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BFA raises fears over manhole cover safety

THE British Foundries Association (BFA) has commissioned independent tests on highway manhole covers and gratings following fears that cheap imports could put lives at risk.

BFA spokesman John Parker said the tests would investigate the load tolerance of both imported and UK-manufactured covers.

Theres an element of people in glass houses. We have to ensure that UK products meet the standards as well, he said.

Mr Parker said the association was particularly concerned about the quality of imports from India and Russia.

The association, backed by UK manufacturer Glynwed Brickhouse, believes the British and European standards governing the products contain a loophole. BSEN 124 requires that products sold into European markets carry permanent proof they have passed third party performance certification.

But the European Standard, the BFA and Glynwed claim, does not clearly define the legitimacy of the organisation carrying out the certification.

There is no system in place that confirms the integrity of the third party. Its a loophole that we think may be being exploited. We want to make sure that there is a level playing field, so that UK products and imports are meeting the same standards.

The tests will prove whether the fears are justified.

I think the tests will be interesting. If they all pass, thats great. We will all be competing fairly. But, based on our past experience, there is likely to be some products that fail.

Mr Parker said the main aim of the association was to alert procurers of the products about the loophole in the standard.

We are not saying dont buy Indian or Russian imports. What we want is for purchasers to check that products meet the standards. I think local authorities will want to know they have bought a safe product.

Test results should be known within the next two weeks.

Meanwhile, the results from a two-year study into the causes of manhole cover failures have been released by the University of Nottinghams Department of Civil Engineering.

Project director Professor Stephen Brown said field studies had found failure appeared to be caused by problems with the mortar in the manhole frame or the bitumen surrounding the cover. The ironwork itself rarely failed, Professor Brown said.