Make the Connection

"The same standards are applied throughout Europe. Each country has its own standards body, and they are all part of CEN - the European standardisation body. Post Brexit, it looks like BSI and the UK will continue to be a full member of CEN. CEN need to agree this by the end of the year, but if approved, it means continuity of standards across Europe in the future."

Time will tell about that. Meanwhile, how do you ensure the services that you provide are delivered to the correct standards?

"In July this year we were delighted to receive UKAS Accreditation against ISO 17025 for the mobile tower standard, BS EN 1004-1. There has been a lot of hard work and late nights to gain this accreditation. UKAS is the government appointed body which is solely responsible for accreditation of test laboratories and certification bodies in the UK. Their rigorous assessment process covers our management system, laboratory management, impartiality and more. To maintain the Accreditation, we have to pass regular surveillance audits. Next year we’ll look to expand that accreditation.”

The Test & Research Centre - Profile

and production controls to ensure that the product in the future can be made to the same standard as the initial sample assessment. After Certification is granted, we conduct regular risk-based surveillance audits.”

“Our T&RGETMARK only gets granted if a product meets the required standard and is subject to ongoing surveillance. Clients are charged for an initial assessment of the product and the factory, the licence fee for the mark and the ongoing surveillance. Once the mark is granted, we’ll sample the product after six months and every 12 months after that. My ultimate ambition for T&RGETMARK is for it to become a household name for access products.”

Aside from initial funding from PASMA and the Ladder Association, the Test & Research Centre is aiming for self-sufficiency. Hence the T&RGETMARK, but also in providing services that take advantage of the building it occupies – itself a former plastics factory with a 25m central tower, which is visible from some distance away.

"We had to modify the building to suit our needs, including building a test laboratory with a temperature-controlled room. The lab can accommodate extension ladders over 10 metres long and we normally test mobile towers at 6m,” he says.

“Our plan was also to use the facility for training in the tall tower. 17 tonnes of steel gantries and two silos were removed to make space, together with a large training room. PASMA and the Ladder Association run instructor courses here, and we have some PASMA courses planned with towers up to 14 metres high.”

Huge deflection under load

John is modest about the services the company supplies, although that is not to oversimplify them. Products surviving the rigours of testing can be certified with the Test & Research Centre’s ‘T&RGETMARK’, as John explains:

“There are two main sides to the business. Somebody can ask us to test a product, from a single clause in a standard up to a full test, and we'll provide a detailed test report with pictures. Certification – with a big ‘C’ – can also be known as ‘Type Approval’. In addition to testing the product, we review the Technical File and assess the production facility. We look at the management system

The centre's client base has grown steadily since launch, working with over 20 clients in the UK and abroad. John has even received enquiries from as far away as Russia, India, South Africa and Panama! Trading Standards is a regular client, he says:

“We’ve built good relationships with several Trading Standards teams. Our testing helped stop over 700 sub-standard ladders from entering the UK through the Port of Felixstowe in the past 18 months. Some of them were marked with EN 131 but suffered structural failure or bent beyond the limits when the test loads were applied. The news stories are on our website (and YouTube) and we’ll post more when we find them.”

CARRY THAT WEIGHT The ‘tower’ in the centre of the building is

well suited to much of the product testing, although some of the more focused and repetitive tasks are undertaken in a smaller, separate room. The adaptable ‘durability machine’ fills up much of the space, and can be configured to test multiple items. The pneumatic rams seen here can be

set to exert a given force to an object, repeatedly over a specified time period. Certain products don’t survive such punishing treatment, however.

Rounding up, then what other products are the centre looking at or other areas that it might move into?

“Based on client requests, we can offer Expert Reports on access products. If an accident happens involving a ladder or a platform, the lawyers from either side can engage with an independent expert to aid the investigation. We are member of the Expert Witness Institute and will be promoting this service later in the summer.

“By the end of 2021 we will also be offering ISO 9001 Certification with our T&RGETMARK. There is a lot of similarity between the ISO 9001 audit and the production facility audits we already carry out, so we see a lot of value in offering this to our existing clients, as well as others in the Hire industry.”

Which is where we leave it. My thanks to John for an entertaining visit. Be sure to check out the Test & Research Centre website for further info and instructive videos. Meantime, if you see a product that bears the T&RGETMARK, you can be certain that it is absolutely fit for purpose. n

August 2021 - Executive Hire News 23

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