CE marking to be simplified for smaller companies

CE marking of building products, notably stone, will be simplified for smaller companies in the New Year, it was announced at Stone Federation Great Britain's Members Day and AGM in Leeds on 5 November. A major part of the proposal is to make it unnecessary to produce a Declaration of Performance as well as the CE mark.

CE marking of building products for which there is a European standard became a legal requirement under building regulations in July 2013. Apart from a flurry of activity when it was introduced, CE marking has been widely ignored by the stone sector with no apparent consequences so far.

Stone as paving, tiling, cladding and many other products should all be CE marked – although not as worktops or window cills, for which there are no European standards.

CE marking requires some testing of stone in order for a Declaration of Performance and a CE certificate to be produced. But the information on the two documents is essentially the same, so the European Commission issued papers this month (November) offering guidance for simplifying CE marking for SMEs that avoids the duplication.

The production of the European standards took decades to complete and they are regularly reviewed and sometimes amended. They are available in the UK from British Standards Institution (BSI) as BS EN standards – BS EN12440, for example, requires the traditional name and petrographic description of a stone to be included in the CE mark information, yet some companies are still selling stone with marketing names they have dreamed up. Most stone companies do not own or use copies of the standards.

All products sold in the UK, including imports, should be CE marked. But the Chinese have added further confusion – deliberately – by introducing a 'Chinese Export' CE mark that looks just like the European CE mark.

The CE mark is not a BSI Kitemark. It does not indicate that the product is fit for the particular purpose it is going to be used. All it and the Declaration of Performance do is present test results. To most people those test results are meaningless, but it is up to the person specifying the product to satisfy themselves that the products will perform satisfactorily in the circumstances they will be used.

Many people think such a CE mark on building products is not only pointless but also confusing. A lot of smaller companies have simply ignored CE marking and are waiting to see what happens. So far, at least, not much has happened, although there might be a major court case one day when a product used that was not CE marked proves to have been an expensive mistake. No doubt the question will hinge on whether the specifier should have demanded a CE mark or the contractor should have insisted on using only CE marked products. 

To reiterate: it is a legal requirement to use CE marked building products where there are European standards for them, so anyone who does not do so is breaking the law.

The news about the proposed changes to CE marking for smaller companies was announced by Dr Tim Yates of BRE at the Stone Federation Members Day. Tim sits on the European committee that determines these standards and said there would be a meeting on 12 December to discuss the European Commission's guidance papers.

He said the point he would be making is that if it is possible to simplify the CE marking procedure for smaller firms, why not simplify it for all firms?

One person more than any other has criticised the standards for stones and their use with CE marking. He is Maurice Rogers, an engineer who spent a lifetime in quality control involving abrasive disks. He believes the testing of stone is pointless as it accepts a proportion of failures. He also believes it is deliberately more complicated than it needs to be because the tests have been devised by testing centres.

Maurice got involved with the stone industry after he had retired when he started advising the National Trust at Baddesley Clinton in Warwickshire in 2010. Since then he has been involved in the stone procurement and selection for the restoration of a number of historic buildings (where stone is generally not covered by CE marking because bespoke, one-off pieces of masonry are exempt).

He spoke to the Men of the Stones in Stamford at their October meeting. Click hear to read a report of his presentation