The ‘harmless’ products that could be lethal
As the new year commences, it is timely to consider the supply chains that your organisation has in place. Not only from a pricing and quality point of view, but from a safety standpoint as well.
Over the last few years, Australian businesses have encountered products entering the market – many originating from overseas – that do not meet Australian Standards. In the construction industry, this has ranged from asbestos-containing material in ceiling tiles, to combustible aluminium composite panels. In some cases, these products have led to exposure to risks to health and safety, including fires in the case of aluminium composite panels and exposure to asbestos when installing the ceiling tiles.
These incidents demonstrate the importance of ensuring you proactively check and assess the adequacy of your supply chain. Not only should you be dealing with suppliers who can demonstrate that they provide compliant plant, equipment or other materials which are known to potentially pose a risk, but also how to determine whether an apparently harmless product may contain latent risks.
The best protection for this risk of a latent defect is to put in place a proper procurement process. This process assesses not only the cost of the product or materials that you are purchasing, but also considers the safety standards and how the product will be safely manufactured, which include its components as well as necessary safety precautions when being installed and commissioned.
If you are not sure about whether your processes are effective or not, then it may be time to review how you go about engaging suppliers and what information you request and receive from them about the safety compliance of their products.
Some important steps include:
- using a request for tender format that requires safety information on the product to be provided;
- checking the product’s safety record through your own due diligence and market research;
- ensuring your procurement process does not simply favour the cheapest product, but places adequate emphasis on safety performance; and
- checking the experience and qualifications of any supplier or contractor you use to install or commission the products.
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