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UKCA plagued by capacity issues, Actuate UK calls for more time

Jordan O'Brien

Jordan O'Brien

Contributing Editor
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UKCA marking

Actuate UK has called for an extension to the transition period between the EU’s CE and the UK’s UKCA product marks, citing serious issues. 

With the UK now formally outside of the European Union, the EU CE product mark is set to be phased out at the end of the year, being replaced with the new UKCA mark. You can learn all about this new product mark in our explainer article, but it seems that there are some serious issues that Actuate UK wants resolved. 

The industry group, which launched earlier this year with the backing of the ECA, SELECT and several other bodies, has argued that the limited transition period is being exacerbated by the lack of UKCA Approved Bodies and available capacity in current Certification bodies and product testing facilities to reliably verify that existing or new products meet the UKCA criteria.

What that means is that Actuate UK is worried that products won’t be approved under this new scheme before the transition period ends. As such, if any UK manufactured or imported engineering services product that needs to but can’t display a UKCA mark by the end of 2021 this will leave manufacturers and installers, clients and the public dealing with serious quality and contractual issues. In some product categories, the industry is estimating that 64 years’ worth of retesting will be required, and we currently only have 7 months.

That could lead to serious consequences, such as product shortages, which is already an issue facing many firms due to the global chip shortage, as well as installation cancellations, delays and contractual problems. 

More time needed

In order to address these issues, Actuate UK is asking the UK Government for an extension. It wants the CE mark from the EU to be recognised until at least the end of 2022, with products in the UK being allowed to bear either the UKCA or CE mark during this period. That will give more time to companies wishing to get their products tested under the new rules. 

CEO of Federation of Environmental Trade Associations (FETA) Russell Beattie, explained, “This is not simply a question of manufacturers failing to prepare for a deadline and is inextricably linked with capacity within the still developing UKCA Approved Body cohort. Nor is this problem limited to our sector. At a time when businesses are trying to rebuild after the COVID 19 challenges the Government is urged to take the pragmatic step of extending the transition period. It is our understanding this has been done in the case of Medical Devices so there is sensible precedent for this.”

Nick Mellor, Managing Director of Lift and Escalator Industry association (LEIA) added on how the issue is impacting the sector, “Under the new arrangements, a wide range of equipment placed on the Great Britain market from 1 January 2022 would need to be UKCA-marked.  In many cases, where Approved Bodies are needed as part of the conformity process in place of EU Notified Bodies, there is a critical shortage of Approved Body capacity to deliver re-certification to UKCA rules by the end of this year.  For lifts and safety components there is currently only one UK Approved Body able to undertake such certification, yet we have thousands of such components which we need to be able to use.”

Tom Garrigan, Technical Director for Building Services Research and Information Association (BSRIA) raises similar issues for other products, “One of the 21 Directives covering products being placed on the market is the Construction Products Regulation (CPR), which is split into five AVCP (Assessment and Verification of Constancy of Performance) systems.  There are particular issues surrounding AVCP system 3, as the assessment of products is handled differently to other systems due to the EU Notified Body or UK Approved Body being a test laboratory.  The current arrangements require all products with an existing CE mark where testing has been carried out in the EU to be retested by a UK Approved Body by 31 December 21, assuming there is one with the relevant accreditations.  

“As an example, there are 8 Notified Bodies in Europe testing heat emitters for CE marking purposes, and if we assume our European counterparts have a similar annual throughput of samples as ourselves, it’s estimated there is 64 years’ worth of retesting required in less than 7 months.  A clear and urgent decision relating to the application of the UKCA mark to products is required to give manufacturers and UK Approved Bodies much needed time to prepare and comply.”

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