Sat. Nov 27th, 2021

The British construction industry has warned that plans for a new post-Brexit UKCA’s safety and quality mark will cause shortages of key construction products and materials and damage the government’s plan for the level of plans.

In a letter to Kwasi Kwarteng, business secretary, the Construction Leadership Council said it wanted to raise “urgent concerns in the industry” about the scheme, which is designed to reaffirm the UK’s new regulatory independence after leaving the EU.

The warning from the CLC, a joint venture and governing body, came despite the fact that the full launch of the UKCA brand had already been delayed by 12 months until 1 January 2023. to industry warnings that it was not ready.

The UKCA “conformity assessed” mark is a UK equivalent to the EU’s “CE” safety marking scheme, which requires manufacturers to obtain safety certificates before placing products on the EU internal market.

For basic items, companies can apply to have existing CE marks automatically converted to UKCA marks where regulations have not changed, but safety-critical products must be retested by independent UK assessors. The CLC has warned that assessment bodies have a critical shortfall.

They added that there is ‘limited or no capacity’ for many basic products to be tested in accordance with UK construction product regulations. They listed coolers, glass, glue and sealants among the most affected products.

“If the current situation prevails, these products will not be available on the UK market after the January 2023 deadline,” the CLC said, calling for a “significant expansion of facilities” that could issue UKCA certificates.

As an example, the CLC said that the inability to certify radiators in the UK could delay “the construction of more than 150,000 homes” per year, which in turn delayed the switch to low-carbon heating, which is an important part of the government’s ambition to reach “net zero” by 2050.

“The consequences are clearly not only detrimental to the UK construction sector but also to the government’s ambitions around housing, infrastructure, building safety and net zero in the built environment,” wrote Andy Mitchell, co-chair of the CLC.

The group has asked the government to conduct an audit of the test body capacity to identify where assistance is needed. Meanwhile, the CLC said the government should allow tests to be subcontracted, including to “overseas bodies”, until there is sufficient UK capacity.

“There are steps that can be taken to mitigate these risks, but action is now needed,” the letter concluded. “The extension of the deadline to January 2023 is not sufficient to prevent significant disruption.”

Peter Caplehorn, chief executive of the Construction Products Association, said the UKCA issue could have a serious impact on an industry already facing supply shortages and price increases due to disruption caused by the Covid-19 pandemic .

“In the short term, the problem is a shortage of test bodies. In the longer term, companies are spending millions on recertification and our concern is that UKCA will stifle innovation, reduce product ranges and [put] upward pressure on costs over time, ”he added.

The business division said it was working to boost testing capacity in certain sectors and was considering how to support the expansion of the testing industry.

“The launch of the UKCA brand enables the UK to regain control of our own product regulations. We have made provision for the industry for two years to adapt to these changes and it is important that we do not delay the implementation further, ”reads the statement.

Additional Reporting by George Hammond

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