CE marked steel a prerequisite for farm buildings grant aid

17 Jan , 2023  

If you’re thinking of investing in a new farm building, be mindful that you won’t qualify for grant aid if your steel supplier isn’t CE marked.

The advice from the Irish Association of Steel Fabricators (IASF), or Irish Steel as it’s more commonly known, is to make sure your steel comes from a fabricator that is a certified supplier of CE marked structural steel to the requirements of EN-1090.

Since 2014, under the Construction Products Regulations (CPR), it has been a legal requirement that fabricated structural steelwork delivered to construction sites must be CE certified. And while most fabricators and steel stockholders are now compliant, some continue to operate illegally.

“CE marking has been the law since July 2014,” Irish Association of Steel Fabricators Director of Compliance Brendan MacNamara points out.

“The average farmer isn’t aware that it’s a breach of planning permission if their farm building is being constructed by someone who’s not a certified supplier of CE marked structural steel. You can’t insure something that’s illegal. Our advice to farmers is to make sure the supplier is CE marked. Look for the relevant paperwork. Also, you will not qualify for a grant from the Department of Agriculture if your steel supplier isn’t CE marked.”

The Irish Association of Steel Fabricators was set up six years ago by Brendan and his business partner Pat Enright with the aim of promoting standards within the steel industry and sharing information about CE marking. Based in Portlaoise, the organisation now has 1,400 members who are certified and have standards in place.

Committed to helping fabricators with any difficulties that they may have, Irish Steel offers guidance, compliance and certification for fabricators and steel-related products. Through its partners, Irish Steel offers weld testing, weld inspection, weld training, load testing and reporting, paint testing and testing to include intumescent, safety training that covers every aspect of engineering health & safety, insurance / engineering company audits, Tekla training and compliance. The body strives to make compliance easy and understandable, and a very worthwhile task.   

Some of the benefits steel fabricators can avail of when they become a member of Irish Steel include: a comprehensive training guide for all their training needs; a complete eBusiness solutions package tailored for their needs at a discounted rate; arranged tours to visit overseas steel factories; networking and new business opportunities on members’ only WhatsApp group; discounted insurance with BBI Insurance; dispute arbitration guidance; discount on standards such as ISO; representation in Government; quarterly newsletter with all upcoming news and events; latest Department of Agriculture information.

In addition, Irish Steel hosts many networking events throughout the year along with training and social media updates. Members have access to a network of business opportunities and skill sets.

Fabricators need to know if their steel stockholders have certification and are traceable in the same way as farmers need to know if their fabricators are CE compliant. If a fabricator purchases steel that is cut, blasted or painted from non-certified stockholders / distributors, they run the risk of failing their audit and / or losing their certification. Fabricators must ensure their steel is identified with Heat Numbers and relates to the certificates given. They will be asked to prove this at their audit. Their delivery must have identification.

A beam, for example, will have the Heat Number printed or label affixed. That beam marked / numbered with a Heat Number will relate to the Heat Cert. It is good practice that the delivery docket will have the purchase order number on it as well as the Heat Numbers. A fabricator needs to know that the beam has a Birth Cert and that is their Heat Cert. It shouldn’t be left to the auditor to find the problem for them.

Steel stockholders generally purchase steel sections which have been CE marked by the steel manufacturer to EN 10025-1 for I and H sections, EN 10210-1 for hot-finished structural hollow sections and EN 10219-1 for cold-formed structural hollow sections. Sometimes these sections are then cut to exact length, drilled, blast-cleaned and painted by the stockholder before being supplied to the steelwork contractor. All of these activities are fabrication activities which are covered by the CE marking standard EN 1090-1. For example, it is important that the section is cut into exact length and holes are drilled in accordance with the tolerances given in BS EN 1090-2.

Stockholders who provide these services will therefore need to extend the CE marking for the modified steel sections in accordance with the fabrication CE marking standard EN 1090-1. This will require initial type testing (ITT) and the setting up of a certified factory production control (FPC) system.

Occasionally, stockholders retest steel sections to re-evaluate fracture toughness, which is one of the performance values declared on the CE marking by the steel manufacturer. Therefore, a change to the product’s original performance values for the fracture toughness will require the section to be re-CE marked.

The stockholder will therefore have to perform ITT for the change in the performance value for the fracture toughness and set up an appropriate FPC system. In this case, setting up an FPC system cannot be based on the original steel production process as the stockholder has no control over the raw materials or the production process.

The FPC system will be based on documentary controls and testing of the finished product, while the laboratory testing will need to be checked by the NB. An FPC system is a management control system that focuses mainly on the manufacturing operations, although procedures for controlling design operations can be included. It aims to ensure that the quality of the product, be it a steel section, bolt, purlin or fabricated steelwork, is consistently maintained to the required specification.

Farmers who qualify for the TAMS II grant get 40% of the cost of a new farm building excluding VAT, with young qualifying farmers drawing down up to 60% of the cost. Most farmers are aware that grant aid is available for farmyard developments, but are less clear about the smaller items such as manure pits, enclosures and automatic slurry scrapers which are also covered under the TAMS scheme.

Grants of up to €25,000 for the restoration of old buildings were also available up until February 22 last under the 2022 GLAS Traditional Farm Buildings Grant Scheme. The grants ranged between €4,000 and €25,000, with up to 75% of the cost of the project eligible for funding. Only farmers approved in the Green Low-Carbon Agri-Environment Scheme (GLAS) were eligible to apply.

The grant was available for the conservation of traditional farm outbuildings, including roof, walls, structural repairs, windows and doors. It also covered other related farm structures such as historic yard surfaces, walls, gate pillars and gates.

First published in Irish Tractor & Agri magazine Vol 10 No 6, November/December 2022