Monthly Archives: October 2016

The CE mark gives a false sense of security

usb-chargerCan a charger you have purchased for your smart phone or tablet give you an electric shock or burst into flames? Maybe. Even though it carries the CE mark, it is far from certain that it meets the requirements set out by the mark.

Have you checked that the USB charger you recently bought carried the CE mark? It should, in fact, not be necessary, because all electronics that are imported into or produced in the European Economic Area, the EEA (i.e. the 28 EU nations in addition to Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein) must be CE-marked. And it is certain that the charger will bear the CE mark somewhere. The problem is just that it doesn’t necessarily mean that the product meets the requirements the CE mark entails. In this case, it is quite simply dangerous to use.

– We are seeing more and more products that do not meet the requirements, and this is an indication that there is an increase in the number of products that either have not been properly tested or that simply have had a CE mark added without being tested – in other words, cheating, says Søren Petersen, a senior consultant in the department for Approval Management in the Danish GTS Institute, DELTA, who, for example, are responsible for testing electronics for the purpose of CE marking.

Potentially deadly
Electronic equipment, such as chargers for smart phones and tablets must, for example, comply with the EU’s Low Voltage Directive in order to be CE marked and to allow them to be sold on the market in the EEA. The Directive stipulates that the product meets the requirements of all directives that are concerned with safety, which means that it must protect humans, animals and property against fire, shocks, toxic smoke and many other things. It also means that products that do not comply with the CE mark can potentially burst into flames – as happened, for example, to a family in the Danish town of Hobro, whose basement was gutted by fire in February of this year. Chargers that do not comply with the CE mark can also pose a risk of electric shocks and emitting toxic smoke.

– If a product meets the requirements for the CE marking, the plastic components on a charger shouldn’t be flammable or, at the very least, be self-extinguishing within a short space of time. In addition, it should be able to cope with large voltage surges as a result of, for example, lightning strikes, without causing electric shocks or bursting into flames. It is just that it has turned out that, in some cases, the plastic is flammable and that other small defects in the equipment can result in a fire, even though this should not be possible with products carrying the CE mark. It will quite often be a case of a very limited fire, but if it happens in a house during the night, it can potentially develop into a fatal fire. Therefore, some of these products are potentially lethal, explains Søren Petersen.

Counterfeit goods from Asia
All products break down at some point, and there is also a risk that they can get water-damaged or lost during transportation with the result that they no longer meet the requirements.

– However, in my estimation, this is highly unlikely to happen, so that isn’t where the problem lies, says Søren Petersen.

The problem is more that some manufacturers – typically in Asia, where chargers can be produced cheaply – CE mark their products without testing whether the product actually meets all the requirements. Anas Salam, an investigator with DBI, explains it.

– Marks are some of the simplest things to falsify. Typically, a manufacturer produces a product that meets the requirements and it is then tested and approved. Subsequently, they become more relaxed about the requirements in order to minimise costs and maximise profits. Thus, in reality, the product is no longer tested, even though it still carries the mark, he explains.

When the products enter the EEA, it is up to the importers to check that the products have been marked and that they actually meet the requirements of the mark. This is done by looking at the certificates from impartial laboratories or by having the item tested by an impartial laboratory, such as DELTA. However, with the internet there are also many private individuals who have started to import and sell products.

– They are not bound by standards and rules in the same way as organised importers are and, at the same time, it is an easy way of earning money. Previously, you had more control over the importation of goods because it was more difficult to find a manufacturer and more difficult to sell the product. However, that is no longer the case, explains Anas Salam.

Better controls on the part of the importers
However, there are strong indications that the importers are not sufficiently aware of whether the products they are buying comply with the mark they carry. In March 2016, four out of nine non-original chargers purchased by the DR1 programme Kontant were unsafe to use. And, in 2013, the Swedish Elsäkerhedsverket (corresponds to the Danish Safety Technology Authority) conducted tests on ten chargers. All of them were subsequently taken off the market. At the Danish Safety Technology Authority, which conducts risk-based random tests on, for instance, electrical equipment, they are also aware of the problem.

– Small chargers are an area we are focussing on, and at the beginning of the year we started a control campaign on these chargers. One of the reasons for this was that many of them were failing the random checks, says Lone Hansen, who is a communications consultant with the Danish Safety Technology Authority.

The campaign includes around 120 chargers that have been registered in a screening of the market. A number of these are about to examined further through document controls or testing. However, it isn’t possible for the Danish Safety Technology Authority to test every single product that comes into the country. Therefore, it is recommended that the importers get better at doing it instead.

– It is the importers’ responsibility, and it them who are best able to ensure that the products they sell in their businesses comply with the safety requirements. They can, for example, carry out random tests on the goods or have them tested before they start to sell them. And they have every reason to do so. You see, no trader should be interested in selling products that aren’t safe. Indeed, if products are taken off the shelves or recalled from consumers, it damages the business’s reputation and sales, says Lone Hansen. Søren Petersen agrees.

– As an importer, you should screen your products and test them if you are in any doubt. It is the responsibility of the importer and the seller to ensure that the products meet the requirements of the CE mark, and they are liable to pay compensation if the product causes injury or damage, explains Søren Petersen.
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The CE Mark
CE stands for Conformité Européenne (European Conformity) and is a mark which electrical equipment must carry in order for it to be produced and/or sold in the European Economic Area (EEA). The mark is – if the product is compliant – the manufacturer’s guarantee that it meets the requirements of all the relevant EU directives concerned with safety. Products carrying the CE mark can be moved freely across national boundaries and sold within the EEA.

project-update

CFPA-Europe Training Commission project update

The Training Commission is currently working on a project to reference CFPA-Europe qualifications to the European Qualifications Framework (EQF). The aim of this project is to provide a common reference point for learners, employers and other organisations when comparing qualifications, creating development plans and planning training.

