Thousands of key protective equipment items supplied by the Government for Birmingham frontline staff are either out of date or have failed safety tests.

Last weekend the news broke that all of the goggles supplied by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government via the Government’s Local Resilience Forum have had a product recall notice issued due to them failing safety tests.

That means that Birmingham Council is now having to recall 23,000 pairs of goggles that have already been issued to key workers. Furthermore, now Birmingham has no stock of goggles for its frontline staff at all.

This is not the only type of protective equipment supplied by the Government which has been defective. National news was made by the revelation that PPE supplied by the Government to Birmingham was six years out of date.

These were 4,000 FFP3 face masks designed to be used by mortuary staff, so it is vitally important that any protective equipment they are given is fit for purpose.

Birmingham Labour Council wrote to the government on April 22, as soon as the masks were delivered, asking whether they were safe to use. We received no reply.

After sending a request every day for two weeks, Birmingham received a response from the Department of Health and Social Care saying that they are preparing to carry out sample testing on FFP3 masks to see whether they are safe to use. It’s not yet clear how long this will take or how it will be done.

Since asking for assurances that this equipment is safe to use, Birmingham has received even more FFP3 masks from the Government. That means Birmingham has a supply of 16,000 of these masks in stock that cannot be used.

Ian Ward, Leader of Birmingham Labour Council, said: “This is not acceptable and our frontline workers deserve better than out of date masks and goggles that have failed safety tests.

Our primary objective is to protect the health and safety of those that need PPE. Workers who are putting themselves in harm’s way to help Birmingham get through this crisis should not be put at even greater risk with the supply of potentially defective PPE.

Despite repeated requests over the last three weeks, the Government has so far failed to give assurances that the face masks are safe to use. It is quite frankly outrageous that we have to chase the Government on this issue.

We accept that sourcing and supplying PPE nationally at this time is a huge challenge. But if we identify issues with equipment provided for our frontline staff, the very least the Government can do is respond quickly to reassure key workers and sort any problems.

It’s not enough to just clap for key workers – we have to do everything we can to keep them safe.”

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