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Avoiding Safe Supply Scams

Ireland's Top Safe Supply Scams And How To Spot Them

In an ideal world you should be able to tell a safe supplier your requirements, have them recommend a safe that has a level of European certified burglary and fire resistance suitable for your needs, and then have the supplier confidentially deliver and install your safe to European standards. The result, a properly certified safe that will protect your interests for many years to come. Unfortunately, we do not live in an ideal world. 

In 2021 and 2022 two well known safe suppliers in Ireland were convicted of fraud with one particular supplier having previously spent time in jail, yet both are still working in the safe supply industry and advertising on the internet. These prosecutions, however, represent just the tip of a much larger iceberg of malpractice throughout the industry.

Ireland and the UK are notorious black spots for fraud and misrepresentation in the safe supply sector. This not only results in higher levels of successful burglary having a knock-on effect on insurance costs, but also has some very serious implications for the physical health of private consumers, office workers and government clerical staff.

Fraud in the safe supply industry takes many forms, it is widespread, involves many of the biggest names in the industry and has for over twenty two years involved the marketing of safes known to contain asbestos in contravention of EU and UK legislation which bans such illegal activity. Unfortunately, safe industry organisations in the UK and Ireland, rather than working to improve an understanding of accredited European standards designed to protect consumers and insurers, have instead worked diligently and determinedly to do the exact opposite for the sake of profits.

 

  The Secure Cabinet Scam

EN14450 is the European Standard for a light secure storage unit referred to as a “Secure Cabinet”. Previous versions of the EN14450 European standard referred to this unit as a “Secure Safe Cabinet”, however, marketing of EN14450 Cabinets as “Safes” particularly “Home Safes” became so widespread that the title of the EN14450Secure Safe Cabinet” standard was formally changed by a Europe wide vote in 2020 the results of which were announced on the 5th of August 2021. The vote, proposed by and Ireland's National Standards Authority of Ireland expert Alan Donohoe Redd, via CEN263, succeeded in having the word “Safe” in the English language version of the standard removed to better inform and protect both consumers and insurers. Acceptance of the amendment was almost unanimous with 96.94% support including Austria, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Poland, and Spain.

Notably the UK, which had Chairmanship of the CEN263 committee held by BSI representative expert Mark Brookes, abstained. Brookes had just appeared in a YouTube video demonstration of the Chubb Home Safe S2 posted a week before the result of the vote had been announced (30th of July 2021) in which he repeatedly referred to the Chubb Home Safe S2 cabinet as a “Safe” telling viewers that the "Home Safe" is “certified security level S2”, while noticeably not telling them that S2 indicates burglary resistance as a “Secure Cabinet”, not a Safe. In fact the word "cabinet" was not mentioned once throughout the video.

secure safe cabinet EN14450

Why this matters:

Being more lightly constructed than a safe, Secure Cabinets are cheaper to produce and more easily transported and installed, as well as ideal for low-cost delivery by couriers. The problem for insurers and consumers alike, who may accept an EN14450 cabinet as a safe or home safe is that a "Secure Cabinet" is not even close to the burglary resistance one can expect from the lightest grade of certified safe. In European laboratories EN14450 Secure Cabinets are only tested against a range of light “hand tools”. Despite these facts the marketing of EN14450 Secure Safe Cabinets (Security level S1 and S2) as safes is still an everyday occurrence not only in Ireland and the UK but in the rest of Europe. S1 and S2 Secure Cabinets have no insurance rating in Ireland and many other countries in Europe, yet if you were to Google “Safes” today, a vast number of search results described as “Safes” will be S1 & S2Secure Cabinets”, many claiming ratings for cash and a jewellery as high as €50,000 overnight.

 

  Unaccredited Grades And Standards

70% of safes tested for burglary resistance by accredited European testing labs fail on the first attempt so the implications of accepting unaccredited claims of burglary or fire resistance are obvious, yet this is another hidden pitfall waiting for both consumers and insurers. EU Parliament regulation 765/2008 created the system that provides the legal basis of accreditation for the burglary resistance certification of safes to European standard EN1143-1, a system that is backed by regular auditing, market surveillance and is verifiable, proof of standard for both insurance and litigation purposes. 

