There has been considerable concern spread about the compliance of reinforcing steel to BS 4449, manufactured in China, and imported into the UK.
CARES operates by granting certification to individual Steel Mills at specific locations. As a consequence, the certificates that it issues to Steel Mills are product standard specific, size specific and location specific. It is therefore unreasonable and unrealistic to denigrate all reinforcing steel manufactured in a specific country. In the event a Steel Mill fails to comply with the requirements of the CARES Steel for the Reinforcement of Concrete Scheme, then CARES have a number of sanctions at its disposal in seeking to secure compliance with its Scheme. It must also ensure a proportionate response to any infringement. In any investigation, the confidentiality that exists between CARES and the approved firm shall also be preserved.
The CARES product certification scheme for steel for the reinforcement of concrete utilises staff, and auditors, who are expert in the areas of reinforcing steel, including the product, testing, processing and the supply chain. It audits manufacturers, processors and traders of the product. It audits companies of this type twice in every twelve-month period against a particular set of criteria that are created by a set of committees designed for this purpose. These requirements are amended from time to time, and the turnaround time can be very short. Such committees include construction clients, designers, manufacturers, processors and contractors, and, hence, are balanced in terms of sector representation.
CARES must ensure that it operates its certification scheme correctly. CARES certification cannot guarantee the compliance of every piece of rebar that comes out of a manufacturer’s factory, but rather it vastly reduces the risk of a non-compliance occurring. The manufacturer of the reinforcing steel retains all product liability and it is the responsibility of steel mills, traders and fabricators to verify the traceability of the steel as it is placed onto the market. As an accredited body, CARES must react to, investigate and correct any complaints that it receives from any area. This includes complaints against its approved firms from other parties. It has received relatively few of these types of complaints since its operation began in 1984.
Recently there have been two separate complaints to CARES regarding the height of the Longitudinal Rib on reinforcing steel. Both of these complaints relate to reinforcing steel imported into the UK from China. It has also been insinuated that there may be problems with steel imported from Turkey. CARES has taken both complaints very seriously. In the first complaint, as a result of a thorough investigation which included retesting of the same samples associated with the complaint, CARES concluded that the steel was perfectly satisfactory, and informed the complainant accordingly. However, as a result of its investigation, CARES wrote to the Chairman of the BSI reinforcing steel committee and also the chairman of the ISO reinforcing steel testing committee regarding the test related to the measurement of the Longitudinal Rib. In addition, CARES has referred this matter to the BSI Structural Committee for them to consider the structural implications of the maximum Longitudinal Rib height criterion. The CARES investigation into the second complaint is on-going.
No sample taken by and tested by CARES, in connection with either of these complaints, has failed to meet the standard for maximum longitudinal rib height. The only samples tested by CARES which have failed are those given to it by a third party. As it transpired that these samples were from non-approved sources, CARES is not in a position to know whether the material in question was being traded as “CARES approved” or, indeed, whether it was even on the market.
CARES has been extremely careful in limiting its comments to the facts in its possession which relate to aspects in accordance with the CARES Scheme’s complaints investigation procedure and its requirement to maintain confidentiality.