CROSS Safety Report
The reliability of technical data for proprietary products
This report highlights the importance of verifying technical data provided by the manufacturer or supplier of proprietary products.
Key Learning Outcomes
For structural design engineers:
- When using technical data provided for proprietary products it is important to check that the product has been tested to the appropriate AS/NZS standard by a NATA/IANZ registered laboratory
- When using an unfamiliar product, request the product supplier to confirm in writing how the product was tested and the relevance of the testing conditions to the actual application
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A reporter has raised concerns about the technical data provided for some products that are used to brace non-structural elements (such as suspended building services within ceiling spaces) in Australia and New Zealand.
When tests were performed by an independent testing laboratory on 3 random samples of each of two products, the published Ultimate Limit State (ULS) was not able to be achieved in all but one of the tests. The results obtained were 92%, 93%, and 96% of the published ULS for one product and 97%, 98%, and 109% for the other product.
Use of published data
These products are installed in buildings around Australia and New Zealand and Engineers rely on the published data being correct. The reporter is concerned that if an Engineer uses the published ULS ratings to carry out their seismic design for the bracing of non-structural services, then the Engineer may produce a design that could fail in the event of an earthquake. This failure could potentially lead to death or serious injury.
It is the reporter’s opinion, that the published ULS ratings have either been based on incorrect testing or the testing has been undertaken on a product that is different from that supplied.
Expert Panel Comments
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The panel thanks the reporter for bringing this matter to their attention as there are several aspects to be considered. It is not CROSS policy to name manufacturers, so these comments are generic and apply to all safety-critical products.
It is possible that values given by product manufacturers for any component or system are not confirmed when independently tested. Structural engineers should be mindful that when safety-critical components or systems are being used it is good practice to have sight of the original test data and confirm that the testing has been carried out in accordance with the relevant Australian and/or New Zealand Standard and by NATA or IANZ registered laboratories.
it is good practice to have sight of the original test data and confirm that the testing has been carried out in accordance with the relevant Australian and/or New Zealand Standard
Reporting of results below expectation
Where test results fall short of expectations, as stated in the report, this should be reported by the company who carried out the tests to the manufacturer and, if necessary, to the relevant authorities so that the matter can be investigated. It may be that differences between the manufacturer’s quoted test values and those of an independent laboratory could be due to reasons associated with testing procedures.
Check for current datasheets
When choosing capacities from technical data sheets it is important to check that the latest version of the technical data sheet is being used and that the values provided are for testing under the relevant conditions and to the appropriate AS/NZS Standard.
When using an unfamiliar product, or where there is some doubt as to the reliability of the published information, it can be worthwhile to make a comparison with similar products from other manufacturers. If doubt still exists, then the prudent Engineer will consider using a larger capacity reduction factor depending on their assessment of the robustness and criticality of the overall system. Alternatively, independent tests may be commissioned to verify any data considered incorrect or dubious.
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