A fire safety essential

17 December 2018

Post Grenfell, more than ever, Declarations of Performance for fire rated panels are a key assurance, writes Meyer Timber compliance manager Stephen Cope

The Construction Products Regulation (CPR) is clear on one thing: “When a construction product is covered by a harmonised standard, the manufacturer shall draw up a Declaration of Performance (DoP) when such a product is placed on the market (Article 4)”. It is the law.

For wood-based panels, the harmonised standard is EN13986:2004+A1:2015. It defines specific requirements, if structural performance is claimed, and even more stringent requirements for panels where “a clearly identifiable stage in the production process results in an improvement to the reaction to fire classifi cation (for example, an addition of fl ame retardants…)”.

Flame-retardant (FR) treated panels are safety-critical in nature. Lives depend on the specification being right and the product being installed correctly. Correct installation can only be assured by reference to the DoP, which will give the intended end use and the field of application, ie dry interior or humid areas, structural use or not and whether an air gap is permitted behind the panel and other useful data.

In spite of this, some manufacturers place an unhealthy reliance on the derogation in Article 5 as an excuse not to draw up a DoP, believing that a small quantity treated for a specifi c site does not requires one. This is manifestly untrue. The law still requires a DoP. A certifi cate of treatment may be offered but it will not contain the important installation criteria to be expected in the DoP.

Firstly, the Article 5 Derogation clause imposes a precondition that there must be no “Union or national provisions requiring the declaration of essential characteristics”. The CPR itself, in Annex 1, clearly shows “safety in case of fire” as the second Basic Requirement for Construction Works, while the Building Regulations mention “fire” 26 times within their text and their provisions are implemented by two volumes of Approved Document B. Consequently it would be quite dishonest to suggest that there are no Union or national provisions regarding fire safety in buildings in the UK.

Secondly, even if the precondition were met, there are only three specific cases where the derogation can be used:

1. The construction product is individually manufactured in a non-series process … by a manufacturer who is [also] responsible for the safe incorporation of the product into the construction works…;

2. The construction product is manufactured on the construction site … under the responsibility of those responsible for the safe execution of the construction works…; or

3. The construction product is manufactured in a traditional manner … appropriate to heritage conservation in a non-industrial process for … works officially protected … because of their special architectural or historic merit. (A clear reference to “listed buildings”).

Finally, EN13986 requires for both the treater and the manufacturer to have factory production controls (FPC) in place, externally audited by a body approved by the UK accreditation service.

In this post-Grenfell world, all merchants and distributors who buy FR panels need to protect themselves by demanding relevant DoPs and FPC certifi cates and making them available to customers.