Misinformation in the safe supply industry takes many forms and has for over twenty years involved not only the marketing of untested safes with baseless "recommended" insurance, burglary resistance and fire ratings but also the marketing of safes known to contain asbestos in contravention of EU and UK legislation which bans such illegal activity.
N.A.T.O. Europe, The U.S. Air Force (Europe), The National Treasury Management Agency (Ireland), The Department Of Communications (NCSC Cyber Security) (Ireland), The Revenue Commissioners, Electricity Supply Board (Cyber Security) (Ireland), The Danish Defence Forces (Afghanistan), PayPal (Worldwide), Grant Thornton, The Insurance Institute of Ireland, The Royal College Of Surgeons, BFC Bank, Interxion Data Centres, The Private Security Authority, Isle of Man Gold Bullion, Brown Thomas, Bvlgari, Boodles, Druids Glen, The Shelbourne Hotel, and many others ....
Our seminars on safes, strongrooms and HNW secure storage have been part of Continuing Professional Development for underwriters and insurers having been awarded CPD points by the Insurance Institute of Ireland and the Chartered Insurance Institute (UK).
Dangerous Safes, Unaccredited Burglary & Fire Resistance, Baseless Insurance Rating Claims
Dealers in the UK and Ireland obtain most second-hand safes when they are sent for disposal, in many cases being paid to remove them, so apart from pick-up, some re-spraying and re-fitting, these often dangerous safes can be sold more cheaply, making them far more profitable than safes that have been tested and certified for burglary resistance and consumer safety. The result of this lucrative trade is most safe warehouses in the UK and Ireland today, have more in common with scrap yards than the rest of the European safe industry. In recent time both the Health and Safety Authority in Ireland (HSA) and The Private Security Authority in Ireland (PSA) have issued warnings related to the known presence of asbestos in many pre-2000 safes and cabinets, yet none of the unscrupulous operations responsible for this trade have been inspected, and sale of safes and cabinets that should be presumed to contain asbestos continues.
Safes are generally sold based on their insurance rating, which is the level of insurance cover the safe is likely to get from an insurer based on the safe's proven resistance to burglary attack. The level of burglary resistance for a safe is ascertained by an accredited testing laboratory with the results independently certified by an accredited certification body.
In order to sell new and second-hand safes that have no record of testing or certification for burglary resistance whatsoever, the unscrupulous safe supplier needs to convince the client or insurer that the untested safes they are offering are somehow comparable to safes with accredited burglary resistance testing and certification. The official sounding Association of Insurance Surveyors “AiS Safe Rating List” is a powerful marketing tool for untested safes, which does just this.
Since 2005, the Association of Insurance Surveyors Ltd "Safe Committee," a group set-up and dominated by people with interests in selling untested and second-hand safes, has promoted a marketing list of safes, called the "AiS Safe Rating List" both in Ireland and the UK. This document is currently the most referred to document overall, for recommended insurance rates for safes in the UK, and is still referred to by many Irish safe suppliers who sell untested and uncertified safes. The list is a compendium of untested new, second-hand and properly certified safes listed and given recommended insurance rates along-side each other, creating a false equivalency between completely untested safes and properly certified safes with a legal proof of standard. The list itself is "restricted to AiS members" so the basis of the rates it recommends are not available to a client who may be buying a safe, or a standards or insurance expert who might find quotes such as the one below highly problematic, considering insurance rates for safes are generally understood to be based on an accredited proof of standard:
Quote from the restricted AiS Safe Rating List (2018):
“There are still some safes manufactured in the UK which are not tested and the committee has impressed on these companies that they should have their safes tested by an approved test house. However, for the benefit of (AiS) members, the committee has provided a cash rating for the un-tested safes from these companies based on information provided by them.
Photos below show a Phoenix “Fire Chief”, one of fourteen units that was purchased by a group of Credit Unions for the protection of client documents that would fall under the GDPR. The choice of unit was apparently based on several factors but the low price for a recognisable brand certainly came into it, however, when Certified Safes Ireland™ were asked to examine the units it became clear that rather than purchasing European certified fire and burglary resistant cabinets suitable for GDPR documents at a good price, the client had in fact purchased thousands of Euros worth of relatively expensive light steel storage cabinets with no accredited certified fire or burglary resistance whatsoever.
Our examination found the following:
- There was no indication anywhere on the cabinets of a claim the Phoenix “Fire Chief” was fire resistant.
- There were no fire protection strips or seals anywhere on the cabinets.
- Air gaps around door frames were so wide the locking bolts of the cabinet were clearly visible. These gaps would aid airflow for combustion rather than deny it as well as allowing the locking bolts to be cut in seconds with a battery powered angle grinder. (Photo below - left)
- The only mark found anywhere on the cabinets was a sticker making the claim that the units are S1 security cabinets, the lowest level of protection under European standards, however, even this claim is unaccredited. (Photo below - right)
Obviously, a metal cabinet with no accredited certified fire or burglary resistance is not what the owners of the units thought they had purchased. The mistake meant that documents held by the organisation were not being stored in compliance with the groups GDPR risk assessment, opening up the possibility of sanctions, and even legal action if unlawful destruction was caused to third party data due to burglary or fire. The fact remains however, that nowhere on the data sheet for the Phoenix “Fire Chief”did Phoenix make the claim that these units were certified for fire resistance. There is a reference to “Fire Resistance” which states “Recommended for 30 minutes fire protection for paper records” but as no accredited certification of fire resistance was referred to by Phoenix, this recommendation is simply the opinion of Phoenix Safe Company Ltd. The name “Fire Chief” might give some people the impression that the unit is fire resistant but the only certification mentioned on the Phoenix “Fire Chief” PDF is a claim that the cabinet is an S1 Security Cabinet certified by Trezor Test in the Czech Republic. S1 is the lowest level of burglary resistance for a cabinet test with hand tools. The test time for S1 against very light hand tools is just 90 seconds.
