A step change for the industry

Published:  25 July, 2013

Prior to the implentation of mandatory CE marking for construction products at the start of this month, John Lambert, general manager at Forticrete, asked who would be responsible for compliance.

With the Construction Products Regulation (CPR) coming into full force from 1 July 2013, the industry is facing significant change to the way construction products are sold in Europe. While affixing of CE markings under provision of the existing Construction Products Directive (CPD) is currently voluntary in the UK, from July onwards it will be compulsory for manufacturers to apply them to any products sold in the EU. So, what are the main implications of CE marking under the CPR?

CE Marking, which stands for Conformité Européenne or, more commonly, European Conformity, is essentially just a symbol. First introduced in 1993, CE marking indicates a product’s compliance with European Union (EU) legislation and enables the free movement of that product within the European market – it is a mandatory marking for products sold in the European Economic Area (EEA).

By affixing the CE marking to a product, a manufacturer is declaring that the product conforms to all of the legal requirements needed for that product (such as safety, health and environmental protection requirements), therefore proving that the product can be sold throughout the EEA. In reality, CE marking is intended for national market surveillance and enforcement authorities, as an indicator of a product’s compliance with EU legislation.

Currently, under the provision of the CPD, CE Marking is only voluntary in the UK, but times are changing and so are the requirements.

Evolving legislation

The CPD was one of the first directives produced by the EU, designed as a way to create a single market for goods and services. Compared with the preexisting ‘Essential Requirements’ it raised the bar very high. This left the European Committee for Standardisation (CEN) to develop Standards for every construction product in order to support these requirements.

‘EN’ ‘Harmonised Standards’ were introduced where, previously, countries just had their own standards, for example, BS1217 for Cast Stone.

In total, over 400 standards and 1500 methods of testing were developed and adopted. As part of the CPD, all EU countries, including the UK, have to use these rather than local Standards.

However, on 4 April 2011, the CPD was replaced by the CPR. This regulation represents the most direct form of European Law and is binding in all EU countries. In other words, the British government need not take any action to implement this law. While it essentially came into legislative effect 20 days later, certain products and manufacturers were given more time to get ready to comply.

Manufacturer obligations

For those already CE marking under the CPD the transition should be straightforward, however, there are many manufacturers across the construction industry that have been caught unawares.

From 1 July, as well as having a CE Mark, it will be a legal requirement for each product covered by a harmonised  European standard (hEN) or European Technical Assessment (ETA), to now also have a Declaration of Performance (DoP) document readily available for viewing, in either electronic or paper format.

By doing this, manufacturers can demonstrate that their products comply with the European Wide Standard through either an initial type test, or ongoing testing through the production process. A DoP will be a legal requirement and really sort the wheat from the chaff when it comes to manufacturers claiming they make to a certain standard – now they have to prove it.

Furthermore, the product and/or the packaging must be clearly labelled with the CE mark. By doing this, manufacturers are ensuring the product can be made available for sale in EU. It is clear there is now an onus on manufacturers to work with the industry to make it easier for them to clearly identify which products are covered rather than simply work by assumption.

Manufacturers need to work – line by line, product by product –with builders’ merchants, in particular, to create a system that will ensure compliance across the board.

Shared responsibility

While responsibility for ensuring product compliance with the CE marking obligations will land with the manufacturer, it is vital that the rest of the supply chain is aware of the implications. A certain level of accountability also falls to other elements of the supply chain, and merchants in particular.

As the distributor of the product, merchants do not have responsibility for CE Marking the products, however they still have certain legal obligations to fulfil. When selling a product that must be CE Marked, they must be satisfied that the manufacturer has undertaken all the required steps before selling the product and that, where relevant, the product bears the CE Mark and is accompanied with the relevant documents, ie the DoP.

Merchants are obliged to ensure that they use CE marked products where appropriate.

They are also obliged to withhold non-conforming products from the market, pass relevant documentation onto their customers, including the DoP document, as well as retaining the supply-chain information relating to the products for 10 years after they were sold.

Preparing for change

As a manufacturer of concrete construction products including roof tiles, decorative concrete blocks, walling and cast stone, Forticrete has been working hard to ensure that the company and its products, where necessary, are ready.

Not all products in the Forticrete range will require CE Marking, as some are not covered by a hEN containing a ‘ZA’ annexe’ or ETA. For example, while its architectural masonry, which is manufactured in one factory to EN 771– 3, will be CE Marked, there are no EN standards in place for its plastics (ancillary roof products) and therefore no CE Mark is required for them.

Forticrete has invested significant time and resources to ensure its products are up to speed with the new requirements.

However, merchants need to be asking themselves if all their supply partners are also on the ball and ready for 1 July. All relevant Forticrete products will be labelled with the CE Mark on the packaging, product and/or documentation.

In addition, the company will make the DoP readily available through its website.

Working together

With such major changes on the immediate horizon, the industry is facing one its biggest shake ups in over a decade. However, while manufacturers are getting themselves ready and taking the necessary actions to ensure they are compliant, it’s important that the rest of the supply chain doesn’t just let this important date pass by.

The whole industry must be awareof the changes taking place and educate themselves on the future steps they must take if they are to stay compliant. By working with manufacturers to ensure full compliancy across the board, merchants can rest assured they are meeting the necessary Standards and providing peace of mind to their customers.

This article first appeared in the May 2013 issue of Builders' Merchants News.

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