product safety system and give consumers the highest ever levels of protection.” It will co-ordinate work with local authorities and Trading Standards where action is needed on a national scale and support market surveillance activities at the border.
There has been significant pressure on improving product safety and we’re glad BEIS have finally come forward with their plans. The Faulds-Wood review, the BSI led PAS 7100 on product recall and a lot of parliamentary activity (including the recently announced APPG inquiry) show how important this is to stakeholders and it is vital we get this right.
In its response BEIS agree Trading Standards need more support (especially with Brexit on the horizon) and wants to encourage product registration, highlighting that point of sale/retail is the most obvious place to capture data., but are also looking at options for acquiring data from banks and insurance companies to drive recall.
In practical terms, the new office is a re-alignment of existing resources with a new national remit, but the role of this office will change. BEIS says it will “examine the options for making the Office for Product Safety and Standards an arm's length independent body and to look at associated funding options” which will be subject to consultation. techUK be working with members to respond to the consultation once it is published.
On the issue of product marking, for the purposes of identification after a fire, the Government has commissioned research on new marking schemes for product safety. This new marking is preferred to be digital, but we would oppose any new marking schemes as the CE mark is already in place and gets updated through standards and we should seek to maintain this after we leave the EU.
The initial recommendations (bold) and the BEIS responses to them are detailed below:
- There is a need to consolidate guidance on product corrective actions and recalls. BEIS agrees and highlights the completed PAS 7100 (which techUK contributed to).
- A hub to co-ordinate product safety corrective actions at a central level. BEIS fully supports this and the new office will establish an incident management capability and maintain a database of corrective actions and recall programmes.
- Capture and share data and intelligence. BEIS supports this and research is underway to understand where the data lies and how it can be used to develop insights, as well as work with industry to understand future risks.
- Develop technological solutions to product marking and identification. BEIS thinks industry could do more on digital identification and marking and the new office will identify the costs and benefits of marking for product safety.
- Primary Authority relationships should be encouraged. BEIS supports primary authorities and believe it is one way it has helped ease the burden of regulatory compliance. The new office will work more closely with Pas and have a more official role as a ‘Supporting Regulator’.
- Encourage more registration of appliances and other consumer goods. BEIS believes consumers should be encouraged and states take up is far too low. Research is being commissioned and BEIS says specifically more could be done at the point of sale to encourage registration.
- A multi-stakeholder expert panel should be established. BEIS agrees and will widen the expert group and set up a new technical and scientific panel overseen by the Chief Scientific Advisor.