What Accredited European Burglary And Fire Resistance Certification Looks Like
EU Parliament regulation 765/2008 created the system that provides the legal basis of accreditation for the certification of safes for both fire and burglary resistance to European standards. This system is backed by regular auditing and market surveillance and is verifiable, proof of standard for litigation purposes. If you consider that 70% of safes tested for burglary resistance by accredited European testing labs fail on the first attempt the implications of accepting unaccredited claims of burglary or fire resistance are obvious.
A safe with properly accredited European certification will display at least one stamped metal certification plate on the inside of the door. This will always be a stamped metal plate, never a sticker. An accredited certification plate for a safe will display the logo of an accredited certification body, burglary or fire resistance grade, and most importantly confirmation that the certification body is accredited to ISO/IEC 17065. This is 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.
If a safe is certified for both burglary and fire resistance this will be indicated on two separate plates.
Below are logos of the four certification bodies with European accreditation to certify safes for burglary resistance that you are likely to encounter on a genuine certification plate in Ireland.
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 fire resistance, we always ask, has the fire resistance claim been tested and certified, and if so, certified by who?
Below are logos of the two certification bodies with European accreditation to certify safes for fire resistance that you are likely to encounter on a genuine certification plate in Ireland.
Common Unaccredited Burglary And Fire Resistance Marks
The Loss Prevention Certification Board (LPCB) (UK)The Loss Prevention Certification Board (LPCB) (UK) is a mark commonly encountered in the Irish market. LPCB has issued "certification" plates for safes (European standard EN1143-1) and secure cabinets (European standard EN14450) for many years, despite the fact the body has never been an accredited certification body for the burglary resistance of safes, not even in the UK, according to the United Kingdom Accreditation Service (UKAS). LPCB "certification" plates are in a similar format to properly accredited European certification, however, an ISO/IEC17065 accreditation which will be present on most accredited certification plates will be absent from an LPCB plate. The fact that LPCB claim to certify their own tests runs counter to any norms in Europe where both the tester and the certifier are legally required to be independent bodies. LPCB certification claims should not be confused with properly accredited European certification, which has a basis in European law as proof of standard, and on which all safe ratings in Europe are based.
Nordtest NT FIRE 017The most common unaccreited mark you will come across in the Irish market is without doubt the NT FIRE 017 mark. 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.
NT017 may be applied to safes and cabinets of identical construction to a tested unit, provided that the external volume of the untested units are not less than half of, and not more than twice the volume of the tested unit. This means in a series of five sizes it is usually only necessary that one unit is tested, leaving the majority of cabinets and safes marked NT017 in such a series not tested. Additionally internal heat during the NT017 test is measured by thermocouples (sensors used to measure temperature ) placed at the centre of internal panels rather than at the corners as is the case with European and US testing. This placement of thermocouples will of course produce a more favourable result as panels will heat from edges to the centre during a fire. Additionally, NT017 does not include a drop test to simulate structural collapse of the kind that would likely happen in an intense fire.
A Secure Cabinet (EN14450) Is Not A Safe
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 & S2 “Secure Cabinets”, many claiming ratings for cash and a jewellery as high as €50,000 overnight.
Between July 2021 and July 2022, YouTube video demonstrations of Chubb products such as the Chubb Home Safe S2 and Chubb Viper presented by CEN263 Chairman and Global Product Manager for Chubb Mark Brookes appeared. In these videos Mr Brookes repeatedly referred to these products as safes. In fact the word "cabinet" is not mentioned once throughout any of these videos while the word safe is repeatedly used to describe the units.
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 EN14450 “Secure 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.
The Problem Of Asbestos In Pre-2000 Fire Safes And Cabinets
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 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. Chrysotile asbestos was 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.
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.
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.
Certified Safes Ireland™ director Alan Donohoe Redd is a member of the European CEN263 Working Group responsible for writing European Standards for safes, strongrooms (vaults), secure cabinets and physical data protection for the European Union. A registered NATO supplier and a longstanding member of the European Security Systems Association, Alan has a vast range of experience spanning almost 40 years and encompassing installation of safes, strongrooms, physical data protection, CCTV, alarms, access control, secure storage control systems and Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility (SCIF) specification, design, and installation.
Alan is an expert on standards and fraud issues related to secure storage in Europe and the UK, has had articles related to these subjects published by The Law Society Gazette and Irish Broker Magazine, has forced retractions of multiple false claims related to secure storage offerings to the public, including some published by the Irish Times, and has been pivotal in having misleading standards and practises recognised and withdrawn in Ireland, the UK and at a European level.
Due Diligence Notes
Contrary to what many people may believe the profession of "Locksmith" has long been recognised as one almost completely separate from the supply and installation of safes and strongrooms in the E.U. With most insurers and An Garda Síochána (Irish Police) advising against the use of mechanical locks on safes due to the ease of opening via non-invasive manipulation, the last connection between these two professions is quickly disappearing. There are exceptions to every rule, and a locksmith may have the necessary knowledge to correctly specify, survey for, and anchor a certified safe, however, most locksmiths have very little knowledge in relation to European standards for safes and The Private Security Authority (PSA) does not require any qualifications to issue a locksmith license.
Ireland and the UK are notorious black spots for fraud and misrepresentation in the safe supply sector. Well-known safe suppliers being penalised for tax evasion and having served time in jail are just some indications of a wide range of malpractice and illegal activity throughout the safe supply industry. We strongly encourage due diligence before engaging a safe supplier or having someone survey your home or business, irrespective of who recommends them.