The EQF was designed to act as a reference for different qualifications systems and frameworks in Europe. It takes into account the diversity of national systems and facilitates the translation and comparison of qualifications between countries. In this sense the EQF is a framework for frameworks and/or systems and it can therefore be defined as a ‘Meta-framework’. It outlines descriptors for eight levels of learning, based upon learning outcomes, which cover the entire span of qualifications from those achieved at the end of compulsory education to those awarded at the highest level of education or training. More information on the EQF can be found here.

Completion of the project is planned for 2017 and aims to result in a CFPA-E Fire Protection Qualifications Framework that will clarify relationships between courses in terms of level, breadth and progression opportunities and allow users to reference the qualifications to other frameworks.

Explosions in sprinkler system probably caused by hydrogen gas

Sprinklercentral-2

The development of flammable gases in the pipework is the probable cause of the explosions that occurred in two sprinkler systems, injuring several technical employees, back in 2014. A chemical reaction between zinc and water in the pipe system can easily form a flammable hydrogen gas that can lead to an explosion in certain situations. This is one of the conclusions in a new report published via Finance Norway.

In 2014, there were explosions in two different sprinkler systems in Denmark. The first occurred at the premises of the Danish company Movianto in Greve, where a service engineer was injured, even though the explosion actually moved out into the open air. And, shortly afterwards, in the department store Magasin in Lyngby north of Copenhagen, where an installation contractor was burned because an explosion occurred in a large pressure storage tank in a small room with the result that the explosion was particularly powerful. On both occasions, the sprinkler system ignited and exploded due to a flammable gas in the system following the draining of water.

A new technical report published via Finance Norway concludes that hydrogen can be formed due to a chemical reaction in the ‘wet’ zinc-coated pipe system. As zinc-coated pipe installations are often used in sprinkler systems in Denmark, the report’s conclusions constitute extremely important information – not least for those people who work with sprinkler systems.

– There was obviously a chemical reaction between the zinc and the water in the pipe, after which the hydrogen in the water was secreted and ignited by sparks created during the emptying of water in the sprinkler installation, explains Anders Frost-Jensen, Director in DBI.

Only in Scandinavia
Flemming Lindegaard, an inspector with the Danish Working Environment Authority, also points to a clear link between hydrogen in the pipe system and the explosion which occurred in Magasin. The secreted hydrogen has thus formed gas pockets and increased the pressure in the closed piping in the system. The gas escaped during operational and maintenance work, whereby the pipes were opened in order to discharge the water. In the open air, the gas mixed with the oxygen, reaching a critical concentration, which was then ignited by sparks from tools. This trio, consisting of a source of ignition, a flammable gas and oxygen, led to combustion which resulted in an explosion that was so powerful that, in the worst case scenario, can move concrete walls.

– We have, via our international work, made inquiries regarding experiences in the area throughout Europe. However, it is a phenomenon that we have only experienced in Scandinavia so far, says Anders Frost-Jensen, before elaborating:

– There can be several explanations as to how we are witnessing these explosions now and hearing about flames resulting from maintenance work. The fact is that within the last ten years we have been working with zinc-coated piping in sprinkler systems instead of black steel pipes, and the results from Norway show that the risk of an explosion is greater when zinc pipes are used. Moreover, it seems that it is possible to prove a link to the quality of the water in the area in which the installation is located, including the pH value of the water quality, because it could have helped increase the production of hydrogen in the pipe system, he explains.

Revision of sprinkler guidelines
In collaboration with a Standing Technical Committee, DBI now intends to incorporate the relevant conditions and experiences from Norway into the Danish sprinkler guidelines so that the risk of further accidents related to operational and maintenance work on sprinkler systems is minimised as far as possible.

– However, we are already able to make some recommendations and emphasise the importance of checking for abnormal increases in pressure in pipe systems and use non-sparking tools when emptying water from the system, says Anders Frost-Jensen.

In addition, the Danish Working Environment authority has issued a number of recommendations as to how work on sprinkler systems can be carried out safely. These include the use of gas detectors or explosimeters for measuring the concentration of hydrogen, recommending that no work is being carried out while the sprinkler system is being emptied, ensuring that there is good ventilation while the system is being emptied so that any hydrogen is removed from the site it is generated, and that electrical installations in the sprinkler room are installed correctly so that the generation of sparks is avoided.

ANPI and BENOR join their forces to fight fire and theft.

ANPI and BENOR join their forces to fight fire and theft

Essen Security 2016: we are pleased to announce that ANPI and BENOR brand join their forces in a way to promote at best protection against fire and thefts.

Each year in Belgium, 22 000 interventions take place by firefighters, 9000 of them for fires in buildings. These fires provoke many deceases, serious burns, and important material damages. This way, as regards residence fires (house/apartment) 824 persons have been injured and 36 persons have died in 2013. In other types of fires (Vehicles, industrial properties, stores, etc.): these figures come respectively to 334 injured persons for 15 deaths. 31 firefighters have been injured in 2013.

Regarding thefts, no less than 200 burglaries are registered each day in houses for some 18.919 burglaries on annual basis in companies and stores.

Many products are available on the market to help consumers and professionals to protect or prevent fires and thefts. However, a lack of quality can occur. ANPI and BENOR have then decided to join their forces to help consumers and professionals to make the best choice for these specific products: fire blankets, anti-fire safety bins and fire reels (fire hoses and fire hydrants). Regarding prevention of thefts, it will be now possible for the safes to benefit from a BENOR certification.
As from 17 september 2016, each request introduced for certification of fire blankets, anti-fire safety bins, fire reels (fire hoses and fire hydrants) and safes (strongboxes) will now be subject to a unique BENOR certification.