‘CE’ simply signifies conformance of a product to a European standard. There are many ‘EN’ or ‘harmonised Standards’ which cover the wide variety of products available across all manufacturing, not just construction. The concept of having pan-European Standards to give consistency and break down trade barriers is, in my opinion, a good one.
Under the regulation, the manufacturer is classed as the organisation putting the product into the market (European Economic Area). This means goods could be produced outside of the EU but need to be CE marked by the importer.
One such Standard is EN 1090 for structural steel and aluminium. The Standard sets out a Factory Production Control system (FPC) as a kind of quality system for the manufacture of structural steel or aluminium products.
The Standard covers a number of topics, including: contracting with clients, design of product process, component specification, tolerances, constituent products, competence of people (welders, designers, welding co-ordinators, testers), having qualified welding procedures, having equipment checked and calibrated, identification & traceability, records of work done, product evaluation at all stages (pre, during and post welding), procedures for non-conforming product, quality checks & testing, documented records to support the FPC and a Declaration of Performance for each product.
The Standard allows for the legal manufacturer to outsource some aspects of the production such as design, as long as appropriate management and controls are in place to ensure the FPC is followed.
The standard has four ‘Execution Classes’ which in simple terms relate to the risk of people being injured or killed. A simple interpretation is Execution Class 1 is the lowest, typically for farm building; Level 2 is for housing and small buildings; Level 3 bridges; and level 4 stadiums. The strictness or level of compliance increases to match the level of risk.
Organisations need to be audited by a Notified Body (NB). A NB is similar to an ISO Certification Body – they will be accredited by the United Kingdom Accreditation Service (UKAS) and appointed by the European Commission. Centre for Assessment is a NB and has certified around 700 customers throughout the UK and Ireland.
The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy’s statistics suggest there are approximately 6,500 companies in the fabrication sector. Despite EN 1090 certification and CE marking of products being a legal requirement since 2014, an MSc dissertation authored by Mark Dinnes involving a survey of NBs reports that only around 50% of this number is certified and complying with the law. It is unclear whether the outstanding 50% are involved in fabrication of structural steel/aluminium and are in breach of legislation or do not need certification.
CfA regularly receives feedback from our customers asking who is policing compliance of others and taking to task those without the Standard. It is a sad fact that little is being done to enforce compliance.
Trading Standards are supposed to check companies and potentially issue enforcement notices or prosecute if necessary. We have also heard stories of some insurance companies driving the requirement for CE marking or refusing to insure companies who do not have the legal requirements in place.
Construction companies have a major part to play in legal compliance by ensuring they only contract with those fabricators who are fully certificated to EN 1090 and are CE marking their product in accordance with the law. If they fail to do this buildings or structures are potentially constructed illegally and may require demolishing.
Brexit adds an interesting level of complication to the NB set up. The rules state that an NB must be located in a member state. If/when the UK leaves the EU, we will no longer be in a member state.
Everyone in the industry is keen to understand what might happen in the post-Brexit future. There are a number of possible scenarios:
The truth is, at this point we simply don’t know. We will need to await the outcome of Brexit negotiations before things are made clear.
Dave Harrison, former Director of Centre for Assessment, a leading EN 1090 Notified Body based in Manchester. If you require more information about certification, visit https://www.centreforassessment.co.uk/all-services/sector-specific-standards/bs-en-1090-structural-steel/