While Construction Products Directive (CPD) regulations might seem straightforward for some, there is continuing confusion about whether or not balustrades fall under the Construction Products Regulations (CPR) 2011 for structural steel products and this could potentially be leaving specifiers and contractors exposed to non-compliant installations.
Recently there has been an attempt to obtain an exemption for balustrades on the basis that smaller fabricators would struggle to meet the costs associated with CE marking, but no such exemption has yet been granted. This means that any company specifying non-CE marked balustrades for a project, or allowing them to be used on their scheme, is failing to comply with legislation that has been in place since 2013.
In July of that year, a new ruling stipulated that CE marks would be required on all primary products for which there is a harmonised EU standard or European Technical Assessment (ETA). The responsibility for enforcing this standard was given to the manufacturer first and foremost, but also exporters (where products are being imported from outside the EU) or any intermediary that alters the physical properties of the product throughout the supply chain process.
For balustrades more specifically, a new harmonised BS EN 1090-1 standard for stainless steel fabrications was rolled out on 1st July 2014 but the same is yet to be introduced for stainless steel structural sections, making it even more difficult for specifiers to navigate their way through the complex CE marking maze.
The regulations around stainless steel fasteners are just as unclear. Although standard fittings do not need to be CE marked, there is a harmonised standard for ‘non pre-loaded structural bolting assemblies’ and therefore these must be CE marked. The difference between the two might only be noticeable at the point of assembly, therefore creating added compliance confusion for the specifier.
So what is the solution? Well to begin with, building products manufacturers and suppliers need to be proactive in anticipating CE marking obligations. The process of complying with the CPR requirements is time consuming and involves significant costs so it is understandable why some companies might want to avoid this, however, most would agree that safety and compliance is not an optional business expense.
Specifiers should also start to expect this compliance as standard, especially from ISO 9001 businesses that are already adhering to stringent product quality and testing processes. They must ensure that all products have been tested with a full Declaration of Performance (DoP) certification provided, which can be made available to any contractor or end user.
Indeed, many contractors and architects are already stipulating that they will not use balustrades and handrails that are not CE marked. As the confusion about a possible exemption becomes clearer, balustrades manufacturers that fail to invest in CE marking their products will simply find that they are no longer being specified.