Hand sanitiser demand highlights importance of cleaning products industry

“COVID-19 has served to propel our industry into the spotlight."

It would be hard to think of a time when the cleaning products industry has been so challenged, but also so appreciated.

Challenged for many obvious reasons arising from the COVID-19 pandemic. Social distancing restrictions. Disruption of business-as-usual routines. And uncertainty about the pandemic’s likely duration and measures to contain it.

But COVID-19 has also served to propel our industry into the spotlight as the message on the importance of cleaning has rung out from health authorities around the world.

Hand sanitiser has been a hot topic over recent weeks. Everyone wants it. And market shortages are affecting diverse users, including consumers, healthcare, manufacturing, and businesses.

You may have been affected personally by the empty shelves, or professionally as you have struggled to source hand sanitiser for use in your workplace or business.

Perhaps your business has been a long-term supplier of hand sanitiser and the requests are flooding in. Or you may be one of the many companies pivoting to hand sanitiser supply and you are grappling with supply chain, WHS and other essential safety requirements relating to manufacturing and shipping highly flammable goods.

A lot has been happening behind the scenes in the local hand sanitiser space, primarily around improvements to supply chain disruptions, and ensuring product safety, compliance, and efficacy.

The Hand Sanitiser Industry Roundtable was established early on by Industry Minister Karen Andrews to address potential roadblocks for hand sanitiser supply.

Accord, as an active member of the roundtable, at the beginning of April conducted a broad industry survey which identified the main supply roadblocks for local manufacturers.

For example, 75 per cent of responding companies reported initial supply shortages for ethanol and 58 per cent reported issues with obtaining supplies of gelling agents. Supply issues relating to the availability of packaging materials were also revealed.

Connect was established as a follow-up to the survey, matching urgent requests for alcohol-based hand sanitiser product with product suppliers.

It is an efficient solution developed by Accord in collaboration with the Department of Industry Science Energy and Resources (DISER), the Australian Distillers Association and the Consumer Healthcare Products Australia.

In addition to these tangible supply chain efforts, Accord is helping ensure ongoing product safety and quality in the market and discussions with the ACCC and the TGA on alcohol-based hand sanitiser compliance are well underway, focussing on potential efficacy issues.

For example, non-compliant TGA products, and consumer products with less than 50 per cent ethanol. And even, in some cases, products seemingly containing no alcohol or biocides at all being sold as hand sanitiser. Other concerns include problems with product presentation, particularly those in containers that could be readily confused with food or beverages.

In addition to providing advice to the public on effective and safe product use, emphasising how to keep children safe when using these products, Accord is engaging with the authorities on potential  improvements to the Department of Health’s public health messaging e.g. non-alcohol based hand sanitisers.

As restrictions are progressively lifted in anticipation of a return back to near normality in daily life and business, our industry will remain as important as ever to maintaining levels of hygiene essential to combatting any future spikes of infection.

Accord will continue to work actively with all the relevant regulators to ensure a more seamless system, but with all the checks, balances and industry guidance to facilitate compliance and the appropriate quality and performance obligations for hand sanitisers and other essential cleaning and hygiene products.

Jennifer Semple is Manager, Innovation & Education at Accord 

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