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Peace of mind

Voluntary third-party certification gives confidence to the manufacturer, customer and enforcement authorities that the goods supplied and installed are fit for purpose, argues the goods supplied and installed are fit for purpose, argues the Passive Fire Protection Federation

WHY CHOOSE a passive fire protection product – such as a fire door – from a manufacturer whose products are certified by a third party, rather than from a manufacturer that is not third-party approved? And why specify that a passive fire protection product be installed by a certified installer?

In order to answer these questions, one must consider the requirements placed upon such products. Currently in the UK, passive fire protection products are obliged to be tested or assessed to a range of British or European fire test standards. The cost and complexity of the test depends on the product and its end-use application. If that is all that is required, why bother with certification?

The missing link

For a product to have its fire performance evaluated, the manufacturer supplies evidence of fire performance to the certification body for evaluation. For the fire test part of this evidence, the manufacturer supplies the test laboratory with a prototype specimen. The laboratory does the test and reports the results.

The problem with this approach is that there is no link between what the manufacturer produces and sells to his customers and what the laboratory tested. The laboratory has no role in the selection of the test specimen. It is not unknown for ‘enhanced’ test specimens to be submitted to a laboratory.

Contrast that situation with a product that is certificated by an independent third party with accreditation from the United Kingdom Accreditation Service (UKAS), and that is registered into the appropriate scheme. In these schemes, there are a number of obligations placed upon the manufacturer to ensure the quality of the product:

  • the manufacturer must have his quality management system audited against a set of predefined requirements (generically termed factory production control (FPC)). Some schemes additionally mandate the use of ISO 9000
  • products for test are selected by the certification body and not the manufacturer. Field of application reports, engineering assessments, directly relevant fire test evidence and other technical reports are verified for accuracy and always related back to the current production
  • products in a scheme are assessed against the scheme technical requirements. Some schemes may require additions to those of the basic fire test performance requirements and may consider other properties, such as fitness for purpose and durability
  • all the products within the range can be covered by the certification, which means that further evaluation by a laboratory is not needed
  • in most schemes, the products have to be audit tested. That is, products are selected for retesting, either after a period of time or after production of a given number of units. Audit testing is very onerous on the manufacturer but is a powerful guarantee of quality and fitness for purpose
  • all schemes require, under the requirements of EN 45011: 1998: General Requirements for bodies operating product certification schemes, that each product should carry an identifying mark or label to demonstrate compliance with a third-party scheme

Voluntary third-party certification hence gives confidence to the manufacturer, customer and the enforcement

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© Passive Fire Protection Federation 2005