Are media giants & search engine PPE restrictions helping or hindering the fight against Covid-19

Selling PPE online in the midst of a pandemic sounds like the easiest job in the world but PPE restrictions aren’t making life easy. Today, Tim Banks from Tuffshop, a long time supplier of workwear, including PPE for a range of professions, explores the challenges they have faced over the past six months and call for an adjustment to media giants’ & search engines’ approach to PPE restrictions in the future:

The COVID-19 pandemic has created an enormous spike in demand for PPE with individuals, businesses, health care authorities and governments worldwide, all buying supplies in much larger quantities than ever before. However, back in March just before the UK lockdown, Google, Facebook, Amazon and eBay all placed restrictions on advertising face masks, hand sanitiser and other PPE items being sold on their respective platforms.

The rush to implement PPE restrictions

Google merchant center accounts with feeds that mentioned face masks were suspended, Facebook ads were disallowed and many eBay and Amazon listings were removed. The reasons were to prevent price gouging and protect stocks for health authorities. This makes some sense at the start of a pandemic when demand outstrips supply and lives are at risk but how the restrictions were put into place seem quite draconian. The algorithms that are used seem to be extremely basic to say the least.

There are many stories of Google accounts being suspended for contravening the Sensitive Events policy when in fact they were simply doing what they had been doing long before the pandemic. Using keywords such as mask, goggles, respirator, sanitizer etc seems to have been enough to have your account suspended in some cases. Online forums have many examples of accounts being restricted for selling t-shirts, jewellery, pet accessories & DVDs with the word mask in the title or image.

So what do you do if you’re a PPE supplier?

When your whole business is to supply Workwear & PPE (personal protective equipment) and the largest online companies suddenly restrict your products, suspend your accounts and block your ads, it has a massive impact. Genuine long-term businesses like Tuffshop.co.uk that had been selling PPE prior to the pandemic were treated just the same as individuals springing up overnight and selling specific items at crazy mark-ups.

Tuffshop has supplied PPE to businesses, councils and large organisations including government departments, public utility companies and the NHS for over ten years. We were part of a PPE supply chain long before Coronvirus. We supply PPE from the leading brands Our products are CE approved, meet all required standards and are certified for the particular job they are designed for. We are trusted, safe and good at what we do as we’ve been doing it for a long time.

However… we cannot advertise due to the media giants advertising policies. Their algorithms simply aren’t doing the job to protect legitimate PPE businesses. Tuffshop has new PPE designed to protect against Coronavirus that is available to businesses and the general public but can’t be advertised or sold on the main selling channels.

The case against draconian PPE restrictions

Facemasks are required by almost every adult in the UK to prevent the spread of the Coronavirus so why are adverts restricted so heavily? Only basic fabric face masks that make no additional claims can be advertised. There are many masks available that offer much more protection against coronavirus but can’t be advertised even though they meet all the legal requirements and are scientifically backed.

The 5log face mask is a perfect example. PPE is still required by many, many industries. Respirators are still required by spray painters and chemical engineers, facemasks, safety goggles, nitrile gloves, handwipes etc etc are still required by tradespeople that cannot, by law, do the job without them.

It makes little sense to restrict genuine businesses from selling these products now that supply can accommodate the demand. The restrictions probably cause higher prices and add to the illusion that PPE is not available when it is.

Google Merchant Center

Our Google Merchant Center suspension came from nowhere, the explanation given was ‘Account suspended due to misrepresentation of self or product’ we removed all masks, respirators, goggles, sanitizers, cleaning products, wipes and all other items we thought may be causing the issue but we can’t remove all references at Tuffshop as we are a Workwear & PPE business.

After a few weeks and a few appeals, we had our Google Merchant Center account reinstated… but then we were suspended again a few days later and had to go through the same appeals processes. We had to guess what to do as there weren’t and still aren’t clear guidelines as to what constitutes a breach of policy – if sellers were informed of which COVID-19 specific keywords would result in a suspension, they could and would avoid using them.

Marketplaces and Social Media

Amazon and eBay both heavily restrict sales and seller support are unable to help with the issue.

Social media is also heavily restricted with Facebook and Instagram rejecting and removing ads.