Unfortunately however, there are several UK organisations and bodies such as the Loss Prevention Certification Board (LPCB), The Association of Insurance Surveyors Ltd and Sold Secure that claim to "certify" or "approve" safes to a variety of standards including European standards despite having no accreditation to do so, more than a few European and UK manufacturers who also make such claims as well as several safe suppliers in Ireland who will just invent "recommended covers" and grades.

The Legal Situation:
Technically there is nothing illegal about stating that a particular safe has been manufactured in accordance with European standard EN1143-1 and claiming that it is of a particular resistance grade. This is simply a statement of opinion, so it is of primary importance that when it is claimed that a safe is certified to EN1143-1 we always ask the question, certified by who?

Why this matters:

Buying a safe that does not have accredited European certification has several long term implications. Perhaps the most important implication is that there is no paper trail to verify the burglary resistance of the particular safe. What may appear to be a solid well-constructed unit, if not bearing accredited certification, could contain anything from cheap concrete, sand or wood encased in a metal skin. In the case of second-hand safes poor construction could also be accompanied by nasty surprises such as asbestos filling or seals and other toxic materials. Another implication is that without a legal proof of standard for your safe an insurer may be well within their rights to deny a claim particularly as Ireland's recommended rates of insurance cover for safes, like those in all other European jurisdictions, are based exclusively on accredited European certification.

An accredited certification plate for a safe will display the logo of an accredited certification body, burglary resistance grade and most importantly confirmation that the certification body is accredited to ISO/IEC 17065, legal assurance that the certifier is accredited under European law. The same information will be available on accredited certification documents which are freely available and should always be asked for. Below are logos of the four certification bodies with European accreditation to certify safes that you are likely to encounter on a genuine certification plate in Ireland.

vds certification logo essa certification logo SBSC certification logo a2p certification logo

Indication Of Safe Certification Plate

  Important Warning Re: LPCB (UK)

LPCB (UK) has never been an accredited certification body for the burglary resistance of safes in Europe yet have issued certification badges in the same format as properly accredited certification bodies for many years. Notably however an ISO/IEC17065 accreditation which will be present on an accredited certification badge is absent on LPCB badges. The fact that LPCB claim to certify their own tests also runs counter to any norms in Europe where both the tester and the certifier are required to be independent bodies. LPCB certification claims should not be confused with properly accredited European certification which has a basis in law as proof of standard and on which all safe ratings in Europe are based.

 

 Unaccredited Fire Resistance Claims

In the current market the majority of safes and cabinets that safe suppliers claim have an accredited certification of fire resistance have no such certification whatsoever. Often this is a side-effect of an ignorance of fire resistance standards for safes but as is the case with burglary resistance certification, technically there is nothing illegal about stating that a particular safe has a certain fire resistance as it may simply be a statement of opinion, so it is of primary importance that when it is claimed that a safe has a certified fire resistance, we always ask the question, certified by who?

EU Parliament regulation 765/2008 created the system that provides the legal basis of accreditation for the certification of a safe or cabinet for the protection of paper documents or data from fire, however, such certification will always be indicated separately under standard EN15659 (Light Fire) and EN1047-1 (Data). There is absolutely no connection between the grade of a safe and the units fire resistance. As is the case with burglary resistance a safe or cabinet with properly accredited European certification for fire resistance will display a stamped metal certification plate on the inside of the door with the units fire resistance and standard clearly marked. This information will be completely separate to any burglary resistance certification plate such as EN1143-1 or EN11450 that may be present. The same information will be available on accredited certification documents which are freely available and should always be asked for.

Sistec SE15 Data Safe Open Sistec SE15 Data Safe Certification

"Accredited European certification that a unit is suitable to protect paper or data from fire and structural collapse will always be displayed on a stamped metal plate on the inside of the unit's door, never a sticker. This information will be completely separate to any burglary resistance certification plate that may appear."

