The pandemic has brought about a conflict in standards whereby local and imported respirators align with requirements listed by the World Health Organisation (WHO), however, these requirements do not align with the South African Bureau of Standards (SABS), says industry body South African Protective Equipment Marketing Association (Sapema) technical committee leader Mike Freemantle.
“There has been a marked increase in demand for locally made face shields that meet the WHO Covid-19 requirements; however, they do not comply to SABS industrial specifications.”
He adds that, in certain isolated instances, there are shortages of compliant products in respect of certain categories of personal protective equipment (PPE).
He also points out that the number of roleplayers in the PPE industry has increased, particularly those supplying respiratory equipment, with the equipment supplied not always complying with the quality requirements.
“Newer roleplayers, most times, lack the necessary technical knowledge to ensure that PPE products or equipment meet the requirements.”
To mitigate the lack of compliance to SABS standards Sapema has actively participated in communications with the Department of Trade, Industry and Competition, and the National Regulator for Compulsory Specifications (NRCS) to implement the compulsory standards.
“Sapema has worked hand in hand with local advisory and government structures with regards to compliance to specifications, as well as industrial and Covid-19 guidelines issued by the government advisory council.
“We have also issued directives and guides to the PPE industry and participated in webinars regarding respiratory PPE in respect of Covid-19 requirements,” Freemantle explains.
Unfortunately, the decline in the general economic climate has resulted in a noticeable decline in demand for PPE.
He warns that, as a result of the ‘new normal’, it is not possible for the industry to estimate the decline of the value of PPE at this point.
Sapema chairperson Deleane Luzzatto says the association aims to fulfil the role of representing manufacturers and importers of PPE and lobbying on their behalf with the authorities and other bodies, such as the SABS and NRCS.
She stresses that the association’s short-term goals are to educate the industry, as well as end-users in terms of complying to the standards and specifications relevant to PPE and regulations.
“We are working towards becoming a registered professional body with the South African Qualifications Authority. This will, however, be a timely process and be considered as part of our medium- to long-term goals as an association.”
She concludes that the association has seen a significant increase in interest from industry participants in becoming members of Sapema, owing to the Covid-19 pandemic.