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The dangers of non-conforming building products in Australia

July 17, 2015 Posted by Heath McNab
The dangers of non-conforming building products in Australia

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Industry bodies have highlighted serious concerns with the increase of building and construction products that do not conform to Australian standards and regulatory requirements, following a number of accidents that have occurred due to fraudulent certification from overseas authorities.

In August 2014, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission recalled around 40,000 electric cables that were found to degrade prematurely, increasing the risk of electric shock or fire. Last year also saw a Melbourne firm replace sub-standard glass on all windows in its 24-storey development, as well as a fire in a Melbourne apartment block that was found to contain non-compliant combustible cladding, which was instrumental in spreading the blaze.

Although the issue of non-conforming products is not new, it seems it’s not likely to ease up anytime soon. In fact, a survey conducted by the Australian Industry Group found that 92 percent of participants were aware of non-conforming products in their sector.

Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Industry, Bob Baldwin, convened a national meeting with building industry leaders late last year to address the influx of non-conforming building products and develop a strategy to improve compliance and safety.

“These faulty products are not meeting Australian standards and causing significant risk of fire or failing the most basic of stress tests,” Mr Baldwin said. “Families building a new home or renovating their home should be able to have confidence that their dream build is being completed to the highest standards with the best quality products.”

Non-conforming products include those that are not fit-for-purpose, are not of acceptable quality, contain false or misleading claims or are counterfeit. They can be found in all areas of construction, including steel, copper, electrical products, glass, aluminium and engineered wood. Unfortunately, the risks of using non-conforming products are often not discovered until there has been a failure.

The use of non-conforming products is not only dangerous for the public, but also poses a significant liability risk for building professionals. The Australian Industry Group produced a report in November 2013 titled ‘The quest for a level playing field: The non-conforming building products dilemma’ which raised concerns about the gaps and weaknesses in the building and construction conformance framework.

The report makes it clear that all parties involved will share responsibility in the event of a product failure. As such, the burden of product compliance is one we all must attend to. Like all other stakeholders, accredited certifiers need to be satisfied that as-built products are fit for purpose, suitably installed and comply with required standards.

The only effective means of ensuring this is for all stakeholders to take responsibility at every stage of development, from product selection to product procurement and installation, with suitable documented evidence provided post-construction.

Contact us to find out what testing certificates are required on your development, or check whether your building products conform to Australian standards and regulations.

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