The restrictions started in March and six months later in October, we are still facing difficulties with ad disapprovals and living with the risk of policy breaches and account suspensions despite being a PPE provider for over 10 years. With lockdown #2 just beginning it is unbelievable that the algorithms and policies haven’t been improved.

How PPE restrictions should be policed

There is no playbook for managing a pandemic online, the marketplaces are in unchartered territory so some understanding is required but much better communication is required. When a big player changes one of their Policies it can, overnight, effect 1000’s of UK businesses in every possible way, both positive and negative.

The marketplaces have always had problems with monitoring dis-information. How they manage their content was a topic discussed during the recent anti-trust hearing in front of US congress. When it comes to a complete policy change as was the case with the Coronavirus, someone, somewhere decided what can and can’t be advertised. This is where a lot of issues lie.

There is a fair argument that anyone taking advantage of the pandemic by price gouging should be restricted. On the other hand, if the restrictions were removed then prices are more likely to be driven down due to the increase in supply. However it’s policed, it seems to be common sense to allow long term businesses to continue selling the products they were selling before any rule changes and any restrictions should be towards new sellers.

If these sites want to police the internet, they need to address the ‘guilty until proven innocent’ approach towards sellers and take the website selling history into account before laying out blanket bans and overall, ensure their algorithms are fit for purpose

read full article here >> https://tamebay.com/2020/10/are-media-giants-search-engines-ppe-restrictions-helping-or-hindering-the-fight-against-covid-19.html

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Blåkläder workwear and Tuff Shop team up with winner of The Apprentice

Winner of the latest series of The Apprentice, Joseph Valente, has signed a deal with Tuffshop.co.uk & Blåkläder to provide all the workwear for his team of quality plumbing engineers.

Lord Sugar chose Joseph as his ‘apprentice’ because he saw great potential in his plans for his plumbing business, Impra-Gas. Joseph recognised a gap in the market for better service and he is determined to make his mark.

“Using Lord Sugar’s investment & expertise, Impra-Gas are working towards changing the plumbing industry’s reputation by focusing on delivering exceptional customer service. We don’t just want to satisfy our customers we want to amaze them,” says Joseph.

Blåkläder is supplying Impra-Gas with high performance trousers, fleeces, jackets and T-shirts. These are carefully designed to keep the team comfortable – allowing them to carry out their skilled work even in the most extreme conditions.

Joseph went on to say, “Our fitters spend a lot of time working on their knees, sitting or in an enclosed space, so comfort and functionality is key. What’s more, equipping them with Blåkläder makes them feel valued. They’ve already had lots of great comments from customers, others in the trade and even our competition.”

To discover more on the Blåkläder range click here

Craig Phillips Opens New Tuff Shop in Leeds



Blåkläder Ambassador Craig Phillips Opens New Tuff Shop in Leeds, Woodlesford, Yorkshire
Celebrity DIY and construction expert Craig Phillips will be the star guest at the official opening of the new branch of work wear clothing store, Tuff Shop on Friday 6th March in Woodlesford, Yorkshire. 
Tuff Shop offers a range of famous and stylish brands, such as Blåkläder, which are hard wearing and easy on the pocket – but don’t compromise on quality. The business was originally started by Tim & Kirsty Banks in 2010, from their family home, the growth of the business meant the pair opened a shop in Wakefield, but due to the success, the Tuff Shop outgrew its premises and will open to the public on Friday 6th March. 
Swedish work wear brand Blåkläder UK, is proud to have their ambassador Craig Phillips open the all new Tuff Shop. Blåkläder are extremely excited about working alongside Tuff Shop and are enthusiastic about providing clothing for people with the toughest, hardest and most strenuous jobs in the Yorkshire area. 
Founded in 1959, Blåkläder has a long and proud history of manufacturing the highest quality work wear. After over 50 years in the business, this privately owned company has gained considerable expertise and experience in producing clothing that is functional, durable and comfortable.
Craig will be at the new Tuff Shop store from 10am to 3pm, where customers will be given the opportunity to meet with the star as well as get a first look at the new Tuff Shop premises. There will be prizes and special offers on the day and attendees will have the chance to win a £250 Blåkläder outfit.
Tuff Shop have many years of knowledge and are committed to providing the very best in work clothing, PPE (personal protective equipment) and safety wear.  
The shop are also experts in ensuring workers are visible whilst undertaking everyday labour, by providing a quality print and embroidery service. This allows customers to choose their own official logo, graphics or text and can choose to add them on to any item of work clothing. 
For more information about Tuffshop and its range of work wear please visit: http://www.tuffshop.co.uk/