Below are the logos of three certification bodies with European accreditation to certify data cabinets, data safes and data rooms for fire and burglary resistance. The example images of certification plates below them are from ECB-S.

a2p certification logo vds certification logo essa certification logo

Fire Protection For Paper EN15659

EN15659 is the “Light Fire Storage” certification standard (LFS). Units tested to this standard are designed to provide differing levels of protection against fire usually from 30 minutes (LFS30P) to 60 minutes (LFS60P). The certification plate for light fire storage will appear separately to a burglary resistance certification that may appear on the unit. Air humidity is not measure for this standard.

light fire safes

Fire Protection For Data EN1047-1

EN1047-1 is the data standard for safes and cabinets. S60P and S120P are standards for the protection of paper documents both having an internal temperature limit of 170°C during testing. Units marked S60D and S120D have an internal temperature limit of 70°C and a humidity limit of 85% during testing. Units marked S60DIS and S120DIS have an internal temperature limit of 52°C and a humidity limit of 85% during testing. Certification plates for this standard will appear separately to any burglary resistance certification that may appear on the unit

data cabinet certification badge

 

  Warning Regarding: NT017 Fire

NT FIRE 017 is a conformity assessment of Nordtest originally founded in 1973 under the Nordic Council of Ministers. This is NOT a European standard of fire resistance so is not backed by EU Parliament regulation 765/2008, the legal basis of accreditation and proof of standard for safes and cabinets in Europe.

NT017 may be applied to filing cabinets, data cabinets or diskette cabinets of identical construction to tested units provided that the external volume is not less than half of and not more than twice the volume of the tested cabinet. Therefore all cabinets certified NT017 are not necessarily fire tested. It should also be noted that NT017 does not include a drop test to simulate structural collapse of the kind that would likely happen in an intense fire.

 

  Secondhand Asbestos

Despite written warnings to the HSA and PSA, safes, document and filing cabinets that contain asbestos continue to be sold on the second-hand market in Ireland, by well-known safe suppliers. The ban on asbestos in Ireland in 2000, far from seeing a reduction in the amount of safes and cabinets that contained asbestos instead saw a surge, as thousands of contaminated safes became available on the second-hand market as they were removed from all over Europe and the UK. With a low level of awareness when it comes to the issue of asbestos in safes and cabinets, huge quantities of these contaminated products have been sold, sometimes being passed off a "almost new" having been re-sprayed and refitted. In Ireland’s case, importation of contaminated safes, fire cabinets and vaults, has happened on an industrial scale and continued well after our national asbestos ban thanks to the free movement of goods within Europe right up until Brexit. Any safe manufactured before 2000 must be presumed to contain asbestos. 

As things stand today in 2022 safes and cabinets that contain asbestos continue to be sold on a daily basis, all over Ireland, by prominent safe suppliers and in private sales. Large numbers of these units are not only in circulation, but more are currently being removed from bank and post office closures where there is no accountability for their disposal, nor a requirement to verify that removal and disposal was done taking the likelihood of asbestos contamination into account. Most of these units make their way back on to the second-hand safe market and can be found for sale on classified ads websites or are sold as "refurbished" safes by well-known safe suppliers.

Chrysotile asbestos was most widely used in door seals on safes, fireproof safes, and fireproof filing cabinets as late as 1995. This invariably took the form of woven asbestos tape adhered around the door frame against which the door would close. It is this woven tape that causes many to be most concerned. Abrasion caused by the opening and shutting of the safe door or filing cabinet door in such close proximity to the user is a high-risk issue, particularly as someone could be opening and closing a unit for decades in a closed environment such as an office.

asbestos-safe-door    asbestos-safe-door

A study by the BZR Institute in Bonn, Germany, found that asbestos fibres released through abrasion by opening and closing a light metal door on an asbestos fire seal released enough asbestos fibres to exceed the maximum European exposure limit after just three opening and closing cycles.

Why this matters:

Chrysotile asbestos fibres, which in the case of safe and cabinet manufacturing are the main type of asbestos fibres we are concerned with, are highly carcinogenic if inhaled. Breathing in air containing even tiny amounts of asbestos fibres of the kind that may result from the opening and closing of a safe or filing cabinet door fitted with asbestos door seals, can lead to asbestos-related diseases such as asbestosis and cancers of the lungs and chest lining.

A safe or cabinet that contains asbestos within its structure is also a danger to maintenance technicians, locksmiths and fire fighters who may be called to a fire where such a unit is located. Due to their age most of these units are quite likely to have a mechanical key or combination lock and therefore likely to have a lock-out event at some stage. On many occasions this requires the safe, cabinet body or door, to be drilled open. Drilling a contaminated safe or cabinet will result in amounts of airborne dust containing asbestos in one of its most dangerous forms due to its incorporation into the body of many safes and cabinets as an anti-combustion filling material or as a curing agent in cement. In a fire asbestos from these units is likely to be released due to intense heat exposure and structural collapse.