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12 May 2021
UKCA's impact on other industries: Construction & Plumbing
Supplies of construction products in the UK could come to a “grinding halt” if issues over post-Brexit changes to certification rules are not resolved before the end of the year, the chief executive of the Construction Products Association has warned.
Peter Caplehorn told Building the industry could “rapidly” run out of key materials next year because the UK did not have the capacity to test products to the new standards in time.
It threatens to be a new headache for the industry, which is already having to deal with materials shortages in part caused by a booming construction sector following the government’s decision to put the industry at the front of the UK’s economic recovery from the covid-19 pandemic.
But Caplehorn, who also co-chairs the Construction Leadership Council’s building safety workstream, said switching to the new certifications has been “immensely complicated” and admitted the changeover was now “in a bit of trouble”.
So concerned is he by the issue, he said there was an argument for the UK to unilaterally extend the transition period beyond the end of this year and he has already raised the issue in a meeting with construction minister Anne-Marie Trevelyan two weeks ago.
Caplehorn said the UK does not have enough testing facilities for each type of product, and for certain products, such as high specification glass and construction adhesives, there are no facilities to carry out the necessary assessments in the UK.
He said there was now not enough time to get testing facilities for these products up and running in the UK before the end of the transition period.
“If you play that out, when we get to the end of the year, when it will be only CA mark for the UK, we are in a bit of trouble, because any new products, or any products which have run out of their test legitimacy, will have to be retested. We don’t have the ability to do it at all.”
He added a governing structure to oversee UK technical assessment bodies had still not been set up because discussions had only started after the agreement of the Brexit deal in December last year.
“We’re now in a position, where even if we had the capacity, we don’t actually have the organisational authorities in place yet.”
He added: “The challenge is effectively taking a system which was in existence across Europe for 40 years and cutting it into two and trying to make our version of that work in every aspect, because there are an awful lot of layers to this particular topic.
“And it requires a lot of different agencies and organisations to be in place to make sure it all works.
“Have we got enough time to get all these things in place by the end of the year? My judgement at the moment would say no.”
The pressure systems industry is particularly worried because it has to meet additional safety standards - much like the fire industry. Its concern is that overseas metal mills and foundries will decide not to register for the UK system as the cost will be too great compared with the size of the market.
Rob Bartlett, chief executive of the British Valve and Actuator Association, said: “It will mean increased material costs, increased bureaucracy costs and potential supply disruption for the majority of UK pressure equipment manufacturers, damaging their ability to compete in the EU export market and, in particular, their ability to supply into their own home UK market.”
Issues with the UKCA mark
Manufacturers across the UK are warning of dramatically rising costs after being told by government officials last week that Britain will not discuss recognising existing European product safety standards from January 1 next year.
This is despite the fact that product accreditations issued by Ukas, the government-approved body, are still recognised across Europe under a multilateral agreement.
Instead, all goods sold in Britain from next year will have to bear a UK CA stamp of approval, replacing the familiar CE mark on everything from laptop power supplies to industrial parts used to make chemical plants.
FIA's response to the UKCA mark
At the FIA, we have been in constant communication with the government and the UK Approved Bodies over the last year voicing the concerns of the fire safety industry on the impact of implementing the new UKCA mark. Thus far, we have sent several letters to Governmental departments and have voiced our concerns at many meetings with the Government.
These problems are felt by the majority of our members of the FIA. Rest assured this is a priority of the FIA. It is vitally important that the Government understands the impact that changing to the UKCA regime will have not only for businesses from the fire industry whose task it is to keep buildings safe; but also, for the thousands of business owners that rely on their buildings being compliant so that they can remain open. Whilst we are lobbying to extend the transition period that our industry has been given, it must be noted that this might not be successful as such businesses should make plans for that instance.
To find out more about the FIA's work on the UKCA mark, please email Adam Richardson, FIA Business Liaison at [email protected]