Andy McLean, technical director at the Bathroom Manufacturers Association, provides an insight into the challenges faced by manufacturers to ensure bathroom products remain innovative yet compliant.
Retailers, designers and consumers rightly expect the products they use to be of the highest quality, comply with standards and regulations and continue to be innovative in their design and efficiency.
The intensive work to make that a reality is often unrecognised, but understanding the industry's challenges could help explain some of the frustrations that reputable manufacturers feel.
The BMA’s work behind the scenes with Government departments such as DEFRA ensures that our members and the industry are informed concerning relevant government policy in Europe and the UK. We also consistently interact with policy influencers and recognised industry bodies such as WaterRegsUK, NHIC, Future Homes Hub, BSI, and the Construction Products Association.
As a primary work focus, staying ahead of and encouraging new technical standards is part of our day-to-day operations. One particular focus has been working towards ensuring European standards are fit to be adopted by water companies as acceptable criteria for fittings in the UK.
For example, The Water Supply (Water Fittings) Regulations 1999 rely on Test Code Sheets that have stayed the same since 2001, when they were first adopted. Standards allow for regular review to enable and encourage innovation and guarantee quality, health, and safety. Working alongside experts at The British Standards Institution and CEN CENELEC committees, we push to develop standards relevant to modern requirements.
Work also continues to gain clarification of issues as we see Europe adopt the Drinking Water Directive and the processes and requirements that will differ from the UK requirements for material detected in the water supply.
One clear example of the challenges faced is the complex and time-consuming process surrounding the safety of WCs and the prevention of contamination from cistern water (backflow). The BMA has worked resolutely to address these issues by advocating for revisions to WC specifications and collaborating with DEFRA, water companies, industry manufacturers and reputable test houses accredited by UKAS. These efforts aim to establish a practical solution that adheres to Regulation 4, the primary requirement for water fittings. However, progress on this initiative is still on hold, pending final approval from Government ministers.
The BMA technical team, in collaboration with its members, actively advocates for aligning bathroom product standards with the requirements of the mandate set by the European Commission for the Construction Product Regulations, adopted into UK Designated standards following Brexit. It’s a complicated set of rules, but it means that while companies meet UKCA requirements for building products, they cannot declare their products in the Declaration of Performances against the latest version of standards. It’s a source of frustration for reputable manufacturers.
Our members also benefit from combined expertise on developments within REACH (European regulation on Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals) regarding the current difficulties around using chrome and the tight restrictions to control the impact on the environment and for the import and export of chemicals following Brexit.
Manufacturers on all these issues carry the burden of providing proof of compliance, maintaining customer performance expectations and dual legislation. These challenges are also set against a backdrop of pressures for more sustainable materials, products and processes, meaning the technical analysis and lobbying for change continues, often behind the scenes.