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A Question of Safety

Reflectors are used as safety product, but not all are made to the same standard, says Matt Lake.

Personal reflectors have been around since the 1960s when they were first made in Finland by a small company that manufactured plastic plates and kitchen wear. The company, Talmu, was the descendent of Safety Reflector Finland Oy, the principle supplier of our company, Scanglo.

Since then, reflective products have grown and diversified. They are made all over the world and in both prism and soft reflective forms. They are a responsible product and a great vehicle to carry a responsible message. That’s why they have their own CE standard EN13356 to pass.

As the product is mainly targeted at children, it is a question of safety, responsibility and ethics that standards are not flouted or ignored. However, a growing number of products that claim to be reflectors have no CE certificate to demonstrate that they have passed testing.

Testing standards

Our prism reflectors pass the minimum standard by along way. The Finnish manufacturers ensure that the reflective values are such that a blank product can carry up to a third of its surface area in print and still pass. I feel aggrieved that some distributors are being offered vastly inferior ‘reflectors’.

Soft reflectors, including slap wraps, are a very specialist area because the reflective surface material is often made to a size to reflect to the standard. When it’s printed, the reflectivity is reduced accordingly. We only offer soft reflectors with printing beneath the surface for this reason. There are many poor and misleading ‘soft’ products in circulation.

There are good reflectors and suppliers out there, but distributors can’t tell which is which? It would be great if the product portal sites and catalogue groups could demonstrate their responsibility to their customers. These products are supposed to be a safety item, so the industry should be honest and open about their quality.

Transparency

Many companies and even local authorities are being sold inferior products and putting their name to something that could give the consumer a false sense of security. How can we encourage reflector use, when the quality of a product is unknown? Any product that uses terms such as reflector, reflective, safety and so on, should be able to demonstrate that it has passed the relevant CE testing.

There are loopholes that manufacturers, suppliers, distributors can use to evade the requirement to test. For instance, they can call an item a reflective keyring. Keyrings are not required to be tested as a reflector. In the interest of clarity, words and phrases that lead one to believe an item reflects or is hi-vis should be qualified or not used. The clear guidance for selling and marketing these products is not being recognised or understood.

Scanglo is passionate about its products. It’s taken a lot of people a lot of time to get the standard to where it is and it is constantly under review and improvement.

In Finland, 50% of the population wear safety reflectors and accident rates have dropped dramatically. Before 2000 there weren’t any other reflectors on the market than highly reflective (TALMU/Coreflect) prism reflectors. With the danger of poorer quality products entering the market, Finnish authorities have acted, pulling products from the market, and stopping non-conforming products at customs.

The CE standard is being strengthened. In future, it will state that the attachment method has to be at least 10cm long to allow the reflector to swing. It will be recommended products should reflect on both sides, to ensure 360° visibility.

Scanglo sells into retail where the product must conform to be considered. That’s what we would love for this market also. We want to work with others in the industry to push for better standards and regulation of this very specialist section of the business gift market.

These products have been developed to prevent pedestrian road traffic deaths and injuries. This makes them very different to a diary or a pen. If these fail it’s embarrassing for the supplier or distributor. When reflectors fail it is potentially more serious.

Matt Lake is director of Scanglo.

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