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$52,500 fine for selling non-protective safety jacket

15 May 2018

A protective clothing company has been fined $52,500 for selling a safety jacket that did not have the claimed protection against electrical burns.

Argyle Performance Workwear Limited (Argyle) was sentenced in the Auckland District Court on 10 May on one charge under the Fair Trading Act. It represented a safety jacket as having an arc rating of 70 calories per square centimetre (70 cal/cm2) when it had no arc rating at all.

Arc rated garments are worn by electricity lines workers and anyone who needs protection against the risk of harm from electrical arcing. Electrical arcing can cause serious burns. Arc ratings are expressed in calories per square centimetre (cal/cm2) and the higher the arc rating the greater the protection offered by the garment.

Argyle is a Hawera-based company specialising in protective industrial clothing, workwear and footwear. The arc rating representations were made on garment tags, in marketing emails, on the Argyle website and in a guide distributed to contractors.

While only 12 jackets were supplied, the Commission considered the representations were serious. “Customers are entitled to rely upon the accuracy of information provided to them about the products that they buy and this was especially important for a product that may be used for personal protection at work,” said Commissioner Anna Rawlings.

In sentencing Judge Mary-Beth Sharp said the offending was “highly careless if not grossly negligent.”

She said there was potential for huge harm in the event of an electrical fire, but noted that “fortunately a small number of products were supplied, most have been retrieved and no harm has been done.”

The Commission first alerted Argyle to its concerns in May 2016. Argyle immediately removed the jacket from sale and undertook a voluntary recall, with nine jackets successfully recalled and all customers refunded.