Meet the team: the government's Office for Product Safety and Standards

Meet the new communications team for the government's fledgling £12m-a-year product safety office.

Adam Shortman is heading up comms for the BEIS's newly formed Office for Product Safety and Standards
Adam Shortman is heading up comms for the BEIS's newly formed Office for Product Safety and Standards

Last month, the Government announced the formation of the Office for Product Safety and Standards (OPSS), an inter-departmental body that will reinforce the UK's safety standards and post-Brexit border checks on imported products.

Based in the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy, the OPSS is tasked with identifying consumer risks and responding accordingly, working closely with the British Standards Institution.

Communications and PR are clearly high on the agenda for a body set up to respond with speed and precision to potentially dangerous product recalls.

The team

The OPSS's communications team is being headed up by existing BEIS chief media officer Adam Shortman, who has been at the department for nearly a year and a half.

Shortman's career started in local media in his native Australia before he took on various press roles in political offices over there, and then moved to the UK. As chief media officer on the BEIS's markets, business and resilience desk, Shortman oversees subjects spanning strike legislation, the Government's "good work" plan and crisis communications.

He will work with colleagues Kim Loudon and Harry Wingfield on product safety issues.

As senior media officer, Loudon covers mergers and acquisitions, in addition to product safety policy. She too is Australia-born, and worked for the government there on behaviour change campaigns before moving to the UK and working as a private secretary for two government ministers. She subsequently became a press officer at the Department of Health before joining BEIS.

Media officer Wingfield will cover small business and product safety comms. He has held a number of roles at BEIS, including working on professional development and ministerial events, while his first foray into communications was as a volunteer at a non-profit organisation.

Comms challenges

An early objective for the team is to communicate the role of the Office to consumers and businesses.

Shortman said: "Consumers should be assured they can continue to buy secure in the knowledge there is an effective system in place if products need to be repaired or replaced. Responsible businesses should know the Office will protect them from the unfair competition posed by rogue firms selling unsafe products.

"One of the first things the Office will be launching, working closely with the British Standards Institution, will be new guidance for manufacturers on product recalls and corrective action."

The OPSS has a number of campaigns planned for 2018, including the implementation of its industrial strategy, which will shape the office's comms work, and last week's launch of the "shared parental leave" campaign.

The Government said the group would enable the UK to "meet the evolving challenges" emerging from "expanding international trade, the growth in online shopping and the increasing rate of product innovation".

OPSS will give local trading standards teams support and advice and work with local authorities to coordinate action nationally.

It will cover general consumer products, but not vehicles, medicines or workplace equipment. It will have an annual budget of around £12m. Its conception marked the Government's response to a working group on product recalls and safety, established in 2016.

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