Perhaps not coincidently these are two products where the grading or the correct application of standards are widely ignored or to which a blind eye is turned.

Roofing battens are a fundamental structural element of the roof. The BRE has examined the loads imposed on them. The British Standard for slating and tiling, BS 5534, incorporates the roofing batten section and has been revised twice in the past 10 years. The latest revision, BS 5534:2003, included the requirement to individually mark battens. This was aimed at highlighting the need for grading, species identification and dimension in order to make it both safe and clear for the roofer to understand the grade of the product that was being fixed.

Many battens are now marked “BS 5534” but to the best of my knowledge have undergone scant, if any, grading. I’ve samples of Belarusian batten stamped BS 5534 that is undersized, rotten, infested and with oversize knots (this is an extreme example).

Most responsible companies understand what they are selling and mark accordingly, with instructions for final grading on site for specific defects. There is a need for third party accreditation or independent verification of what standards are being used to prevent such wide-scale abuse. Grading small section timber at commercial speeds, checking the exact size of knots cannot be done by the human eye alone.

Scaffold boards fall into a similar category. Less than 50% of all boards sold meet BS 2482:1981. There is an industry Grade A standard for a 1.2m support span board. What is this? Some companies band with semi-skilled labour sawfalling whitewood – would you walk on this?

The HSE and industry are now working to revise BS 2482 but in the meantime buyers should be careful and understand what they are purchasing.

Christian Brash is managing director of John Brash Group