Home>Fire>Manufacturing>Industry Insight - March 2021

Industry Insight - March 2021

01 March 2021

Across the last 12 months, the Fire Industry Association (FIA) has been in constant communication with the Government to voice the concerns of the fire safety sector when it comes to the impact of implementing the new UK Conformity Assessed (UKCA) mark. Ian Moore details the current state of play

THE UKCA mark is the new UK product marking that will be required for certain products being placed on the market in England, Wales and Scotland (with separate arrangements in place for Northern Ireland). The UKCA mark covers most products that have previously required the CE mark.

Importantly, in a post-Brexit landscape the UKCA mark will not be recognised in the European Union (EU) marketplace. Products that currently require CE marking will still need that form of marking in order to be sold in the EU.

The UKCA mark came into force on 1 January. CE marking will continue to be recognised in the UK until the end of this year as long as the relevant UK and EU regulations remain aligned. However, from the beginning of 2022, only those products with UKCA marking will be accepted in Great Britain.

In the early stages of September, we joined forces with the British Security Industry Association in writing an open letter to James Brokenshire (Minister of State for Security) voicing our serious concern around the implementation of the UKCA mark and the major impact it will exert.

Current implementation of the UKCA mark is estimated to cost the fire and security sectors something in the region of £20 million for product re-certification, with an estimated timeline of over 36 months required to realistically transact the necessary procedures. Those headline numbers don’t allow for the associated costs for those companies that have – and at considerable expense – already transferred their certification to an EU Notified Body and will now need to re-apply for the UKCA mark.

There are also the ongoing maintenance costs associated with duplication of certification in terms of audit procedures, internal projects, product modifications and file maintenance, etc.

It’s our firm belief that dual product certification will realise major disruption for companies who manufacture and then sell their solutions across the UK, EU and global markets. It’s a process that doesn’t add any value or quality to those system solutions. Ultimately, it’s merely a means of national compliance.

Westminster’s response

Prior to Christmas, we received a communication from Paul Scully (Minister for Small Business, Consumers and Labour Markets). The Government has stressed that it cannot indefinitely accept EU certification and CE-marked goods on the market in Great Britain on a non-reciprocal basis beyond the end of the Transition Period (which, of course, ended on 31 December).

The Government also sees no reason why UK conformity assessment-focused bodies couldn’t have begun conformity assessment procedures for the UK market before the end of the Transition Period in their current capacity as Notified Bodies, concluding the process once they’ve become UK Approved Bodies.

The UK has proposed a comprehensive Mutual Recognition Agreement for the acceptance of results of conformity assessment across sectors, although this remains subject to ongoing negotiations. We’re pleased about the Mutual Recognition Agreement, but that proviso doesn’t amount to sufficient enough reassurance for the thousands of businesses operational in the UK’s fire safety and security sectors.

After this latest Government response, the FIA held its second Special Interest Group meeting to gauge opinion and tap into the expertise resident in both industries. Through working with a variety of stakeholders, we’ve identified areas where we can better represent our industries’ concerns on the implementation of the UKCA mark to those who need to hear them.

Rest assured that this is a priority for the FIA. It’s vitally important the Government understands the impact that changing to the UKCA regime will have, not only for businesses from the fire industry whose task it is to keep buildings safe, but also for the thousands of business owners who rely on their buildings being compliant so that they can keep the doors open.

Timeline extension

On two separate occasions we’ve requested of the Government that, should a reciprocal agreement not be acceptable, the specified 12 months’ timeline be extended to a minimum of 36 months to allow sufficient time for manufacturers to properly prepare for and apply the UKCA mark. This would also afford test houses enough time to process these changes. We’ve called for a meeting with Government Ministers on this very matter.

We’ve also requested that exceptions should be made for fire and security products given that exceptions have already been granted for medical devices. That request is made on the basis that both are wholly focused on life safety.

For now, it’s important end users/consumers know that the UKCA marking is not required until 1 January 2022. Until then, CE-marked products may still be deployed in the UK’s fire industry. Products purchased prior to 1 January 2022 will not be required to be retrospectively marked as UKCA.

Ian Moore is CEO of the Fire Industry Association (www.fia.uk.com)