Experts from Swiss protection-system market leader Geobrugg explain the importance of CE marks, European Assurance Documents (EADs) and warns users of potential pitfalls.
In a globalized world, the standardisation of products is essential to make sure that they perform as expected, either by solving a described problem or by performing in a specific way. Standardisation helps maintain quality standard and helps users to compare different products.
Existing in its present form since 1985, the CE mark is an abbreviation of the French phrase “Conformité Européene”, which literally means “European Conformity”. CE marking is a certification mark that indicates conformity with health, safety and environmental protection standards for products sold within the European Economic Area (EEA). A CE mark is the manufacturer’s declaration that the product meets the requirements of the applicable EC directives.
The added value of CE marking is that all EEA countries must allow the selling of construction products bearing the CE mark. This means that public authorities cannot ask for any additional marks or certificates or any additional testing. It is, however, important to know the basics of CE marking.
Obtaining a CE mark
The responsibility for CE marking lies with whoever puts the product on the market in the EU, i.e. an EU-based manufacturer, the importer or distributor of a product made outside the EU, or an EU-based office of a non-EU manufacturer.
Under the wing of the European Commission, the European Committee for Standardisation takes care of all European Standards and supports the EU Legislation.
Harmonised conditions for the marketing of construction products are laid out in Regulation No. 305/2011 (CPR) of the European Parliament and of the European Council, dated 9 March 2011. This Construction Product Regulation (CPR) is designed to simplify and clarify the existing framework for placing construction products on the European market. The CPR helps authorities and consumers to receive high quality and safe products and to be able to compare different products.
Testing products to either a Harmonized European Standard or a European Assessment Document (EAD) ensures that the basis for comparing product performance is the same and that test results display all the relevant parameters in detail. Customers can therefore ask producers to provide these details so as to compare products and their performance.
If no harmonized standard exists for a specific product, then a European Assessment Document (EAD) can be written. This lays out the methods and criteria accepted by the European Organisation for Technical Assessment (EOTA) for assessing the performance of a construction product in relation to its essential characteristics.
Based on an EAD, the Technical Assessment Body (TAB) performs tests on the product and issues a European Technical Assessment (ETA). As soon as the European Commission approves and lists the ETA, the Notified Body issues the CE-Mark. Finally, a Declaration of Performance (DoP) must be drawn up by the manufacturer, which then assumes responsibility for its product conforming with its declared performance. This is a key part of the Construction Products Regulation as it provides information on the performance of a product.
Natural hazard prevention: The new standardisation for rockfall, debris flow, shallow landslides and slope stabilisation
Three main EADs cover different special applications in the field of geohazard products:
- EAD 230025-00-0106 “Flexible facing systems for slope stabilization and rock protection”
- EAD-340020-00-0106 “Flexible kits for retaining debris flows and shallow landslides/open hill debris flows”
- EAD-340059-00-0106 “Falling rock protection kits”
All of these can be found on the EOTA website: http://eota.eu/en-GB/content/eads/56/
Taking the EAD “Flexible facing systems for slope stabilization and rock protection” as an example, it describes several tests for flexible facings which have been used worldwide for decades.
These facings are available in two different qualities, mild steel wire and high tensile steel wire. For both types, when used with soil nailing/rock bolting, there are three key characteristics :
- Puncturing at the nail head plate (shearing-off resistance at the upslope edge of the spike plate);
- Slope parallel load transfer into the nail with interaction of the soil (tensile strength);
- Deformation/elongation of the mesh under load in percent.
The tables below show the groups and classes that categorize the performance of flexible facings:
Using these tables, users can clearly define, in tender documents, the bearing resistance for the particular flexible facing which is being offered for a specific project. Different products can be compared easily and the basis for selecting this facing explained.
Warning to users
One caveat is that it is possible to obtain a CE mark for a product without having performed all the tests. For example, often only the tensile strength of a mesh has been tested but all the other parameters are missing.
So, users need to be careful as the product may only be acceptable for an application is all of its properties are known. Just noting that a product has a CE mark is not enough, it is important to make sure that the parameters in the DoP (Declaration of performance) or ETA comply with the project design, and this can only be assured by checking test results in detail.