More than 40 years ago it was customary in the public construction sector for a product to be approved by the leading civil servant before accepting it for use. This procedure was extremely cumbersome, time-consuming and expensive.
At the request of the sector, product certification was introduced. Here, continuous monitoring of the produced product for conformity is entrusted to the producer or supplier itself. A certification body, acting as an impartial and independent third party, monitors the reliability of this self-monitoring. This oversight is mainly based on inspections, which are carried out by an inspection body.
A producer or supplier who is able to maintain the conformity of its product on the basis of reliable and traceable self-monitoring receives a certificate from the certification body. This certificate gives the producer or supplier permission to affix the quality mark on its product and/or on delivery documents.
Depending on the product and the situation, alternatives to the quality marks listed below are possible, in the form of an equivalent quality mark, a lot inspection or an acceptance check by the client.
Which quality mark?
In addition to the legally required CE marking, there are voluntary quality marks. These are quality marks because they guarantee that the certified product meets well-defined quality requirements.
They are voluntary quality marks because they are organised by the market and are not imposed by law. These quality marks can be applied when the parties voluntarily agree to such.
There are three common voluntary quality marks in the Belgian road construction and infrastructure sector:
The BENOR quality mark is a collective quality mark of which the Belgian Standardisation Agency NBN is the holder. The management and oversight of use of the BENOR quality mark is granted under exclusive license to non-profit organisation BENOR.
BENOR concludes sub-licensing contracts for management and oversight in specific sectors with various sectoral organisations (OSO), including non-profit organisation COPRO. This management includes determining the technical reference specifications, drawing up the certification schedules and organising the certification.
These sectoral organisations in turn rely on one or more certification bodies (OCI) for management of the individual certification dossiers.
The products that COPRO certifies under the BENOR quality mark can be found on our website, using the filter ‘Certification system’. This concerns, for example, road concrete, vitrified clay pipes and geotextile.
More information: www.benor.be
The COPRO quality mark (COntrol of PROducts) is a collective quality mark of which COPRO is the holder. It originated as a quality mark for those products for which there was no Belgian standard and concerning which there was nevertheless demand from the sector for a certified product. This logic no longer holds.
The COPRO quality mark is based on exactly the same principles, approach and follow-up as the BENOR quality mark. The products certified by COPRO are continually used in the road construction and infrastructure sector.
Thanks to the COPRO quality mark, requests from the sector can be responded to quickly when a quality mark is desired.
The products for which the COPRO quality mark applies can be found on our website, using the filter ‘Certification system’.
The voluntary technical approval (ATG) provides technical advice, including a description and the technical characteristics of a product.
An ATG is a favourable assessment of a producer’s specific construction product for a specific application. It must enable the user to check the conformity of the products delivered at the construction site with the existing approval. ATGs are delivered for products for which there are no product standards. It therefore mainly concerns systems, innovative products and products that consist of multiple components.
An ATG is in principle issued on the basis of approval guidelines.
Such guidelines are prepared by experts from the Belgian Union for technical approval in the construction sector (BUtgb) and constitute a basis for assessing construction products.
This is usually supplemented by certification.
COPRO is mandated by the BUtgb to perform external oversight at regular intervals on the conformity of products to the relevant approval guidelines.
More information: www.ubatc.be
If a standard applies to a product, then the requirements of that standard form the basis for the producer’s or supplier’s self-monitoring.
Specific requirements may be imposed by the sector to demonstrate the suitability of a product for a specific application. These requirements can concern staff, equipment, raw materials, the production process or the end product. All these requirements are collected in a Technical Prescription, or PTV for short.
Product certification always takes place according to the requirements of the PTV for this product. This document is a very important technical reference. The Technical Prescriptions are drawn up by the product’s Advisory Board or Sectoral Committee. See ‘Procedure’. It is a public document that can be downloaded for free via the search menu on this website.
The certificate is proof of the confidence that the certification body has in the self-monitoring of the producer or supplier. A producer or supplier must first demonstrate during a trial period that it is able to respect the Application Regulation and the requirements of the Technical Prescription, before the certification body issues the certificate.
Verification of the validity of a certificate can be done on our website. Entering ‘certificate file’ in the search field or product applications displays the valid certificates.
A certificate confirms only the confidence in the self-monitoring of a certificate holder for a product at a production unit. It makes no judgement about confidence in the conformity of a specific product. For this, the technical datasheet(s) must be consulted. See ‘How to recognise’.
The beating heart of product certification is the Advisory Board (for COPRO certification) or the Sectoral Committee (for BENOR certification). These working groups are organised by the sectoral organisation or by the certification body for the relevant product. They are composed of representatives of the building developers, users, producers and experts.
This group develops – preferably by consensus – the rules that certificate holders must follow, and lists the requirements that apply in the context of certification. The rules are published in the form of an Application Regulation - Règlement d’Application (TRA); the requirements are collected in a Technical Prescription (PTV). These requirements can concern staff, equipment, the production unit, the raw materials, the production process and the end product itself. The Application Regulation contains all the rules that the certificate holder must follow in its self-monitoring in order to meet these requirements on an ongoing basis.
The Application Regulation and the Technical Prescription also serve as guidelines for external oversight that will be carried out by the inspection body/bodies. See inspection.
Each inspection body reports to the concerned certification body. The latter will evaluate the findings of the inspection body and – in the case of nonconforming products – impose measures or sanctions. These sanctions can vary from stricter oversight, a temporary suspension of the certificate, to even permanent withdrawal of the certificate.
COPRO functions as a certification body in accordance with established procedures, which are based on the ISO/IEC 17065 standard and are accredited by BELAC.
Thanks to product certification:
- the client has a quality guarantee for the used products, processes or services on the basis of which it can forgo a prior inspection;
- the designer and the architect can focus their attention on their assignment and on the quality of the construction works;
- the contractor has an additional guarantee that it is working with quality products;
- the supplier enjoys the necessary trust of the user in the products, processes or services supplied.
How to recognise?
To recognise a certified product, at least a technical datasheet and a delivery note are required.
Generally, certification can be recognised by:
Identification of the product:
The quality mark is displayed on the product, the product packaging or on the delivery documents. The quality mark is usually supplemented with an identification, which can consist of a reference to the certificate, the technical datasheet, the PTV, the product and/or the certificate holder. The technical prescriptions (PTV) for the product demonstrate what this identification should look like. You can find this document for each product via the search function on our website.
To verify which product was supplied by a supplier, the customer must have a delivery note. This contains a series of data that fully identify the manufactured product and make it traceable.
To verify whether a specific product is certified, the website of the certification body must be consulted. This is the only way to check whether a valid technical datasheet exists for this product.
The more than 8,000 technical datasheets of all COPRO certified products can be found on the COPRO EXTRANET.
To verify whether or not a supplier has a certificate for a specific production unit, the website of the certification body must be consulted. This is the only way to check whether a certificate is currently valid.
However, a certificate says nothing about the certification of a specific product. Not all products that a supplier places on the market are certified. To be certain about this, you need a technical datasheet.
Still in doubt?
Be sure to contact one of our staff. You will find the right contacts for each product under ‘Team’.
COPRO is active as a certification body in the construction sector and has BELAC accreditation according to the ISO/IEC 17065 standard. COPRO in the meantime certifies more than 483 production units of 49 different products.
How to apply?
Product certification can be requested by a supplier or the producer of a product.
Applying for a certificate is done digitally via our website. Here you can find all the AFD forms you need to apply. You will also find the contact persons per product under ‘Team’. They would be happy to assist you further.