Why is it important for products to be tested and certified by independent test houses?

Because it makes the results completely independent of the manufacturer’s claims and secondly because it will encompass the entire standard’s tests and methodology.

A good example exists in the property protection industry and the British Standard Institute (BSi) Kitemark Publicly Available Standard PAS1188:2014. This is the only freely available standard in the UK for flood protection solutions for on-building and off-building solutions. It attempts to represent real flood scenarios with a relevant series of tests under controlled conditions.

For manufacturers and consumers to fully understand this standard however they need to purchase and read it fully and not just look at the headline criteria. This leads to numerous issues. For example, the use in government of the phrase ‘provide solutions to PAS1188 or equivalent’.

Those two little words ‘or equivalent’ are largely to blame for the demolition of any standard if they do not explain what is expected of the equivalent test, which one would assume would need to be independent, inclusive of all tests in the named standard and follow the methodology of the standard.

What happens in practice is that manufacturers read the headline test criteria – the product must leak less than 500 millilitres per linear width (of the product) per hour and then make outlandish marketing claims such as ‘we exceed the PAS1188 standard’ or ‘manufactured to the PAS1188 standard’.

The test will have been conducted in a test tank not much larger than the product under test. The water level will have been raised to 600mm and they will have waited for an hour to see how much leakage has occurred.

What they have failed to do though is purchase a copy of the PAS1188 and read the entirety of the tests and methodology which are there to cover a number of flood scenarios.

Firstly, the test should be performed at 1/3rd of the test height, then 2/3rd of the test height and then at the full test height of 600mm, in this example.

The reason for this is that not all floods are 600mm deep. In fact, 80% of UK flooding is less than 300mm and if the flood door or flood barrier is designed to use the weight of the flood water to seal it then it may fail at these lower levels.

Secondly it has not been tested to a series of repeat tests including long duration tests over 48 hours, to simulate fluvial floods. The performance of some products may fall away over time in use or as the product is removed and re-deployed.

 

 

Thirdly, it has not been subjected to a current test. This test is included to mimic the flow of water running parallel to a property as would happen in a flash flood scenario. The test here is to determine if the flow of water will dislodge the product from its fixings or weaken the seal.

Lastly, it has not been subjected to any wave testing. This test is included to simulate emergency vehicles driving through flood waters and creating a bow wave that will impact head on to the product under test. This adds an increased load to the product and can test its ability to survive positive and negative loads.

A test facility constructed and equipped to carry out these tests is at a very different scale to those used by some manufacturers for the purpose of in-house testing. Add to this the lack of independence, rigour and transparency, then it is astounding that some government procurement officials regard this as equivalent.

All of this operates within a marketplace now renowned for poor standards and for market failure, where end-users and insurers have little confidence in what is being provided.

Our suggestion would be to expand on the definition of ‘or equivalent’ in order to satisfy procurement regulations but to also ensure high standards. Don’t be restricted by your use of the English language and explain fully what you expect of an equivalent test.

The use of a few more words in a tender document could save the tax payer thousands in having to replace inferior products and more importantly it could prevent a property from flooding as a result of flood products that aren’t really equivalent!

If you want to know more about the PAS1188 standard, then please contact www.bsigroup.com

If you want to know more about the extensive range of Kitemarked products available from Aquobex please visit www.aquobex.com/products call us at +44 (0) 1923 518582 or email us at enquiries@aquobex.com and we will be pleased to answer your questions