Workplace Solutions Electrical

Understanding the dangers of counterfeit products in the workplace

What do I need to know about identifying and avoiding counterfeit electrical products?

Responding is Tom Grace, brand protection manager, Eaton’s Electrical Sector, Moon Township, PA.

Most companies are diligently trying to promote safety in the workplace. This is especially evident where machinery or heavy equipment is used and higher risks of injury are encountered. It is believed that all occupational injuries are preventable.

In environments that involve working with or around electrical equipment, it is important not to forget the risk that counterfeit electrical products can pose – a risk with potential safety threats that are preventable.

Understanding the dangers of counterfeits in the workplace is recognizing the dangers that they represent.

Counterfeit electrical products can pose tremendous safety threats to work environments. By definition, a counterfeit is a product that uses – without authorization – the trademark, service mark or copyright of another entity intended to deceive prospective customers into believing that the product is genuine.

Counterfeit electrical products, many of which are intended to serve as protective devices, are unsafe look-alikes. Counterfeit circuit breakers, extension cords and surge protectors often are made with inferior materials without regard for meeting even minimal performance specifications. The trusted marks of independent certifications also have been counterfeited.

Using these counterfeit electrical products can result in malfunctions causing overheating or short circuits – leading to fires, shocks or explosions that can cost workers their lives and produce considerable property damage.

Manufacturers of counterfeits rely on deception and prices that are below market-level to find their way into the workplace. This makes detecting the difference between a counterfeit and an authentic product difficult, especially as counterfeiters become more sophisticated.

Avoiding and identifying counterfeits

Buy authentic. The best way to avoid counterfeit electrical products is to purchase products from the manufacturer’s authorized distributors or resellers. There is a higher risk of counterfeits if one cannot trace the path of commerce to the original manufacturer.

Scrutinize labels and packaging. While identifying a counterfeit product is difficult at first glance, scrutinizing labels and packaging often can help determine if the product is suspected of being counterfeit. It is important to reject look-alike products that lack any identifying branding label or affiliation. If a product appears to be tampered or altered, or has missing information, this indicates that the product may not be genuine. Professionals should also be wary of poor-quality labels, out-of-date product codes, non-genuine packaging, and products that seem flimsy or are noticeably poorly made.

Avoid bargains. In addition, professionals should be cautious of “bargains” when purchasing electrical products. It helps to compare the price of products to similar products at a different retailer. If the price seems too good to be true, odds are it is.

Check authentication. When possible, utilizing tools provided by the original manufacturer or certification organizations to verify authentication can be an easy way to clarify if a product is genuine.

If a product is suspected of being counterfeit, it is recommended to contact the original manufacturer. This will allow authentication of the suspect product and ensure the potentially unsafe product is removed from the marketplace.

It is crucial to continue to work together to prevent these unsafe counterfeit products from causing harm to people and property.

Editor's note: This article represents the independent views of the author and should not be construed as a National Safety Council endorsement.

Post a comment to this article

Safety+Health welcomes comments that promote respectful dialogue. Please stay on topic. Comments that contain personal attacks, profanity or abusive language – or those aggressively promoting products or services – will be removed. We reserve the right to determine which comments violate our comment policy. (Anonymous comments are welcome; merely skip the “name” field in the comment box. An email address is required but will not be included with your comment.)