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New UK Code of Practice on Bringing Safe Products to Market

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United Kingdom

The UK's national product safety regulator, the Office for Product Safety and Standards (OPSS), and the UK's national standards body, the British Standards Institution (BSI), have published a new Code of Practice to support businesses in bringing new products to market safely.

PAS 7050:2022, Bringing safe products to market (the Code of Practice), which came into effect on 31 March 2022, is intended to assist businesses in meeting their legal obligations under product safety laws which require that new and used consumer products placed on the market are safe.

Background

Under The General Product Safety Regulations 2005 (the GPSRs), businesses have various obligations in relation to product safety including that only safe products are placed on the market (the 'general safety requirement').  Although the GPSRs are commonly understood as only imposing obligations on manufacturers, many obligations – including the general safety requirement – apply to other supply-chain participants to the extent that their activities may affect a product's safety characteristics. 

The Code of Practice augments and expands upon the obligations in the GPSRs by providing guidance on how they can be met in practice.  It is important to note however that, while following the Code of Practice's recommendations is likely to be strongly persuasive evidence that a business has satisfied its legal obligations, doing so will not in itself act as a shield against, nor will it confer immunity from, prosecution.

New recommendations

The Code of Practice provides recommendations for the management of internal systems and supply chains in order to ensure that products placed on the market are safe.  These recommendations are relevant to all businesses involved in the supply of products including manufacturers, designers, importers, distributors, repairers, refurbishers and the operators of online marketplaces for consumer products. 

Like the GPSRs, the Code of Practice applies to both new and second-hand consumer products (i.e. those products which are intended for consumers or which are likely, under reasonably foreseeable conditions, to be used by consumers). 

The recommendations do not, however, apply to products that are covered by sector-specific requirements (such as automotive, medicines and medical device products) or products that are sold via consumer-to-consumer transactions without the intermediation of any business.

Product Safety Management Plan

One of the most important recommendations in the Code of Practice relates to the necessity for all businesses involved in the supply of consumer products to have a product safety management plan (PSMP).  A PSMP should form the foundation of a business' product safety efforts and there should be a board or senior decision-maker level commitment to its development and implementation. 

A PSMP should include the following:

  1. clear evidence of management's commitment to only bringing safe products to market;
  2. measures intended to foster a product safety culture and provision for training relevant employees;
  3. processes to enable the business to respond to any changes (including to regulatory frameworks, industry practice and as a result of customer feedback and injury and fatality data) which might affect the compliance and safety of its products;
  4. clarity on supply chain responsibilities including a clear allocation between supply-chain participants as to who is responsible for the establishment of product safety processes;
  5. details of how supplier risks are assessed and managed;
  6. how product risks are assessed and managed including at the design stage, in light of applicable standards, as a result of the application of risk assessment methodologies such as EU RAPEX; through labelling and warning statements, taking account of how products are used in the market, etc.;
  7. measures to ensure that product safety is actively considered throughout the manufacturing process including through production consistency and component traceability;
  8. product traceability measures such as ensuring that product identifiers remain visible over time;
  9. monitoring product safety performance in the market and, where appropriate, taking appropriate action;
  10. a product safety incident response plan (PSIP);
  11. ensuring that products remain safe throughout their intended life and under anticipated use conditions; and
  12. provision for reviewing product safety practices – on at least an annual basis – to ensure they conform to the latest requirements.

The Code of Practice provides further details on how a PSMP should be developed.  It also various checklists (in Annexes A-E) which businesses can complete along with guidance (in Annex F) on what technical documentation a business may be required to both produce and maintain to demonstrate compliance with legal requirements. 

Online marketplace operators, distributors, importers, etc.

The Code of Practice makes clear that online marketplace operators (such as auction sites and sites that otherwise connect buyers and sellers), repairers and refurbishers and distributors and importers of second-hand products should also put in place a PSMP.

Such PSMPs should, following the guidance in the Code of Practice, take account of the specific circumstances of each of these supply-chain participants' operations.  In the case of online marketplace operators, for example, a PSMP should typically include policies and processes to confirm the identity of the sellers making products available and to provide materials to help educate and inform sellers as to their product safety obligations.

New guidance on product safety notifications and recalls

The Code of Practice is to be read alongside the newly issued PAS 7100:2022 Code of Practice on Product recall and other corrective actions which provides additional practical guidance on how businesses can meet product safety notification requirements and manage product recalls. 

PAS 7100 is a valuable resource for businesses in that it collates number of pieces of information that were otherwise difficult for many businesses to locate.  This includes guidance on what information a product safety notification actually needs to include.   
  
The wider context

The Code of Practice should be viewed as an effort by the UK authorities to ensure that the UK product safety regime remains relevant in light of new product developments and changing methods of distribution. 

Similar efforts are underway at the EU level – from which the majority of UK product safety rules are derived – through proposals for a new general product safety regulation

How we can help

Please contact Aonghus Heatley if you require any assistance in relation to the Code of Practice. Fieldfisher's market-leading London regulatory team, part of the firm's multidisciplinary environmental, social and governance (ESG) group, is well-placed to help you understand the potential impact of the Code of Practice on your business. 

We have particular expertise in relation with product safety matters having advised many businesses in relation to high-profile product safety incidents and their interactions with regulatory authorities including the OPSS and Trading Standards.

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