Safety first in the bathroom

Yvonne Orgill of the Bathroom Manufacturers Association explains why know how on CE marking of bathroom products can be safety-critical

You are probably used to looking for a CE mark on toys and electrical appliances. But did you know that bathroom accessories (shower enclosures, shower trays, glass and plastic shower screens, baths and ceramic ware like toilets, basins and bidets) must also carry the CE mark? The UK market is being flooded with products that simply don’t meet stringent safety and quality requirements; this makes it especially important for you to look for the CE Mark when designing your new bathroom as part of your self-build project.

So what does a CE mark mean for you as a self-builder, and what exactly is it? A CE mark is an assurance that a product that has been made or imported has been certified “fit for purpose”. The CE mark demonstrates the manufacturer has subjected their products to rigorous performance testing to ensure they meet an agreed – or ‘harmonised’ – standard.

But it’s not just quality that is important – safety is also paramount when it comes to bathroom products. At the planning stage of your self-build project, here are some important questions to ask yourself when considering what products should be included in your bathroom designs.

Why should I care about a CE mark?

This is essentially the same as asking ‘why should I care about my safety and that of  my family?’ The danger of not installing products that are classified as ‘fit for purpose’ is that you’re potentially leaving yourself and your loved ones open to serious accident or injury. A toilet, for example, is unfit for purpose if it tips over and smashes when a person sits on it. A glass shower screen is not fit for purpose if it shatters when being opened or closed. You may think these sound like freak accidents, but they can and do happen in the home. You would clearly not want them to happen to you, your child or elderly parent, or a visitor.

What happens to me if I buy products that aren’t CE marked?

To be clear, you are not breaking the law if you buy non-CE marked products; it is the manufacturer placing illegal products onto the market that is liable. However, if you – knowingly or otherwise – install illegal products into a bathroom, you are breaking the law. If you buy illegal products and you ask someone else to install them, the installer is breaking the law. To be sure you’re buying CE marked products, always use products from reputable manufacturers – you can find a list of them on the Bathroom Manufacturers Association website (www.bathroom- association.org). And if you’re buying on the internet, look out for the Declaration of Performance a manufacturer will display on their website.

What if my installer recommends products to save me money? How will I know if those products are safe?

The best way is to ask your installer. If they can show you the CE mark on products or packaging you know they are not installing illegal products. If there isn’t a CE mark clearly visible, ask why not. And if you can’t ask why not, don’t let them install it. If a non-CE marked product is installed and you suffer as a result, you will have no comeback. For total peace of mind, always ensure you choose a professional installer/installation service.

How do I know if a retailers is selling non-CE marked products?

According to a recent survey, a staggering 89 per cent of people assume that UK retailers only supply products that are CE marked and fit for purpose. Sadly, this is not always the case. As we become more price-aware consumers, we are often attracted to installers who offer a ‘cheap’ service proposition. These companies are able to reduce costs by compromising on the product – a product that doesn’t meet the CE mark of assurance. Again, if there isn’t a CE mark clearly visible at a retail outlet you visit, ask why not, and if you can’t, don’t risk buying it.

Will my home contents insurance cover me if I install illegal bathroom products?

To be 100 per cent sure, we advise you to check directly with your own insurance company. The CE marking of bathroom products is an important legal requirement and consumers buying non-CE marked equipment do so at considerable peril. Consumers need to realise that saving a few pounds by buying non-conforming products can be very expensive in the long term. If this type of product fails it can cause major damage to an owner’s property and quite possibly, severe personal injury.

It is highly unlikely that a manufacturer who supplies non-conforming product will be properly insured against any claims which would arise, and a householder’s own insurance may well refuse to meet a claim in these circumstances. If a visitor is injured, a homeowner may well face criminal sanctions as well as personal claims.

A few more pounds spent with a reputable supplier will avoid all of these risks. To buy or specify compliant bathroom products with confidence, make sure you always seek out reputable bathroom product manufacturers. You will find a list of them at the association website.

Yvonne Orgill is CEO of the Bathroom Manufacturers Association