Essential reading for retailers and suppliers in the home improvement market

BHETA’s OWA Update Generally Positive for DIY And Garden

Published: 17 March 2022 - James Mead

BHETA’s steering group focussing on the legitimate sale of products such as secateurs and drain cleaners which were included in the original draft of the forthcoming Offensive Weapons Act (OWA) received broadly good news from the publication of the revised guidelines document.  The act is scheduled to come into force this Spring – potentially April 6th – and BHETA has been lobbying alongside member companies since 2019 on the items covered by the legislation as originally conceived.


While the new guidance still provides interpretation on selling products to under eighteens and online, and still includes knives used for the purpose of hobbies and trades, such as Stanley knives and snap-off cutters as well as gardening tools which ‘could commonly be described as a knife’, thanks to lobbying some significant exclusions have been achieved.  These are garden and DIY products such as shears, secateurs, carpenter’s adzes, chisels, scissors and lawnmower blades.

There are also positive developments regarding OWA’s impact on corrosives.  While products such as drain cleaners / unblockers, paint strippers, brick and patio cleaners, cleaning products and rust or limescale removers are still included, the Government has now published a list of the chemical ingredients and the concentration limits at which they fall within the definition of ‘corrosive product’.  BHETA’s marketing manager, Steve Richardson explained the significance of this.  “Looking at the table of concentration limits, it seems that many household brands in this sector who would previously have had to take costly labelling and packaging steps to comply with the new OWA, in fact fall below the threshold in terms of the strength of the product.  We are therefore advising all suppliers and retailers of these and similar household and garden chemicals to check the details of product composition thoroughly before deciding what actions they need to take, if any.”


Disappointingly for the housewares sector however, the sales of cutlery knives remain within the scope of the new Act, meaning a whole raft of new steps now deemed essential to comply with the law. 

Chief Operating Officer of BHETA, Will Jones explained, “With cutlery I think that sadly we are heading for a situation where interpretation and enforcement will vary by regional trading standards. The key issue is that national retailers, who have stores in distinct locations around the UK, will have to adopt a risk-free approach to avoid prosecution from overzealous local policy.  Meaning a strengthening of their approach to age verification on cutlery in terms of labelling, packaging and POS - not to mention online sales.  In the light of that, we also expect bira to give similar advice to independents.

“Knowing what the potential impact of this will be from the experience of kitchen knife sales, such actions, while understandable, will cause losses in sales to the retail sector and considerable additional cost to suppliers.  It’s therefore a significant relief that the effects on DIY and garden sales have now been mitigated.  I urge all DIY and garden suppliers and retailers to take note of the revised guidelines and reassess their positions accordingly.

“BHETA is providing up to the minute advice to suppliers and retailers on all aspects of compliance and safety, as well as details of appropriate defences for all parties should a prosecution be mooted.  And of course, we will be redoubling our efforts in respect of clarification on cutlery.”

For more information about BHETA, BHETA lobbying and the BHETA responsible knife retailing campaign, contact the BHETA Member Services team on 0121 237 1130 or visit the BHETA website


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