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Sun 20 Nov 2005 04:00 AM

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Steel watchdog issues rebar quality warning

Certification authority speaks out against the cloning of steel products across the world.

The ease with which steel can be cloned or badly produced could have a detrimental impact on building structures around the Middle East.

Steel products are the most vulnerable to imitation, says Ben Bowsher, executive director of the UK Certification Authority for Reinforcing Steels (UK CARES).

“Steel is a simple product. It has a simple form and it looks simple, so we find that a lot of strange materials are being used to make copies,” said Bowsher.

The rise of fraudulent activity within the steel industry prompted the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) to set up UK CARES in the early 1980s.

The non-profit making certification body has since worked alongside property developers and manufacturers to police the quality of steel going into the construction industry.

“Some years ago we found that a company operating in Kent had taken a piece of railway line, split it down the middle and re-rolled the thick parts into a steel bar. They tried to sell it in the UK market but failed to get certified. If companies are doing this in a supposedly sophisticated market like the UK, you can imagine what happens around the world.”

UK CARES, which has certified 52 steel factories around the world, is accredited by the UK Accreditation Service (UKAS) for product and quality management systems certification. UKAS approves and monitors certification bodies on behalf of the UK government.

Bowsher added that a grave danger lies in products like rebar, which is easy to replicate.

“If you have bad rebar in a structure you could have a catastrophic result. A lot of it is very dangerous stuff,” he said.

“But with it now being easier to transport steel around the world, it’s very difficult to distinguish between what’s genuine and fake. So one of the main challenges for the construction industry is getting good steel —sometimes you just don’t know how it’s been made.”

UK Cares is hoping to forge close relationships with Middle East developers like Nakheel and Emaar as well as the Dubai and Abu Dhabi Municipalities to ensure that all steel products used in building structures reach a certified quality standard.

“Manufacturers are not obliged to certify their products. The situation is the same in the UK. But why take the risk? Developers must start specifying that all steel products bought and used on building sites are accredited.”

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