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Safety Equipment Institute Takes the Guesswork out of Protective Gear

June 2001 IBEW Journal

Linemen hanging on a pole several stories above ground shouldnt be worrying about their protective harness.

Thats why when it comes to fall protection equipment, you should look for the Safety Equipment Institute label. The oval label marked SEI certifies that the life-saving gear used by workers on a job is up to the job.

Protective equipment manufacturers make claims about their products, but until the SEI was formed 20 years ago, there was no independent organization to verify those claims. Former IBEW Safety and Health Director George Smith, who was at the time a member of the National Safety Council, was a founding member of the SEI and instrumental in obtaining funding for the new organization. Today, SEI is self-funded.

IBEW Research and Technical Services Director Douglas Fisher compares the claims of a manufacturer and the certification of the independent SEI to the difference between a company union and a union run by workers.

We dont have anyone to influence us, said Brother Fisher, a member of the SEIs Board of Directors. We are completely independent.

The SEI is a private, non-profit organization established to test and certify safety and protective products. Its board of directors includes representatives from organized labor, safety equipment users, the insurance industry, the fire service and a safety equipment manufacturer.

SEI certifies safety, health and protective products, including hardhats, emergency eyewash and shower equipment, fall protection equipment, eye and face protection equipment, gas detector tubes, disposable coveralls, police riot helmets and fire-fighting gear.

The certification program includes annual product testing and quality assurance auditing, which is comprehensive and ongoing. If a product fails to meet the recognized standards, the SEI has the authority to force a manufacturers recall.

Current safety standards are set by the American National Standards Institute, American Society for Testing and Materials, Canadian Standards Association and National Fire Protection Association.