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January 12, 2011

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New labelling rules for construction product manufacturers

Construction products containing hazardous substances will have to be clearly labelled as such, to protect the health and safety of construction workers and users of construction works.

The ‘Proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council laying down harmonised conditions for the marketing of construction products’ is intended to update, simplify and replace the Construction Products Directive, and seeks to take account of the need for high levels of health and safety for those working in the sector.

On a broader level, the European Commission is concerned that some Member States, including the UK, do not insist on CE marking, which provides information about the characteristics of a product for purchasers. Some other Member States apply additional requirements for marking or testing before products can be placed on their market, thereby restricting free trade. The Commission considers that regulation is required to ensure that CE marking is implemented more consistently.

Under the new regulation, the “declaration of performance” already required for every construction product will have to include information on hazardous substances to make the contents clear to all potential users, and ensure a high level of health and safety protection. CE marking shall be affixed to those construction products for which the manufacturer has drawn up a declaration of performance.

The regulation should simplify current labelling rules and procedures so as to reduce red tape and ensure transparency. Micro-companies manufacturing construction products may choose to use new simplified performance assessment procedures, provided that they can demonstrate the products’ compliance with requirements by methods equivalent to those laid down in harmonised standards.

However, John Tebbit, industry affairs director at the Construction Products Association (CPA), remains unconvinced of the real value that the changes will have for both health and safety and in terms of reducing bureaucracy. He pointed out: “If REACH works, you will not be able to have certain contents of materials in products anyway”. He also said: “I can’t see if someone is doing a good COSHH datasheet, what value loading more data on labels will bring in improving health and safety.”

Construction products manufactured in a traditional manner, or in a manner appropriate to heritage conservation and in a non-industrial process, would be exempt from the “declaration of performance” requirement.

The draft also emphasises the need for manufacturers, when assessing the performance of a construction product, to consider its impact on health and safety and the environment throughout its entire life cycle.

Activities of contractors who prefabricate individual components on or off site, however, will not, fall within the scope of the regulation. States the draft: “This regulation lays down conditions for the placing, or making available on the market of construction products. It does not address the incorporation of construction products into construction projects.”

According to Tebbit, the European Contractors Association has campaigned hard for the rules, as it wants to see manufacturers take more responsibility for how their products are used on site. He believes that more discussion is needed on the labelling content requirements and the “devil will be in the detail” in terms of their potential burden on manufacturers.

The new rules, which were endorsed by the Internal Market Committee on 10 January, will be subject to a plenary vote in Strasbourg on 18 January, after which the Council will give its final approval.

The regulation will formally come into force 20 days after its publication in the Official Journal of the EU. However, many of its provisions will only apply as of 1 July 2013 to allow companies time to adjust.

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