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CROSS Safety Report

CE marking scheme for structural steelwork

Report ID: 70 Published: 1 April 2007 Region: CROSS-UK

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Overview

Concern has been expressed about the way in which the CE marking scheme for structural steelwork will be monitored, enforced and policed in the UK, since the use of CE marking is only voluntary here (but compulsory in mainland Europe).

Key Learning Outcomes

For construction professionals:

  • Structural steel should be CE marked and purchased from reputable steel manufacturers who meet the appropriate manufacturing standard

  • It is good practice to have a quality control procedure in place to inspect incoming steelwork to ensure it meets the required standard

  • Where a defect is identified in a product covered by a harmonised European Standard, the trading standards department of the local authority should be notified in order that they can investigate and take any necessary action

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Concern has been expressed about the way in which the CE marking scheme for structural steelwork will be monitored, enforced and policed in the UK, since the use of CE marking is only voluntary here (but compulsory in mainland Europe).

From this year (2006) the imposition of harmonized European Standards for structural steel hollow sections materials (mandated under the Construction Products Directive - CPD) will mean that CE marking can be applied to show that the sections are fully in compliance with the essential requirements of the Directive.

Benefiting the consumer

The CE marking process under the CPD is intended to benefit the consumer by providing products that can be used for construction purposes, safely and in complete confidence, whilst removing barriers to trade across Europe.

If correctly implemented and consistently applied throughout the European Union, the CE marking system for structural steel products can undoubtedly offer benefits to both manufacturers and users.

The reporter believes that there is considerable confusion in the UK over the precise legal framework of the CPD. Whilst the CPD is itself legally enforceable via the Construction Products Regulations (CPR) in the UK, CE marking of product is only voluntary.

There are two Government Departments involved: the Department for Communities and Local Government, for implementing the CPR, and Trading Standards who are responsible for enforcement. According to the reporter this may lead to confusion.

Safety critical items

As structural steel products are clearly safety critical items, and since the CE marking procedure states that CE marked materials must be accepted, it is essential, according to the reporter, that checks be put in place to confirm that the materials are of suitable and consistent quality.

Such procedures should be designed to ensure that all structural steel being used in the UK is fully in compliance with the appropriate standards and that the manufacturer or supplier has obtained the necessary status and approvals. This would deter the use of cost cutting measures, which might involve the supply of poorer quality products, which might prove inadequate for the job.

This cannot be done without a credible policy of ‘policing’ and enforcement and without this, the UK and Europe will fail to gain the intended benefits from the CPD itself.

Expert Panel Comments

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There will be a number of issues such as this one with the introduction of Eurocodes. SCOSS has identified the topic before and is looking into it at present. It is probable that many engineers are not aware of the requirements or ramifications of CE marking and there will need to be more publicity and educational material available. CROSS will continue to call for clarification on CE marking for all materials.

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