Fire Safety Legislation News

Construction products regulation – the changing face of compliance

Construction products regulation - the changing face of compliance

Clifton Gare-Mogg of Apollo Fire Detectors discusses the implications of the Construction Products Regulation (CPR), which is set to replace the Construction Products Directive on 1st July 2013.  

The Construction Products Directive (Council Directive 89/106/EEC) (CPD) was initially introduced by the European Union (EU) in 1988.  Countries were able to implement the Directive within the realms of their own local legislation. The UK, Sweden, Ireland and Portugal chose to interpret the Directive differently to others in the EU, which resulted in any construction products manufactured in these countries not having to carry the CE mark.

The CE Mark – an acronym for the French ‘Conformité Européene’ – denotes that a product has met the health, safety and environmental requirements of the EU. It is in effect a technical ‘passport’ for cross border trade, enabling manufacturers to market and sell their products across the EU and European Free Trade Association (EFTA) countries.

Within the UK’s interpretation of the CPD, UK manufacturers selling their products exclusively within the UK market did not require the CE mark, but if they were selling products into a country that had adopted the CPD, all of their products were required to carry it.

Introducing the Construction Products Regulation (CPR)

The CPD started to be replaced by the Construction Products Regulation (CPR) in 2011.  The EU switched from a Directive to a Regulation in order to avoid the misunderstandings at the time of the CPD’s introduction and the issues relating to local interpretation of legislation.  The CPR was formally published in the Official Journal of the European Union on 4th April 2011, with the first parts of the Regulation coming into force shortly after publication. The greatest impact of this new legislation, however, will be felt from 1st July 2013.

The introduction of the CPR means that CE marking will be mandatory in every EU member country for all products that are to be placed on the EU market within the scope of harmonised European Standards (hENs). For products not covered, or not fully covered, by a hEN, CE marking may be applied through a European Technical Assessment (ETA).

The CPR states that all products within the scope of a mandated European Norm (EN) have to be CE marked. A differentiating feature of the CPR is that certain products – including life and safety critical products – will have to be third party tested and approved by an independent third party – a Notified Body. The new legislation will apply to both domestic and commercial fire products.

Time to take action

Some companies have already taken steps to ensure that all of their products comply with the CPR’s requirements, but many manufacturers will now find themselves in a situation where their products have not been tested and certified to use the CE mark.  As of 1st July, these companies are acting outside of the law by selling these products within the EU, including the UK.

It should be noted, however, that CPD certificates do not become obsolete as of 1st July.  Any new products will be tested and issued with CPR certificates and any existing products, which previously held a CPD certificate, will be classed as CPR compliant. When these products next go through the normal approval process, they will then be issued with CPR certificates.

So, why have some companies failed to prepare for this deadline and not put their products through the CPR approval process?  There are three key reasons:

  • Testing – the testing process to achieve certification of conformity can be lengthy. For complex products or situations where there are several products within a range, testing can take up to several months as every product has to be individually tested. Similarly, problems during testing can result in the process taking longer than anticipated.
  • Resource – There are a limited number of Notified Bodies capable of testing fire industry products and they only have set resource capacity.
  • Costs – Independent third party certification can be a costly exercise. To thoroughly test a smoke detector could take weeks and may cost in the region of £50,000.

However, the reality is that manufacturers will have to go through the testing process and comply with the CPR or risk losing business. 

Next steps

Those fire manufacturers that haven’t yet applied for the CE mark for their products need to act now.  Firstly, they should identify which products don’t currently have CPD approval.  These products must not be sold until such time as they have been put in for testing and have been fully CPR approved. In the meantime, manufacturers need to produce a Declaration of Performance (DoP). The DoP gives the manufacturer the opportunity to deliver the information about the essential characteristics of the product they want to deliver to the market.  Manufacturers will need to select an approved Notified Body via their Schedule of Accreditation to undertake the DoP.

It is important to note that only ‘essential characteristics’ have to be declared, so manufacturers will not have to test every aspect of a product.  For example, if you are a small brick manufacturer and you are manufacturing bricks for a specific building, you could have the brick tested for one specific characteristic.  In this example, the manufacturer would put on a Declaration of Performance, but everything else would be classed as ‘No Performance Declared’ (NPD).  The Fire Industry Association (FIA), and many others in the industry, are concerned about the potential shortcuts that manufacturers may take. The message is very much ‘Buyer Beware’ – DoPs must be examined in detail to ensure that the products will be suited to that particular job and should be aware of NPDs. Apollo has declared performance against all of the essential characteristics of all of the component parts of its fire detection products. 

The introduction of the CPR is set to change the face of compliance for manufacturers, but ultimately the industry should view the introduction of CPR as an opportunity rather than a threat – it will help to protect and save lives and it gives end users another level of confidence in fire products.