As the nation undergoes a massive recall of dodgy electrical cables, the building industry in Australia is increasing efforts to eliminate non-compliant products (NCPs) from construction sites and projects around the country.
On September 1, the Australian Procurement and Construction Council (APCC) launched a 64-page guide to assist architects and builders in developing a framework for compliance with national safety standards and ensuring products used in construction comply with these standards.
The guide represents the latest in industry efforts to address the problem. In 2012, the Housing Industry Association led an industry summit about NCPs and pledged to develop options for a product registration scheme. More recently, meanwhile, Ai Group and a number of other partners established the Construction Products Alliance to act in areas of research, certification, surveillance, engagement and education.
While such efforts are not new, pressure on the industry intensified following the August 27 recall up to 40,000 electrical cables supplied by Infinity and sold through 18 retailers which failed electrical safety standards due to poor quality insulation coating that could lead to the insulation within the cables becoming brittle prematurely and thus becoming subject to dislodgement with physical contact, leading to electrical shock or fire.
The ACCC acknowledges there was no immediate threat to safety, but the incident is merely the latest example of NCP posing threats to workers and the public.
In 2012, for example, it emerged that thousands of poor quality bolts were a factor in the collapse of a hangar at RAAF Fairbairn which seriously injured 12 workers almost a decade earlier.
In 2011, a pane of glass fell from the 23rd floor of the Brisbane’s Waterfront Palace, and media reports at the time suggested managers at that building had had to deal with hundreds of faulty windows in recent decades.
Moreover, in a recent Ai Group survey, more than eight out of 10 suppliers of steel, glass and electrical products reported incidents of NCP within their sector, with around half in each segment indicating NCP penetration of more than 10 per cent.
In a statement, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Industry Bob Baldwin welcomed the code, saying it would help architects, engineers, contractors, surveyors, certifiers, building owners and hardware suppliers identify the factors involved in the procurement process in order to ensure products met an acceptable level of quality and compliance.
Meanwhile, APCC executive director Teresa Scott said the guide "fills an existing void" in providing practical guidance for the building and construction industry on the issue.
The guide outlines 12 key principles, including that product standards be clearly specified in contract documentation, products be certified and tested or inspected, and that products should only be used on site where conformity with the standards can be clearly demonstrated.