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Hazardous Products Sale Rules Explained

A plague of crimes, accidents and fines creates a need for business clarity around the sale of dangerous goods.

The persistence of criminal and terrorist activity and accidents involving hazardous products – and the subsequent fines levied on businesses for their part in irresponsibly and illegally distributing the goods – has led Business Companion to publish new guidance on the rules retailers should adhere to.

The Office of National Statistics recorded a 29 percent increase in knife crime in England and Wales during the decade ending 2021. In London alone, there were more than 2,000 violent corrosive fluid offences between 2009 and 2019, according to Statistica, with an alarming upswing in offences in the latter half of the decade. Concerns focus on individual as well as terrorist acts, with home-made explosives cause for anxiety.

Of course, rule-makers and enforcers are keen to minimise the risk of hazardous materials and dangerous products falling into the wrong hands and so have looked to regulate those retailers at the front end of distribution. The Offensive Weapons Act 2019 (OWA) brought with it a range of new requirements for businesses to adhere to.

Business Companion’s new information resource aims to help retailers comply with the rules outlined in that Act as well as older legislation covering hazardous products. The guide is formatted in a way that traders who need to check something quickly or have concerns about a particular customer or sale can find the information they need without searching through reams of legal text.

“While all retailers have a moral and legal responsibility to ensure that the products they sell are safe, it is particularly important that businesses selling potentially dangerous items take their responsibilities extra seriously,” states a release announcing the publication of the resource. “By doing so they can avoid the risk of enforcement action or legal penalties, and be safe in the knowledge that they are playing their part in keeping their customers and the general public safe.”

The resource is divided into two parts. The first, dedicated to hazardous products such as acids, corrosives, poisons and explosives precursors, provides guidance on storage, delivery and labelling, and sets out the restrictions and requirements around the sale of specific substances and types of

product. The second section focuses on the marketing, sale and delivery of knives and bladed articles, with information on age checks, definitions and a range of best practice procedures. The entire guide highlights key differences between selling in-store and online, as well as other types of remote sales such as mail order and telephone sales.

The guide can be used in tandem with the knife retailer toolkit, which is published on the National Business Crime Centre website. In 2016, the voluntary retailers’ agreement was introduced to attempt to restrict the sale of knives to the same age group. This year it has been updated to include stronger commitments in relation to the display of knives. In 2018 the Government rolled out a voluntary commitment aimed at restricting access of persons aged under 18 to products containing acid and other corrosive substances.

You can read the guidance here.

Business Companion is a free online resource operated by the Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI) with the support of the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS). It hosts a wealth of information for businesses across a wide variety of sectors, providing accurate, reliable and up-to-date guidance on numerous aspects of consumer law.

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