Why does third-party accreditation matter?

The final stages of the timber industry preservative treatment action plan are being implemented over the next few months. The Wood Protection Association explores why correct treatment is so important.

One piece of preservative-treated timber can look and feel very much like another. But those in the industry know that the level of protection offered can differ, depending on the treatment process and the end use application the wood is treated for.

Performance failures involving incorrectly specified or badly treated timber are giving the timber sector a bad reputation – especially where exterior timber is concerned. This, in turn, risks opening the door for alternative materials to get the upper hand.

Using market research and feedback from its members, the Wood Protection Association (WPA) has established that the problem for treated timber buyers and specifiers is two-fold:

  • Knowing what to ask for: being familiar with the Use Class (UC) system of timber treatment.
  • Getting what they ask for: being assured the timber they purchase is treated correctly for its end use.

The industry has made significant progress in raising awareness of treatments and Use Classes over the past three years, but there is still more to do. With regards to point 2, however, there is a plan to increase that assurance.

WPA Benchmark Scheme Independent, third-party accreditation raises buyer confidence and gives added assurance that goods and services are fit-for-purpose – treated timber is no different.

This has driven the WPA’s work of trying to enlist as many UK and overseas timber treaters onto the WPA Benchmark Quality Approved Treated Wood Scheme – and you don’t need to be a member of the WPA to be accredited.

Certification is awarded to treaters who demonstrate that their quality systems and processes are reliable and robust. Compliance involves auditing every aspect of the treatment process.

It covers an assessment of the incoming wood quality, moisture content, preservative management, treatment cycles and measurement of results. Sample analysis of treated products is required to demonstrate compliance with the preservative penetration and retention requirements of the scheme (Use Class 4 products).

WPA Benchmark Scheme Administrator Neil Ryan said: “Promotional advertising and editorial articles are consistently appearing in trade publications. We’ve also worked on our website so visitors can go directly from every page to our list of accredited WPA Benchmark Approved Treaters – all of which have website links to each business site.”

Verified businesses are increasingly using their WPA Benchmark quality achievement branding in their own marketing collateral, which is essential in elevating accreditation status and getting the Scheme recognised more widely.

Timber treatment action plan

TDUK members account for more than 80% of all timber sold in the UK. That’s why TDUK’s timber treatment action plan, the final stages of which are being implemented over the coming months, is going to have a significant impact.

The following priorities have been set to concentrate on structural, higher-risk treated timber elements.

ALL remaining TDUK members and their suppliers who have not already done so, must undergo an independent treatment plant audit by WPA Benchmark or equivalent before 31 December 2023.

This audit will consist of at least the WPA Benchmark Approved Treater Audit for the plant and process controls. Plus, a WPA Benchmark Approved Product Audit for UC4 where the member is treating fence posts, deck joists or other products designated as UC4.

TDUK remains fully committed to independent auditing of UC3 products and wants members to achieve this as soon as possible. Those who have not done so should prepare for these audits by working with their treatment supplier to get samples of their UC3 products tested for compliance with the requirements of the WPA Code of Practice and/or BS 8417.

To ensure sufficient audit capacity over the next three months and to achieve the first two priorities, the Governing Board will seek to gather further evidence on the commercial preparedness of members and their customers before setting the final implementation date for compulsory UC3 product audits.

It is the intention of the GB to review the final implementation date for compulsory UC3 product audits in Q1 2024.

How Benchmark has helped M&M Timber

M&M Timber has held WPA Benchmark Approved Treater status for timber preservation since the scheme’s inception back in 2011.

Fraser Hall, Managing Director at M&M, says: “As one of the largest suppliers of agricultural round timber fencing in the UK, longevity and performance of our products are absolutely critical to the business and its deep-rooted reputation for quality. WPA Benchmark provides the framework to consistently aim for the highest standards when it comes to the preservation process.”

Conditioning of timber products prior to high-pressure treatment is paramount to underpinning performance in their end use.

Fraser adds: “Having traceability of these processes enables us to give our customers confidence. WPA Benchmark solidifies this in its audit process.”

The audit itself also facilitates internal evaluation within the business, as well as providing key insights into how various species behave throughout the treatment process.

“Our customer base for in-ground contact timbers now actively seeks assurances of Use Class 4 treatment, which we can confidently supply and validate with our WPA Benchmark Approved Product certification,” Fraser concludes.

For questions on the TDUK Treatment Action Plan contact Nick Boulton: nboulton@timberdevelopment.uk

To book or discuss WPA Benchmark treatment plant audits contact Neil Ryan: neil@thewpa.org.uk