Product testing

SECURING THE RIGHT DEVELOPMENT PARTNER Right from the start of this initiative to get standards established – the Design in Mental Health Network’s Testing and Innovation workstream first approached the BRE for its input and expertise in late 2014, with the building research consultancy helpfully funding an initial workshop in January 2015, and a subsequent wider consultation exercise, before a set of recommendations was announced at DIMH 2015 in May that year – it was clear that this wasn’t going to be straightforward. There are many voices we needed input from to create these standards – from estates teams who see the cold face of what goes wrong, to manufacturers who understand the limitations of existing test regimes. On top of this, we needed a partner with experience not only in writing testing guidance, but also with the

About the BRE

BRE was created by Government in 1921 with a remit to improve the performance of homes and buildings through standards development. Privatised in 1998, BRE now comprises a group of private companies owned by the BRE Trust. (BRE and BRE Global). The Trust is the largest UK charity for research and education in the built environment, and its mission is ‘to build a better world’. It uses the BRE Group profits to fund research programmes through BRE and five university centres of excellence. BRE and BRE Global are subsidiaries, allowing BRE to be held as a national asset on behalf of the construction industry and its clients, independent of commercial interests, and impartial and objective. With expertise in every aspect of buildings and their construction, the organisation says it can ‘provide a seamless, multidisciplinary approach to help prevent and solve problems where they arise’. Much of its activity is around testing, building sustainability, and improving the health and wellbeing of building users. BRE Global (previously BRE Certification) offers independent certification of fire, security, and sustainability products and services. Its brand, the Loss Prevention Certification Board (LPCB), is widely recognised and specified by insurers and construction professionals worldwide, ‘reflecting BRE’s technical evaluation methods and rigorous quality audits which assess the performance and reliability of products to ensure fitness for purpose and levels of protection’. LPCB-approved products can be viewed at BRE Global also offers approval to British, European, international, and its own Loss Prevention Standards, specified across multiple sectors, including healthcare. As well as writing its own, BRE’s technical experts sit on British and European standards-drafting committees.


ability to undertake the tests as well, to ensure that the results are independent and can be relied upon.

IMPARTIAL AND OBJECTIVE For the past three and a half years, therefore, we’ve been discussing the issue with the BRE (Building Research Establishment), largely driven by the organisation’s suitability for working with the DIMHN on this this type of development. BRE has many parallel examples of product assessments just like those that we are aiming to create, among them the Loss Prevention Standards for the LPCB (Loss Prevention Certification Board) – a method of testing and certifying products, developed in partnership with insurers, to drive better quality products and results, not to mention reducing risk. BRE is impartial and objective, and, furthermore, works to improve the health and wellbeing of building users. By developing standards in conjunction with the BRE we can be sure that the test results for a whole range of products destined for use in mental healthcare settings can be relied upon.

MAKING PROGRESS Many readers of The Network will recall a workshop we held in Liverpool about four years ago. If nothing else, that workshop highlighted the scale of our challenge, and since then we’ve been working behind the scenes on the issues. When I took over the Testing and Innovation workstream a couple of years ago, I already had the benefit of broad consensus on the necessity for standards, and some of the priority focus areas where better testing guidance was most sought after – namely windows, doors, and ironmongery.

Since that meeting we’ve held two workshops at BRE, pulling in experts in these fields, and a number of estates managers from NHS Trusts, with a focus on establishing what the key assessment criteria are for products, and where there are the biggest ‘gaps’ in current test methods. In addition to these workshops, we had requests from a number of manufacturers outside of the ‘priority categories’ who were also looking for testing guidance – from sanitaryware to coat hooks. Based on this, and the output from the workshops, we decided to review our overall approach, focusing on two general areas of ‘anti-ligature’ and ‘robustness’ to allow assessments to be carried out for all products, with some focus areas ‘bolted on’ for specific product categories that have sufficient demand for the additional development time. With more time, we’ll also look to develop category-specific testing considerations for furniture and sanitaryware, which were considered as only just behind doorsets and windows in terms of priority in our consultations to date.

FOUR WORKSHOPS PLANNED In order to develop the testing guidance, we have planned four workshops, to allow all interested parties to share their expertise and experience before BRE creates the first draft, which will be issued for consultation during November.

Some of the dates for these are still being

Glass testing for attack resistance. finalised, but, as an indication, the timescale

will be as follows: l Anti-ligature (all products) – 18 July. l Robustness (all products) – early September.

l Doors and ironmongery (e.g. anti- barricade) – late September.

l Windows (e.g. air transfer) – mid-October.

If you are interested in participating in one of the workshops, visit the Design in Mental Health Network website, for more details.


It became clear during our discussions that no product should be given a simple ‘pass’ or ‘fail’ result after testing. With numerous existing products on the market, many of which have legitimate and safe applications in the appropriate setting, a pass or fail result would be restrictive, and it could be challenging to determine what the benchmark should be. Mental health environments vary widely, with different care pathways having, in some aspects, wildly different performance requirements – no ‘one size, fits all’ approach would have worked.

A ‘TEST AND DECLARE’ APPROACH Instead, we are working towards providing a ‘test and declare’ approach, so that it will be possible to grade products on various parameters. This will then allow design and

A steel sledgehammer being used to test the resilience of a TV cabinet for secure settings.

©Tough Furniture

©Kingsway Group

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