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CROSS Safety Report

Cladding and decking certification

Report ID: 1095 Published: 10 March 2022 Region: CROSS-UK


Overview

A report has been received about a supplier of cladding and decking materials that refuses to provide their potential clients with their products’ Reaction to Fire Class.

Key Learning Outcomes

For the design team:

  • Consider requesting and keeping a record of all certificates for products that are used in each project
  • Ensure that the people requesting such information have a clear understanding of the concepts involved

For manufacturers and suppliers:

  • Ensure that products are certified under the appropriate test method
  • Consider withdrawing or amending any marketing literature that does not provide clear or adequate information on the product being presented
  • Providing insufficient, incorrect, and inaccurate ‘clarifications’ with an intention to mislead clients can lead to future ramifications

Full Report

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A report has been received about a supplier of cladding and decking materials that refuses to provide their clients with their products’ Reaction to Fire Class.

The reporter contacted the company, which is assumed to be based in another country but operating in the UK, in order to be provided with the Reaction to Fire Class of certain cladding and decking products that they offered. However, the response was that this is not an issue that the clients had to worry about.

Some very troubling quotes from this response  indicated a complete lack of understanding of the importance of the issue from the supplier’s side. The response was:

"Thank you so much for your kind feedback. Our products have been treated with fire prevention, so you don't need to worry about this",

supported by the statement that:

"Our products are fireproof, and have done the corresponding test".

The reporter is of the mind that the suppliers are unaware, or simply unconcerned of material testing and its use within specifications of technical guidance for design in the UK market.

It is also considered that people who specify products for a project should be aware of the Fire Resistance Rating and Reaction to Fire Class concepts, not buying into unsubstantiated replies, hence the need for such heedless behaviour on the suppliers’ side to be called out. The reporter also thinks that such a stance should be scrutinised by a regulatory authority.

Expert Panel Comments

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Expert Panels comment on the reports we receive. They use their experience to help you understand what can be learned from the reports. If you would like to know more, please visit the CROSS-UK Expert Panels page.

The panel agrees that this is a genuine and significant concern. If any contractors are basing their purchasing decisions on such a wholly inadequate level of justification of fire performance, then those contractors are likely to end up with products that are inappropriate. This practice is considered unacceptable, and no one should be purchasing products on such justification alone.

It is unclear whether the product supplier understands the need for testing of fire properties, or they are trying to get around unfavourable results. A competent contractor would never purchase a product like this, would attempt to contact the technical department if possible, or would look for alternative suppliers.

A competent contractor would never purchase a product like this

Responsibility of designer

With current regulatory standards, there would often be very few checks to prevent unsuspected contractors from specifying, ordering, and using such products. There is no guarantee that Building Control checks would go into enough detail to identify these problems, as Authorities Having Jurisdiction only have a certain level of resources available, they cannot – and should not be expected to – review the test documentation for every product that goes into a building. This is the responsibility of the designer. 

With no product literature on fire performance and classification, and depending on what products are used and where, it will be almost impossible for the Responsible Person under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 to assess these products’ risk.

Similarly, PAS 9980 – Fire risk appraisal of external wall construction and cladding of existing blocks of flats – Code of practice, was recently published, and the processes outlined in the document rely on identifying the product (in some way) to assess the fire risk (if that product is used in an external wall system). Therefore, any competent assessor, in the lack of such documentation, will almost certainly request the products to be tested to assess their performance, or be replaced.

Decking products also need scrutiny

The same comments apply as well for decking products, given how the UK Fire and Rescue Service have seen some significant fires involving composite decking, and issues with decking on common approach balconies of flats have already been published by CROSS in report 1048.

It is expected that the new changes to regulations and practice, through the Building Safety Bill and the Office for Product Safety and Standards, will increase the regulatory requirements for tall residential buildings, but strengthening the current regulatory framework is an ongoing issue.

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