New Delhi: Manufacturers of personal protective equipment (PPE) will now need to mark their products with a unique code and tamper-proof stickers, the textile ministry has said. This comes after reports emerged that unapproved products were being sold in the market.
Healthcare workers are at most risk of infection as they come in close contact with Covid-19 patients. With a global shortage of PPE that is supposed to protect them, the demand for such equipment has grown exponentially in hospitals and among sanitation workers who are called on to disinfect high risk areas.
The move, ministry officials said, was to tighten the production of PPE among Indian manufacturers and producers in line with the specifications of the World Health Organisation and the union ministry of health and welfare.
The ministry, in a notification issued on April 6, said the Unique Certification Code (UCC-COVID19) will apply to PPE garments and fabric which pass the laboratory tests laid down by the South India Textile Research Association (SITRA) as well as the the Defence Research & Development Establishment (DRDE). The Code will record the type of garment, its test procedure, date of test. The certification will be valid for a certain time period and both SITRA and DRDE will preserve the sample sent by the producer, said the notification, accessed by HT.
Approvals for the manufacturing of PPEs and the fabrics used in making them are given by the Coimbatore-based SITRA, an autonomous body under the textiles ministry and the Gwalior-based DRDE.
Another directive was that in the case of coveralls, the manufacturer will print in indelible ink or in a tamper-proof sticker details such as name of producer, code, test standard, batch number, order details.
A ministry official, on the condition of anonymity, told HT that the move was prompted by news reports of some of those rejected by SITRA and DRDE supplying their units to private hospitals. The directives have now been sent to states, too.
Nihar Ranjan Dash, joint secretary at the textiles ministry said that the certification mainly concerns coveralls and fabric provided by certain manufacturers to producers of PPEs. “The directive does not concern masks, as they are certified by the Bureau of Indian Standards. All this while, as we relied on imports, the specifications were of international standards,” said Dash.
He added that the tightening of norms will also help Indian manufacturers prepare for the global market. The current capacity of the Indian industry is 12,000 units per day, but Dash said that in about three months, India has the production capacity of 300,000 PPEs per day.
An official of one of the testing agencies told HT, on the condition of anonymity, that the two specific tests that are applied are the synthetic blood penetration test in the case of coveralls and the bacterial efficiency test in the case of masks. “A severe shortage of N95 masks has been a concern as there are just a handful of producers,” said the officials.
Since India began domestic production of PPE in March, these two testing agencies have approved 28 manufacturers with non-woven textiles such as masks and coveralls, and additionally approved 22 manufacturers of the fabric that is supplied to some of these producers.
The official of the testing agency said that in the beginning, only 50% of manufacturers passed the test. “The success rate now is over 80 percent,” the official said.
M Rajaa of Coimbatore-based Saastha Textiles, one of the approved manufacturers of waterproof, laminated thermoplastic polyurethane and thermoplastic elastomers fabric in knitted, woven and non-woven fabric used in PPE units, told HT that the fabric needs to have a certain type of lamination to ensure that blood and virus do not contaminate a healthcare worker. “We also need to use only polypropylene virgin material to ensure that the material is protective and some manufacturers are also using reprocessed materials,” said Rajaa.
Parag of Sai Synergy, a producer of PPEs, said that their products have been ordered by the Indian Navy before and hence their products carry a sticker. “The sticker has to be put during the manufacturing process and cannot be put there after,” he said.