Mark Godden shares his thoughts on CE marking for stone

Materials World magazine
,
1 May 2016

More than two years after the implementation of CE marking on stone products, Mark Godden says confusion still reigns in the industry regarding the application of the law.

CE confusion

On 1 July 2013, it became law across European Member States (including the UK, courtesy of the Construction Products Regulations 2013) that all natural stone products covered by ‘harmonised European standards’ (which effectively means most building products made from natural stone) must be CE marked. Such products must also be accompanied by a Declaration of Performance (DoP) before they can be legally placed on the European market.

The new legislation does not only apply to building products made from indigenous European stones – if a natural stone product is imported into the EU it must also be CE marked and it is the responsibility of the importer to ensure that the product is adequately tested to ensure that it will comply with its DoP. 

The DoP and CE Certificate must include a significant amount of detail about the products they support, including a manufacturer’s name and batch number, the constituent stone’s traditional name and its petrological family, its colour and place of origin, its intended use and its essential characteristics. 

CE marking is intended to remove trade barriers by acting as a ‘passport’ that allows natural building materials to be legally sold in any EU member state.  

Obligations, as far as CE marking is concerned, do not end with a stone product’s original supplier. In a supply chain-type situation, wholesalers become legally responsible for CE marks and for the accuracy of the information in the DoP. This means that each person in a natural stone product’s supply chain should test the stone product and satisfy themselves that it conforms with its DoP before they sell it on. Reliance upon information from higher up the supply chain is not advisable, particularly if someone is injured as a result of a product’s non-compliance or failure when in use.  

Despite having been made law more than two years ago, there is still widespread confusion within some sections of the UK’s natural stone industry concerning the detail and application of the rules. When I recently asked my local tile shop about the CE certification for some ‘slate’ tiles in their showroom (which incidentally were not slate, but a rather nice micaceous quartzite) I received a very blank look indeed.

End users and specifiers of natural building products obviously need to have confidence in the materials they use. Some system of guarantee is necessary but perhaps CE marking is an overly complex solution that, in some instances, could place a major burden upon suppliers. I doubt, however, that the stone testing companies would agree with me. I suspect that our legislators also take a different view – after all, it’s their house that’s falling down because the wrong stone was used to construct it. The use of poor-quality magnesian limestone from Anston in South Yorkshire to rebuild the Palace of Westminster after a devastating fire in 1834 is about to come home to roost, with an imminent multi-billion pound repair bill to be footed by the taxpayer.

Mark Godden is Mine and Quarry Manager at Albion Stone, UK. With more than 30 years’ experience in the sector, Mark has developed new underground dimension stone mining techniques and modern open quarrying methods, been involved in the supply of Portland Stone for Buckingham Palace, and worked on the refurbishment of Green Park Tube Station