ISEAThe International Safety Equipment Association (ISEA) is seeking public comment on a proposed voluntary consensus standard for PPE conformity assessment.

The new standard, ISEA 125, establishes a standardized process by which suppliers – including manufacturers, importers, assemblers and distributors – can provide evidence that their products meet applicable performance standards.

It includes requirements for product testing, process quality management, verification of ongoing compliance, corrective action and recordkeeping. It provides a standardized way to inform the purchaser of how the product was evaluated for conformity. It establishes three alternative methods of conformity assessment, enabling suppliers, purchasers, customers, regulators and standards writers to match a method with a product or standard where appropriate.

Protection from substandard look-alikes

ISEA believes that suppliers will be able to use this standard to give employers and workers added assurance that the protective equipment they depend on will perform as expected.

“Employers and users expect that PPE will provide a certain level of protection,” said ISEA president Dan Shipp. “But in a global economy, substandard look-alike products are all too common. Responsible suppliers have to compete with low-cost variants that bear the mark required by a standard, but fail even the most basic tests.”

The three methods in the proposed standard differ in the type and rigor of testing and quality assurance, from self-testing to third-party certification.  The standard does not attempt to match a conformity assessment method with a specific product, hazard or performance standard, leaving that decision to the supplier, purchaser, or a regulatory agency.

“This standard doesn’t mandate expansion of third-party certification or any other conformity assessment method,” according to Shipp. “Although we believe it will be suitable as a framework for regulation and enforcement, it is a voluntary standard.

Benefits of standard

“We believe suppliers will benefit from having a way to demonstrate to purchasers how they are testing and verifying their products’ performance. They can choose the method, or methods, that best match their customers’ needs. As purchasers and users begin to see manufacturers offering this evidence of conformity assessment, they will be begin to expect it in all cases, and other suppliers will find that they have to comply as well. Workers will benefit from greater assurance that PPE will protect them.”

The standard is being submitted for review by a balanced panel of producers, users, regulators and experts, under ISEA procedures approved by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). Once this process is completed, ISEA will submit the standard for approval as an American National Standard, ANSI/ISEA 125.

At the same time, members of the public are invited to review and comment on the standard. A summary and background information are available at The comment deadline is April 25, 2013. To get a copy of the draft standard and a comment form, or for more information, contact ISEA director of member and technical services Cristine Fargo.