On the legal requirement to formally demonstrate safety and performance of construction products

The Construction Products Regulations (CPR) 2011, which came fully into force in the UK on 1 July 2013, require all products that can be CE-marked to carry the mark on being put onto the market. For products that do not have harmonised European Norms (hENs, i.e. technical standards) for testing against the essential characteristics of performance can be subjected to a European Technical Assessments and gain the ability to carry a CE mark through this route. But even products that have neither hENs or TAB procedures in place cannot evade the requirement to be properly designed and manufactured by means of production control, and thus be formally shown by the manufacturer to be fire safe, durable and appropriate for the purpose they are used in.

The relevant clauses for this are Article 28 of the CPR 2011, referring to Annex V, and therein see point 3 (“cases of essential characteristics where reference to a relevant harmonised technical specification is not required”).

Ad-hoc site assemblies incorporating non-construction products e.g. plastic bags, do not satisfy any of these requirements. The installer legally is the manufacturer of the site assembly, as “putting on the market” can man making a product available as part of providing a service. And as a product, a site-assembly cannot evade all formality. (For an overview of the CPR also see this Prezi.) Manufacturers are also required under the General Product Safety Regulations (GPSR) 2005 to give due regard to the safety of their products in all situations that can be reasonably foreseen, and respond proportionally if they are given notice of a flaw or risk inherent in the use of one of their products.

The fire risk of many improvised loft hatch insulation jobs involving plastic bags is particularly relevant, as the hatch is part of the outer envelope of a building that prevents a fire spreading into adjacent dwellings. This envelope is supposed to be resistant to fire for typically at least 30 minutes, which the wooden hatch itself clearly does not achieve on its own. On performing the loft insulation works, installers need to be aware that they need to fit a product that will not only perform adequately to satisfy article 5.5 of the building regulations part L on continuity of insulation and airtightness, but also satisfy building regulations part B on fire safety.

Though no harmonised standards exist for our products, they carry a declaration of performance that has been produced in collaboration with independent third-party test laboratories, developing a bespoke test setup based on related industry standards.

E.g. though HatchThatch is a specific loft insulation product, it was tested to:

  • BS 5852 “Methods of test for assessment of the ignitability of upholstered seating by smouldering and flaming ignition sources”

which is much more stringent than

  • BS 5803-4:1985 “Thermal insulation for use in pitched roof spaces in dwellings. Methods for determining flammability and resistance to smouldering”.

The decision to test against an upholstery standard instead of just the thermal insulation fire safety standard was made out of an awareness of the CPR, the GPSR and Part B of the building regulations.

An overview of the legal and performance issues with current loft hatch insulation practice are also summarised in this report.