Scaffold sheeting and fire retardancy: why ‘compliance’ isn’t always what it seems

The word ‘compliance’ has a reassuring effect when describing a business, product or service. It implies reliability. It suggests safety. It gives the impression that key standards have been met. In many cases, those assumptions are correct, but there are other circumstances when the designation of compliance is more nuanced. The term always merits closer inspection to understand exactly what it means in practical terms.

Assessing scaffold sheeting and containment sheeting is one of those grey areas where compliance is easily misunderstood or misinterpreted. BS 7955 is often referenced when discussing compliance for containment nets and sheets on construction works. This standard relates to requirements for tensile strength as well as the strength of eyelets and attachment fasteners. Compliance with BS 7955 is recognised within the industry and represents a reliable benchmark in this specific area of performance. However, when it comes to another key performance requirement, fire retardancy, compliance is not a term which can be interpreted with the same confidence. Understanding fire risk involves an important distinction between sheeting that is compliant and sheeting that is certified.

Compliant vs certified – what is the difference?

Certification and compliance are significantly divergent in the context of temporary containment sheeting, scaffold sheeting, temporary roof sheeting, tarpaulins, meshes, twin wall fluted sheets. The difference can largely be attributed to the methodology applied to assess each standard.

To be labelled as compliant, these types of products are subject to a one-off test, with all results based on a single sample. These tests are not linked to an official fire retardancy standard, and some are not linked to any recognised standard.

To be labelled as certified, the same products must clear a much higher bar. Instead of a single test, certification requires a set of standardised tests carried out by an independent testing body with the necessary accreditation and authority to perform the assessment. They are fully tested and approved to prevent the spread of fire for both internal and external scaffolding applications. After passing the certification, the sheeting is still subject to a stringent regime of regular factory audits and flame retardancy tests, with credentials supported by ISO 9001 accreditation and full batch traceability. It is worth noting that testing bodies perform separate tests and certification for plain and printed sheeting as the latter usually involves solvent inks which affect flame retardant properties.

Which testing bodies are authorised to certify?

Two organisations in the UK currently run the certification scheme.  Exova Warringtonfire provides its Certifire scheme which assures performance, quality, reliability and traceability of fire protection products and systems. The Certifire brand is recognised by many regulatory authorities worldwide as an international mark of fire safety, establishing the TS 62 and TS 63 certification standards.

The BRE Global/Loss Prevention Certification Board (LPCB) also provides certification in support of fire safety and security.  The organisation works with industry and government to set the standards needed to ensure that fire and security products perform effectively. LPCB offers third party approval confirming that products and services have met and will continue to meet certification standards. Full details of the Loss Prevention Standards (LPS) are available on RedBook Live. Under LPCB, products are LPS 1207 certified for internal use and LPS 1215 certified for external applications such as scaffold sheeting.

Why is certification so important?

Maximising fire safety is vital to safeguard construction workers operating in the site environment. Using certified scaffold sheeting is the only reliable guarantee that it meets the necessary fire safety requirements.

Beyond the immediate concerns of fire prevention and improved Health & Safety on day-to-day site activities, failure to use certified scaffold sheeting on developments of a certain value has wider implications, potentially causing the ceasing or withdrawal of insurance in relation to the Joint Code of Practice on the Protection from Fire of Construction Sites and Buildings Undergoing Renovation (JCC). The terms of JCC require different stipulations for different projects, with the need for third party-approved flame retardancy certification determined by the value of the project, as outlined in the table below.

Many insurance policies include this Code of Practice, making it vital to ensure third party certification when required by the criteria set by JCC.

How do you recognise certified scaffold sheeting?

Thankfully, it is easy to identify scaffold sheeting certified that has authentic third-party approval. Suppliers of scaffold sheeting should provide a test certificate from LPCB or Exova Warringtonfire to prove certification. Materials that have third-party approval must display the appropriate approval mark logo (LPCB or Certifire), certificate number and compliance to BS7955 printed on the label/ID strip and the sheeting at regular intervals. If this does not appear on the sheeting, it does not have accredited third-party approval, regardless of what is claimed by the manufacturer. Below is a checklist of the marking displayed by certified products, as well as markings which falsely suggest certification.

Examples of certification marking on ITP’s Powerclad scaffold sheeting

Certification for different applications

Separate certification is supplied for internal and external applications, and certification is required for both plain and printed sheeting. It is important to check that printed sheeting is included in the Warrington Fire or BRE certificate. ITP’s Powerclad Standard FR and Premium FR sheeting are both certified for internal and external applications and for plain and flexographically or digitally printed sheeting. ITP is the only company that offers a sheeting product which is certified for both external applications to TS 62 and internal applications to TS 63.

Need more advice or information?

ITP is one of only two manufacturers in the UK to have the recognised third-party accreditation outlined above. With more than 25 years’ experience in manufacturing and testing flame retardant building materials, our technical team has outstanding expertise on the subject of certification. To find out more, please contact us on 01347 825 200 or email info@itpltd.com