Constructing a standard

Clay Technology magazine
,
7 May 2015

Dr Nicola Davies looks at the Construction Regulations, introduced in July 2013, that have levied a requirement on manufacturers to apply CE marking to products, and finds out how to comply.

The European Construction Product Directives (CPR) require that products covered by either a harmonised European standard (hEN) or a European Technical Assessment (ETA) have to meet certain criteria before being placed on the market in the European Economic Area. The CE identification mark proves a product has met or exceeded health and safety requirements for mechanical resistance and stability, safety (in case of fire), hygiene, health and environmental safety, ease of use and accessibility, noise, energy economy and heat retention.

CE marking imposes a set of rigid criteria on manufacturers of construction equipment. This ensures that safety is foremost in the minds of everyone in the chain, including designers, manufacturers, importers, architects, and the foreman on site. 

Meeting the criteria

Health

Products must not threaten the health of construction workers or residents of the structures they compose. They are banned from emitting toxic gases, volatile organic compounds, greenhouse gases, or other dangerous particles for the lifetime of the product. They are also banned from releasing any of these myriad chemicals into ground water or otherwise interfering with marine life. 

Fire safety

Should fire break out, CE-marked construction works are expected to bear their loads for periods sufficient to ensure rescue personnel can safely reach survivors. They are also expected to limit the spread of smoke and to either retard or not significantly contribute to the spread of the fire.

Accessibility

Construction works, or the finished structures they compose, must not engender hazards, such as slipping, electrocution and collision, or leave structures vulnerable to burglary. Construction works must always take the needs of disabled people, who may need to access the structure, into consideration.

Energy economy

Construction works and the heating, lighting, ventilation, and cooling mechanisms with which they interface must be energy efficient. They ‘must be designed and built in such a way that the amount of energy they require in use shall be low, when account is taken of the occupants of the climatic conditions of the location’. 

Construction

In order to have CE markings affixed, products used in construction must be engineered in such a way that loads they are likely to bear will not lead to: 

Collapse of the whole or part of the works

Major deformations

Damage to other parts of the construction works or to fittings or installed equipment as a result of major deformation of the load-bearing construction

And, in the case of disaster: 

Damage by an event to an extent disproportionate to the original cause. This means that products bearing a CE mark are expected to lessen rather than exacerbate the effects of a disaster.

Frequently asked questions

When is the CE mark required?

All new products are required to have CE marks (and any product that is first imported from outside Europe is considered new). There are other domestic tools that aren’t powered or used to do lifting, which are not under the scope of the directives and are not required to have the CE mark. 

Who should undertake CE marking?

Authorities have done much to ensure that one individual in each company is responsible and accountable for compliance. The text of the CE directives makes it clear that any product that is ‘placed on the Community market for the first time’ must comply with applicable CE directives and requirements. The directives make no distinction between products that are commercially available and those that are available free.

Therefore, if a product is introduced into the European market, the manufacturer is responsible for ensuring CE compliance and obtaining the appropriate mark. Even companies that manufacture items for in-house use are required to obtain CE marking. Additionally, importers that bring products into the EU, even second-hand products, are required to obtain CE markings.

How do I initiate a CE mark on products?

CE marking requires the manufacturer to prove compliance. This is done using a Technical File, which must be completed before affixing a CE mark on products. Additionally, the file needs to be kept up to date and regularly maintained. 

Assuming that all requirements have been met, and the Technical File is in good order, a manufacturer or importer can follow this process:

The initials CE should be used as displayed in a grid form

The mark must be of a certain size – at least 5mm tall

Attachment to the products should be visible, legible and indelible

The mark must be in the immediate vicinity of the name of the manufacturer or its authorised representative

The mark should be affixed directly to the product, or to the data plate. If this that isn’t possible, it should be affixed to the document that accompanies the product

What are the penalties for tampering with the CE marking?

All the rules and regulations are listed in individual Member States’ national administration and penal laws. Depending on the seriousness of the crime, offenders could be fined or imprisoned.

Do all products automatically qualify for the CE mark when they are UL/CSA approved?

There is a difference between the CE marking and the UL/CSA certification, and a UL/CSA rating doesn’t automatically qualify a product for CE certification. However, it is much easier to carry through the process of obtaining CE marking if a product already has a UL/CSA certification. 

Which countries is the CE marking required for?

All countries in the European Economic Area. Also, while Switzerland isn’t a member of the EU, there are certain products that require CE certification to satisfy bilateral agreements between Switzerland and the EU. In addition, the Turkish Government has sought to comply with the standard and many of its products now carry the rating.  

Is a product affixed with the CE mark always produced in the EU?

The affixed CE mark doesn’t indicate that a product is made in the EU, only that all relevant requirements have been met. It can be made anywhere in the world.  

Does the CE marking indicate that the product is tested and approved by European authorities?

No. The assessment of conformity under the legislative requirements is in the hands of the manufacturer. The manufacturer affixes the CE mark and then puts together the Declaration of Conformity.

For more information, visit www.gov.uk/ce-marking