The head of the UK’s professional clothing trade association has assured the water industry it will do all it can to direct businesses to suppliers who are familiar with the sourcing and production of essential protective clothing during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Yvette Ashby, chief executive of the Professional Clothing Industry Association Worldwide (PCIAW), said her team was able to make introductions to global suppliers with stock of personal protective equipment (PPE) and workwear. Ashby gave her reassurances to British Water chief executive Lila Thompson, who reached out to the association on behalf of the water sector after concerns were raised about the availability of regulated items.
She said: “There is obviously a workwear and PPE shortage affecting all industries, due to an increase in worldwide demand and a reduction of available workforce which is impacting manufacturers’ ability to supply. However, we have members and affiliations globally and are keeping track of who has what, so we’re able to point buyers in the right direction.
“I must remind all those who are sourcing PPE, that it is a highly regulated sector and items must meet the required British standards. Professional clothing is a life-saving industry and all employers have a responsibility to make sure their people are dressed correctly.”
PCIAW’s website has a free tendering portal, however, Ashby said during the crisis buyers are welcome to email her team directly and they will support where they can, adding: “That’s why we’re here, that’s what we do.”
The surge in demand for protective clothing has again raised the issue that not all items fit women correctly, with complaints from frontline medical staff treating Covid-19 patients making headlines in the mainstream media. This echoes long-standing concerns from women in the water industry who have not been provided with appropriate kit.
Ashby said this was unfortunate: “Purchasing companies owe a duty of care to their employees. When purchasing PPE, it is their responsibility to advise the supplier of what they want in terms of volume and fit. There are choices. If PPE is not fitted correctly it is ineffective and dangerous. Do get in touch with us and we will try to help you.”
Lila Thompson said: “The water industry provides a critical service and it is absolutely essential workers have the correct clothing to keep them safe. As the representative for the UK supplier community, British Water is doing all it can to support members in these unprecedented circumstances.
“The guidance we have received from Yvette and PCIAW is invaluable. We understand that demand may have an effect on both availability and pricing of protective clothing and equipment but once again, the PCIAW can help you steer through these challenges.”