More Stories
 

Putting together a Health and Safety Policy - posted 26/10/12
 
They are often derided as a result of political correctness but an integral part of any business is its Health and Safety policy. Not only is it a legal requirement for every place of work to have one, it also gives evidence of how the company regards its employees and what is expected of them while on site. However, if you’re responsible for creating your company’s policy, where should you begin and what information should you make sure is included?
 
Start with the basics
 
Begin with a simple introduction that clearly explains what the document is setting out to do, then follow this with a brief description of the specific laws that cover Health and Safety. There’s no need to go into detail; simply lay out the basic information and be sure to include details about who staff should speak to regarding the policy. This section should also point out that the company expects everyone in the workplace to comply with the rules and regulations that will be laid out.
 
The people who are responsible for ensuring that heath and safety measures are followed should also be mentioned in your policy, from those who are at the very top of the tree and have general control over it, down to those who oversee and manage it on a day to day basis. Should a member of staff need to report an incident or require any safety wear, or a specific item of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), these should be the people they contact first.
 
Make it specific to your workplace
 
The document must then outline the potential issues and risks that are specific to where you work. This means that you shouldn’t simply copy and paste something you find on the internet; you will need to research the problems that could crop up and any potential hazards that could pose a threat to staff or visitors by conducting a thorough risk assessment in order to cover yourself legally. Again, you don’t need to go down into the fine details in your H&S Policy, as a general overview will be more than sufficient.
 
Even the smallest company is required to have a Health and Safety policy, but it shouldn’t be seen as a chore that is simply written once and forgotten about. It should be reviewed on an annual basis and kept as up to date as possible to reflect an ever-changing work environment. Regard it as an organic document that is not there to chastise you and your fellow workers, but exists to keep everyone protected and covered should something happen that could cause illness or injury.


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The importance of Health and Safety in your workplace - posted 11/10/2012
 
It doesn’t matter if you’re the owner of a business or simply an employee - everyone is responsible for safety in the workplace. Everywhere, whether it’s an office or building site, has potential risks and hazards that should be noted and dealt with in order to make sure that anyone on the premises is kept as safe as possible. Health and Safety is about sensibly recognising any possible dangers and laying out the best possible plans on dealing with them.
 
Write up a risk assessment
 
The first step is to conduct a risk assessment. This document will list the hazards and risks that are present in your business or on your site, as well as what those present are expected to do in order to keep themselves safe. For example, take your average construction site; you wouldn’t expect to see workers wandering around without hard hats, would you? Your risk assessment would identify the potential risk of things falling from a height that could possibly strike someone in the head causing injury (or worse) and then highlight that the solution would be for your workers to be given their own PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) gear and sturdy, safety headwear.
 
When you’ve completed your assessment of the possible dangers in your workplace, it’s time to start putting measures in place that will promote safety. Imagine that you were running a warehouse, filled with high storage shelves, laden with heavy items. Your staff members are busy, running around picking up items to be sent out and driving forklifts backwards and forwards in order to move heavier pieces. How can you make sure that people are kept safe?
 
Quality protective equipment and simple rules prevent injuries
 
First of all, kit out everyone on the floor with high visibility jackets and vests so they can be spotted quickly; making sure that everyone is aware on how to lift things properly is also a good idea, as is forbidding anyone who is not trained in driving a forklift from going anywhere near them. Even though these may seem simple and straightforward, you’d be surprised at the amount of incidents that happen in workplaces around the country every year due to businesses that fail to implement rules like these. All staff should receive training on the Health & Safety procedures in place and clear signs should also be installed to remind people of their responsibilities.
 
