CUBIS, access cover manufacturer, calls for review of revised European manhole cover standard

Posted: Thursday 13th August 2015

The changes to the recently revised EN124 standard are “anti-competitive, will stifle innovation and will raise the cost for end users”, according to Julia McDaid, CUBIS Industries’ Technical & Product Development director.

BS EN124: 1994 is the current British Standard for gully tops and manhole covers and has been reviewed over a 10 year period in order to introduce a harmonised European standard.

In April this year, the revised EN124 standard was carried by a narrow margin. The UK, Ireland, France, Norway and Austria voted against the standard, their weighted vote totalled 71%, just shy of the 73% threshold to approve the standard .

The revised EN124 standard requires AVCP (Assessment and Verification of Constancy and Performance) Level 1 for all product types and load classes. The current standard operates at the lower Level 3, allowing the manufacturer to declare compliance based on factory production control (ISO 9001) and product type testing. Level 1 requires continuous surveillance, assessment and evaluation by a notified product certification body. The costs of complying with this are estimated at £15,000 per product variant, which could cost manufacturers millions of pounds, the cost of which will be passed on to the end user. There is no precedent for this level of compliance for similar products that fall under the Construction Products Regulation (CPR).

The revised standard now includes a provision for composite materials, but the technical requirement is higher for these products than for traditional metallic and concrete covers. It is felt by CUBIS, the largest manufacturer of composite access covers in the UK, that with the onerous testing and verification requirements, the cost of compliance has been set so high that end users will undoubtedly be hit with price increases.

While all product types and load classes are subject to AVCP Level 1 testing, the standard calls for surveillance of factories producing composite products to take place 6 times per year, although this can be reduced to twice per year following three consecutive years of compliance. All other products in the standard are subjected to surveillance once per year.

Composite access covers are used frequently in the UK and are specified by the majority of local councils for traffic signalling and street lighting access. They have become popular due to their comparative low weight and the fact that they have no inherent scrap value, making them unattractive for theft. Composite products have been an area of innovation in the industry but it is argued by CUBIS that the revised standard places a significant and prohibitive cost for companies manufacturing these products.

“This level of AVCP inspections for composite products is excessive and without scientific justification. If the products must meet AVCP Level 1, the level of surveillance should be consistent across the board,” commented Ms McDaid. “It is also a concern that with the new standard due to come live in November and the old standard to be removed by February 2017, there is simply not enough capacity, or the requisite equipment in test houses and notified bodies to meet these deadlines.”

“The proposed testing regime is not consistent across all material classes, creating a technical bias against composite materials and prevents any like-for-like comparison in performance between different cover materials,” said Ms McDaid. CUBIS and many other industry representatives contend that there was inadequate composites representation at either the National or CEN committees, to develop a proper standard for composites covers.

“The essential characteristics for these products are the same, irrespective of material type and hence, each should be subject to a common test approach. For example, only composite materials are tested for the impact of fatigue, creep and vehicle fuels and only composite and thermoplastic products are tested for impact resistance. The revised standard is detrimental to the composites industry in both the UK and EU.”

“Further, the skid resistance in the revised EN124 does not meet national legislation. Highways England question the validity of the test methodology and consider the unpolished slip resistance value (USRV) of 35 to be too low. They support a full review of how skid resistance is dealt with in the standard.”

CUBIS, along with the trade body Composites UK and their local MEPs, will be lobbying the European Commission and the European Committee for Standardisation (CEN) for a review of EN124 with the possibility of launching an appeal against the standard.

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