Imported plywood formwork panels fail structural tests
The engineered wood industry has alerted construction work unions and the consumer law watchdog ACCC to significant examples of imported product non-compliance that could have cost lives on building projects in the Northern Territory.
Plywood panels, suspected to come from Asia, failed structurally under loads well below those referenced in accompanying documents which stated the grade as F17.
“This is potentially quite a serious case of structural non-compliance,” EWPAA general manager and wood scientist Simon Dorries said.
Mr Dorries, who has personally machine stress graded tens of thousands of plywood sheets, said it was very unusual to see panels break in the test machine at proof loads so far below the claimed F-grade.
“It lands on top of hundreds of cases of imported wood products, mostly from Asia, that in recent years have failed to meet Australian standards for structural application and safety. Just as worse, is the complete lack of policing of non-compliant materials by government authorities.”
Samples of formwork plywood sheets were supplied in June to EWPAA for compliance assessment against the claimed grade F17 and product standard AS6669.
The sample sheets were assessed against the product standard with 50% of samples breaking well beneath the loads that the supplier claimed were fit for purpose.
These failures lead to further investigations of core veneer quality. This showed the core veneers to contain ‘non-structural’ end joints which are totally prohibited under the Formwork Plywood Standard AS6669, despite claims the plywood complied with this standard.
“While only a small number of sheets were assessed, if they are representative of further production, this has very serious ramifications for the use, safety and reliability of this product and it is appropriate for government regulators to be notified,” Simon Dorries said.
“The plywood tested failed all requirements for F17 in relation to modulus of elasticity and bending strength.
“The low bending strength confirms the plywood is not F17 as claimed by the supplier.”
Mr Dorries said had this material been manufactured in Australia, the policies of the EWPAA would require its immediate recall from the market, removal of all grade and certification marks and a notice be made to all potential users confirming it should not be used structurally.
Asian manufacturers have been hit with a litany of claims recently about alleged consumer safety in a range of products such as wood, textiles, toiletries, children’s toys, motor vehicles and seafood that have been exported to the US, Canada, the European Union, Australia and New Zealand. The latest complaint filed in the US was against Chinese-made jerky ‘treats’ that had caused liver failure in dogs.
“As the supply chain has gone global, it is clear that some overseas manufacturers just do not understand the basic concepts of Australian manufacturing standards and product safety and reliability,” Simon Dorries said.
“Sure, they know something is cheap, but that is all they know. Today’s consumers are so far away from the factory floor that they do not really have any idea of how their goods are made, of the economics that dictate the current pricing of their products, or if they meet standards for quality and safety.
“If you add to this the general level of ignorance of how imported goods are made, the fact that there is absolutely no reporting by governments why product failures occur, or what are really the core issues behind the recalls, then it is no wonder consumers have unreasonable expectations.”
“The responsibility still rests solely with the wood industry which must be ever-vigilant on the standard of products exposed to the supplier, the worker and the consumer, both in Australia and New Zealand,” he added.
The EWPAA has notified the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU), the Northern Territory Department of Workplace Health and Safety and major contractors operating in the territory about the latest test results on the failed plywood.
The Engineered Wood Products Association of Australasia provides accreditation for plywood, LVL, particleboard, MDF and solid timber.Learn more