Don’t think of the introduction of such measures as causing a fuss – they are vital and could literally save lives. It’s essential that you seek ways in which to improve on the safety measures in your workplace and make the local environment better for you and your employees. If you need any advice on the best type of safety equipment for your needs, you can always contact Tuff Shop, your friendly workwear and PPE suppliers, for advice on the most appropriate products in our catalogue to keep you all safe and sound.
 

Claiming tax relief on uniform and cleaning costs - posted 25/09/12

Whether you work for an employer, or as a freelancer or contract worker, you could be missing out financially by failing to claim tax relief on allowable expenses.

We're all very aware that times are hard; as the economy continues along its shaky and uncertain path, we're all looking for ways to improve our finances and celebrate even the smallest of wins. For many people, one way they can improve their money situation is by being fully aware of their rights when it comes to tax - and let's face it, most of us are pretty out of touch. By not claiming permitted expenses, you effectively dropping money down the drain, or perhaps even worse, giving it unnecessarily to the Government!

So what work clothing and cleaning expenses can I claim?

The first rule of clothing and equipment expenses is that they must be used SOLELY for work. A uniform should be recognisable as being for a specific job with a logo or other branding to identify it. Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) which is necessary for your job and is designed to protect you against risks that can’t be negated by taking alternative action can also be claimed for. Much of the clothing and equipment used in industries such as construction, catering and laboratory work is essential for the protection of your everyday clothes or to protect you from actual harm, so these are sectors that this information can be particularly relevant to.

You can claim your tax relief in one of two ways; by keeping an account of your expenditure along with valid receipts or invoices, or by claiming the HMRC Flat Rate – which has been calculated on an average for uniform purchase and cleaning fees. Check on the HMRC website to see what you might be able to claim, as it can vary according to the industry.

The ability to claim tax relief for hard wearing work clothing and PPE covers the original costs, replacement, repair and washing - but anything that your employer pays for is NOT covered. If your employer pays for some of the costs, you can only claim against the portion that you pay, and if they provide these items to you, you can’t make any claim at all. It’s also not possible to make a claim against cleaning if you’re provided with the necessary facilities by your employer – even if you choose not to use them.

If you're unsure about how to manage your tax, then talk directly to HMRC or speak to a qualified accountant. You should always make sure that you're claiming relief on everything you're entitled to, but also be careful not to claim for things that are not allowable expenses. If you have items of tough work clothing that you also wear outside of work, you can't claim a penny for them - so be honest and avoid potential repercussions from the tax man!


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Hello and welcome to our news page!

For our very first post, we thought we'd say a quick hello to introduce you to Tuff Shop and tell you a little bit about our news page and what we intend to do here.

We value our customers and want to do everything we can to provide a great service; we thought that by setting up a News page, we could post articles of interest and helpful information, giving you a place to come for updates in the workwear industry. When new products come out or new developments are made in the world of work and safety wear, we'll post information on this section of our site as soon as possible, to make sure you get to hear about all the latest news.

In this rapidly moving world, new technology and innovations are being rolled-out all the time – so when there’s any kind of development that could be helpful to you, we’ll post it and let you know!  When a new story is added, we’ll let you know via Facebook and Twitter, so make sure you’ve ‘liked’ our page or follow us, so you know when to call by.

As existing customers and those who have browsed our site will already know, we're providers of essential work wear and equipment, helping you or your business to face every day well prepared. From high vis jackets, vests and trousers, to tough workwear such as steel toe capped boots and durable clothing, we're here to kit you out, head to toe, ready for the job in hand.

We also provide an extensive range of great value Personal Protective Equipment, or PPE, that’s great quality too. These products cover all kinds of items and accessories, such as protective gloves and headwear, and a wide variety of other useful safety equipment to protect you while you work. If you're an employer, these products can be absolutely essential in order to meet legal regulations and comply with the laws surrounding health and safety at work, and we supply everything you could need, all in one handy online shop – how’s that for service?

In order to help employers, we'll also post articles relating to new laws and employment issues that are relevant to your industry. Having a source of valuable content and information can be really helpful - and we aim to be as helpful as possible!

Please feel free to bookmark this page and pop back from time to time. Also, if there are any issues or products that you would like us to cover, please send us an email via our contact page and let us know - we'll do our best to feature your ideas and give you credit for the inspiration too!