We do love a good consumer scandal, don’t we! Over the years these scandals tend to be focused on financial products so it is unusual that the next such scandal could be over consumables. PPE.

Who or what is PPE?

It is fair to say that in March few people knew what PPE was and what the initials stood for. Personal Protective Equipment was only needed in certain industry sectors and it rarely rated as a subject of great interest.

Two months on and PPE is the acronym upon every ones lips. Even the media, after a shaky start, seem to have a greater understanding of it.

From consumable to commodity

The provision of PPE is an unregulated area of supply. Up until now the PPE market has been serviced by specialist wholesalers and resellers. The colossal increase in demand has seen many cash-cow hunters joining in.

Lack of supply, a massive demand, and a large increase in sellers, means that these consumables are now becoming commodities. Price increases are many hundreds of percent and every day users are being priced out of the market. Sub-standard products are flooding the market place.

Let the buyer beware

We live in a free market economy where demand and supply dictate prices. If a business that two months ago was selling solar panels or photocopiers wants to sell PPE then they can. But because of this we are now facing two real issues that need to be resolved.

The first is that the market cannot continue to push prices up. There is a point beyond which the most vulnerable will not be able to receive essential protective items. For example many care homes were struggling financially prior to the Covid19 disaster. How can they afford these massive price increases?

The second is that those traditional wholesalers and resellers, now being usurped by the profiteers, are the experts in this field. An employer who may have never used PPE before now wants to protect their staff. How can they be sure that what they buy will meet their needs? What if the PPE supplied is substandard? What if it does not protect as advertised and causes more infections due to misplaced belief by staff that they are protected?

Stop! Look! Listen!

Businesses are under pressure to re-open and try and ensure their survival. There is a palpable sense of panic that this must be done as quickly as possible. However to be able to ensure staff safety you must take a step back. Look carefully at what you need to do. Don’t jump at the first selection of PPE offered for fear that you wont get anymore!

Here are five tips to help you to make the right decisions.

•   Use an experience PPE supplier. Do your checks

•   Do not pay up front for stock without bona fide guarantees

•   Make sure that the PPE you order is of a quality to meet your business’s needs

•   Do not panic buy. A purchase made in haste is rarely good one.

If possible price check with the same product from elsewhere.


Andy McCorquodale

NBRA Utilities


T: 01204 282062