The EU Timber Regulation is starting to rise up everyone’s agenda, as the March 2013 deadline draws near, and rightly so. But it is in danger of over-shadowing another EU regulation that has equal capacity to change how the UK timber trade operates and with equal risk of prosecution. I am talking about the Construction Products Regulation (CPR) which will supersede the Construction Products Directive (CPD) next year.

From July 1, 2013, all wood-based panel products sold or intended to be sold into construction must carry a CE mark. This will be easy for distributors of mass produced products like plywood, OSB, chipboard and MDF, even those for structural use, because it is the manufacturer’s responsibility to test the product and prove it fit for its intended purpose. However, for post-treated flame retardant products it is whole new ball game.

For flame retardant (FR) plywood and hardboard, that is "for which a clearly identifiable stage in the production process results in an improvement of the reaction to fire classification" (EN13986:2004), the distributor is the manufacturer and must take on those responsibilities.

EN13986 has always provided for this requirement but the CPD, as interpreted into UK law, did not make it a legal obligation. The CPR certainly does and any distributor who, after July 1, 2013, arranges the FR processing of their free issue panels and places them back on the market with a reaction to fire classification (eg Euroclass B or C) must, by law, have acquired a Factory Production Control (FPC) certificate, issued by a Notified Body, supported by full and valid test evidence and provide a valid CE mark for the FR element of the panel’s performance.

This is not as easy as it sounds. Not all flame retardant processes available in the UK are properly tested. Some are barely tested at all. And unless the technical file that contains the test evidence is complete and valid, it cannot support an application for an FPC certificate and without one, the distributor cannot fulfil their final obligation to publish a Declaration of Performance for the product.

The CPR has the capacity to remove from the market any reaction-to-fire processor who cannot (or who chooses not to) properly test their processes and demonstrate that they are fit for purpose.

Distributors who continue to buy inappropriately tested processes, or who place on the construction market their post-treated FR panels without an FPC certificate (and who consequently cannot CE mark the product) put themselves at risk of prosecution.

Finally, distributors who choose not to CE mark their post-treated panels cannot use the defence that they did not intend for them to be sold into construction, unless they have taken all reasonable steps to stop them entering the construction market. It might also be safe to assume that distributors that choose to get it right will stand ready to name and shame those that don’t.

The Wood Protection Association has produced an excellent Flame Retardant Checklist for specifiers, which gives guidance on what is and what is not an appropriate test.

Please contact for a free copy of the checklist.